Celebrating Elly Wagner’s Life

We at MNIPL want to honor and celebrate the life of Eleanor “Elly” Wagner (1941-2021)—an amazing person and activist who was dedicated to social justice, climate justice, and sustainability. 

Elly graduated from MNIPL’s Be the Spark leadership development program and took the training to heart as an MNIPL Community Connector. An active member of Lyndale United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, Elly inspired and organized youth and elders alike to act boldly for the planet. Under her guidance, the congregation created a climate action plan as part of MNIPL’s Climate Justice Congregation program. One could often find Elly in gardens, at the farmer’s market, in groups leading reflections and prayers, and in the streets like at the 2019 youth climate strike and rally. She cultivated community wherever she went, reflecting her deep sense of being connected with the web of life. 

At Elly’s memorial service last week, one of her pastors, the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel, talked about an Earth Week service when Elly and Rebecca’s daughter preached together about being vegetarian. During that sermon, Elly shared the following:

I feel so fortunate to have grown up in such a beautiful world, and I want there to be a beautiful sustainable world for my children and grandchildren to live in. I believe I am called to care for Creation, not have dominion over it as the older translations of Genesis 1:26 say. The translation we read today is from a UCC Neighbors in Need publication: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of the Earth.’ Not eating meat or possibly any animal products is something I can do every day to make a difference.

Elly was a pillar at Lyndale UCC and a woman of deep faith. She impacted many people’s lives, including MNIPL’s Liz Loeb, who shared: “Elly helped me understand the deep power of elder-ing in our communities—and especially in the lesbian and queer communities that I call home. Elly’s commitment to justice was joyful and luminous, and her love of gardening and of the earth was infectious in the most wonderful way. I am grateful for the gift of having known Elly, and for the gift of her life in the world.”