The Way Back Home

| September 9th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

Later next month, I will travel back to the base of Paris Mountain for a 20th reunion with a host of my friends and fellow graduates from Furman University’s Class of 2003. While I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the collection of years (20?!) since I was a college student, making reunion weekend plans with my old pals has me feeling quite nostalgic for those significant undergraduate years.

These years formed me in ways I am still unfolding, giving me space to try on “adulting” as it were with beloved friends just steps away, with stimulating ideas and communities everywhere I turned, with the horizon of possibility dancing just around the bend. I wouldn’t be here today if not for those years!

Decades and growth have helped me to see just how important my church home was for me back then, even as I had moved away from home and was sowing some wild theological oats as I found my way. My church from home was like fertile soil from which the seeds of my life could sprout and grow and flower. They were steadfast as I was itinerant, constant even as I fluctuated. Yet there was never a doubt that I always had a beloved church home for my return, again and again and again.

Each year, our children and their prayer partners enjoy meaningful time together in early September. In part, this gathering is for their relational formation and meaning-making. Yet at the crux of the gathering is a time to pack care packages for our college, grad, and professional school students, here and away. In each box, the love is tucked between chocolate bars and post-it notes. Reminders of who and whose they are flow through the pens and cough drops and tissues. A summons into the person God dreams them to be is hidden among the snacks and the treats, pictures and letters from their beloved community. Yes, the box is a welcome gift from home. But it’s not just a box filled with goodies; rather, it is a reminder to our wonderful students of the fertile soil from which the seeds of their lives can sprout and grow and flower.

Tomorrow as I help Liam, Annabelle, and Silas pack their boxes, I’ll of course imagine my children someday receiving them too. And my prayer for them will be my prayer for the many who will soon find a gift from Winston-Salem in their boxes: that in all the fullness of their exploration, in all the reach of their questions, in all the breadth of their discovery, they never forget the way back home. 

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily