March 15, 2021
Important Messages from the Ministers
A Message from Rev. Leah Ongiri
Dear Fellowship Members and Friends,
I write with a full heart. It is full of love for the Fellowship, and also full with the news that I am resigning my position as associate minister this coming fall. My family has made the difficult yet clear decision that we are moving to Portland, Oregon this summer. I’m excited about this next phase of life. I know it is the right way forward, even as comings and goings are complex.
Our reasons are many. My spouse Amy accepted a position at the University of Portland to create an ethnic studies program, work in which Amy’s personal passion and professional expertise intersect. A judge gave us permission, as a foster family, to bring our four children. Portland is my hometown, which means a wide community including my parents, childhood friends, and chosen family, to welcome us. This will ease parenting challenges and other life situations that have intensified during the pandemic. I can’t wait to go home!
I remember well my pride when, almost exactly ten years ago, the Fellowship’s search committee asked me to share this beautiful ministry with you. That pride has only grown as I got to know you more each moment and year I’ve served. It will be hard to leave a community where I continue to learn so much. The Fellowship and its people have consistently been an incredibly, gorgeously, lovingly supportive force for my entire family. I am grateful for this in ways I cannot possibly express, particularly for your delight and encouragement as I became a parent. Thank you, one and all.
And yet we have not found the Fox Cities to be hospitable. Homophobia and especially racism have worn us down, by many measures increasing rather than lessening during our time here. We are unwilling to remain living in such hostility. I imagine this truth might be hard to absorb. It isn’t easy to type, even though I’ve shared publicly about this before. I have no easy answers. But I do have faith and hope in the Fellowship’s growing commitment to deepen a local culture of justice and welcome.
I am grateful I get to keep serving you for a while yet! As usual, I will take some vacation and study leave this summer. Starting July 1st, I will serve half-time and remotely into the coming fall. This will support my personal situation and help smooth the Fellowship transition. We still have months together, and I hope to connect personally with many of you. We will need to celebrate and grieve this transition. I trust you will talk directly with me and Rev. Christina as you absorb this change. Let’s make sure we hold the health and beauty of the Fellowship at the core of our processing.
If you get our electronic communication, you will have already received this information in an email that included a video version. In this letter, I’ve included a note directly to children and families. If appropriate, please read it with young people in your care who are connected to the Fellowship.
I will deeply miss the Fellowship—its people, mission, programs, identity, history, and spirit. Thank you for sharing this incredible ministry with me. Even as I mourn leaving, I’m confident that the Fellowship will continue to unfold in beautiful, helpful ways. Its finest days are yet ahead—of this I am sure—and I will always cheer you on in my heart.
With love and gratitude,
Rev. Leah Ongiri