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Blessing Booth creators (from left): Christine Wilke and our current students, Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson and Denise Cawley

“Get your blessing here! Personal Blessing given to you right now by our Blessing Booth Clergy!” Krystal called out to the passersby at PrideFest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Quizzically they would look over and then be offered a Blessing Menu. “To help the clergy customize a blessing,” she explained. 

Most folks look pleasantly astonished as they realized that this was a real offer.

The Blessing Menu invites you to share what you call the Divine or Sacred. Is it God, Goddess, Allah, Jesus, Love, Father, Mom, Sun, Moon, Earth, Science, Spirit of Life, or Quantum Physics? There is no limit on how many sources of divinity you choose, and a blank space is provided to write in your own unique name for the sacred.

The Blessing Menu has many choices and, though it is a playful catalyst for connection, its aspiration and purpose are quite real. It creates a path to being vulnerable, to being seen, and to being blessed by one another. By offering a blessing, we hope to take a small step toward helping heal people, especially people who identify as LGBTQ; so many of whom are religiously wounded from churches, family, and friends that have told them they were “less than”. The blessing booth gives us a moment to connect and share in the joy and sorrow that is to be human. 

Do you need a Healing Blessings for Emotional Pain or Rejection? 

How about a Forgiveness Blessing for harming yourself or others?

What blessings do you long to experience: Abundance, Love, Grace, Justice? 

So many people—too many people—requested healing from abandonment, rejection, abuse, and self-harm. 

“I am already blessed!” someone shouts out. I answer, “Yes you are, we just want to articulate it!”

That June weekend, over five hundred people were blessed: young and old, straight and gay, parents and children, drag queens, police officers and senators—everyone!  Jewish, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist clergy blessed each and every one earnestly and eagerly.  It was a remarkable interfaith coalition of ministry and love.  Most blessings ended with smiles, some tears, hugs, and a sweet surprise—surprise at the simplicity, the tenderness, and the magic we make when we remember that we belong to one another. 

Current students Gem Guenther O'Day, Denise Cawley, Andrea Hawkins-Kamper, Monica Kling; a teaching pastor Rev. Suzelle Lynch; and an alumnus Rev. Erik David Carlson, MDiv ‘09, also represented Meadville Lombard Theological School. They had this to say about their Blessed at PrideFest experience:

“I found it to be very profound!  It was a great opportunity for people who felt alienated from faith connect and receive blessings. I found myself having an opportunity to teach people the meaning of a blessing and faith in whatever worked for them! One fellow turned around to his friend after the blessing (and a hug) and said, ‘You have GOT to get one of these!!’ That was one of my favorite moments.” —Monica Kling

“I’ve dreamed of doing blessings in the LGBTQ community for years. Influencing my call to ministry were hundreds of people I’ve sat with over the years who were abandoned by their religions and families of origin leaving them faithless, without a family support system, even homeless. This community was thrilled to have us making up custom blessings for each one of them.” —Denise Cawley

“All are beloved children of the Divine, and it is a gift to have been able to minister to the queer community as a queer minister.” —Andrea Hawkins-Kamper

“I felt the future of ministry— going to meet people (literally) where they are and providing them with what they need. We offered Universalism, using whatever theological language each person chose to express their highest hopes. It was an honor to minister.” —Gem Guenther O'Day

“During the act of offering blessings at PrideFest, in the trustful moment of offering a blessing for healing, for forgiveness, for love, I could feel the deep connection between myself and those I blessed.  And I understood, again, that until our society affirms our equal worth, our equal belovedness, I can never be whole.” —Rev. Suzelle Lynch

“The Blessing Booth was one of the most powerful examples of active public ministry I’ve ever seen.  Not only were people deeply moved by receiving blessings, I and those who had the honor of acting as clergy were profoundly touched by the experience as well.  It was a great reminder that we all need to simply say ‘You are loved’ more often to more people.” —Rev. Erik David Carlson

It is so easy to feel powerless today in a world were human rights and dignity are all too often ignored and violated. Our little Blessing Booth was a visceral reminder of the power of human connection, to heal one another through relationship and love.

Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson

MDiv Student

Kimberlee is entering her last year of MDiv program, Leadership Studies Signature Course. She is interning at the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, WI. Kimberlee is a fantastic ceramic artist/potter: our Denny Davidoff Memorial Chalice is one of her creations.