TRENDS Diary: Radical Inclusion: Longmont Congregation Names Female Pastor Its Poet Laureate

Fr. Teri Harroun, who is now poet laureate of her congregation at Light of Christ ECC church

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen To The Audio Diary:

(Download Audio)

Dear TRENDS Diary,

I am fortunate to be pastor at the Light of Christ Ecumenical Catholic Community. We’re an independent group that experiences God with many of the “smells and bells” of traditional Catholic services, but we also practice “radical inclusion,” opening the sacraments to anyone who wishes to participate, including LGBTQ and divorced people, and female pastors, like me.
The pandemic has been hard on faith communities. We are a place where people come to connect—through Mass and fellowship, movie nights, book clubs, justice, and charity work. When COVID hit, all of that was suddenly gone, and the sense of disconnect was profound.
We scrambled to adapt, learning to be creative with the liturgy and figuring out how to connect with older people unfamiliar with new technology and younger people using it so much that they’re burned out. Our theme became “Connection, Communion, Community”—helping people connect, sharing the experience of Communion even when we’re not together, and nurturing the larger community.

In August, our secretary Annie and I performed our first drive-in Mass in our parking lot with an FM transmitter. At the end, Annie started going rogue. She began reciting poetry: specifically, a poem I had written called “I Dream.”
“On NPR I heard about a guy who is poet laureate for a baseball team,” it goes.

“Where could I be poet laureate?
How about my Conoco?
The soccer fields near my house?
The laundry room?
The front porch?”

I’ve been writing poetry since I was an angsty teenager but kept it to myself until I began posting poems on Facebook a decade ago. I wrote “I Dream” in 2015, and when it came up as a memory this summer, I posted it again. One of the members of my community saw it and talked to our council, and they ran with it. After Annie read the poem, they presented me with a leather-bound journal and a certificate naming me poet laureate. I usually have my finger on the pulse of everything in our community, but this was a sweet, sweet surprise.
The community knows it is hard to be a pastor right now. When we talk about radical inclusion, it is also about finding ways to value and celebrate each other. This was our community, doing exactly that.

– Fr. Teri Harroun, as told to Hannah Nordhaus