Welcome Home

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Last week, I was studying at the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina as part of their Summer Institute for Reconciliation. It’s their tenth anniversary and I am certainly benefiting from the depth and breadth of the work of past facilitators, liturgists, musicians, and participants. I cannot put into words the transformational experiences that I now bear witness to. Consequently, I pledge now to embody these truths.

And it felt like a reunion, that I had come home to long lost family members. Every song and each session felt like an embrace. We were related through this ministry and the shared desire to see “all things reconciled” (Colossians 1:20). Fellow ambassador and dean, Elaine Heath, invited us to “come home to ourselves” as part of the work of reconciliation. And I think that prayer can be the vehicle for such a move.

Because there is no place like prayer and no conversation like it. Not simply a meeting of the minds but a meeting between Creator and creature. Prayer is the welcome mat of heaven and God is doing more than meeting us half way. Prayer is proof of an open-door, open-heaven policy with God. No appointments necessary, prayer says that God is always available to us and is accessible through our very mouths.

Prayer brings us closer to God and this conversation also moves us closer to ourselves. Prayer is true speech, self stripped down and life laid bare. We cannot hide ourselves from God. We open our mouths in prayer and God looks down our soul. Say, “Ahhh.”

Still, more than a check-up, prayer is a check in. It is how we catch up with ourselves and on our life with God. Words offered in prayer are not the polished type. They are comfortable, relaxed, make-yourself-at-home exchanges. They don’t require that we put on our best-dressed selves but that we simply come home. Because, like our parents, God is family and knows who we really are. And there is always room at the table and in the conversation for us: “So tell me, how are things going?”

When we open our mouths in prayer, we are all in. Prayer is a good storage spot for our baggage, our boxes, our mismatched belongings. We can unload here. Bow our knees here, never to move again. When we pray, God says, “Welcome home!”

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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