welcome home

The only piece of furniture I owned when I drove into North Carolina was a 10-seat dining room table.

I sold my bed, my chairs, my patio set, my shelves, my lamps, and most every large item I owned before moving out of my home in Massachusetts. I shopped on Craigslist all summer long for replacement items on the other side. But, when I finally made it down south, the only item I’d yet bought was a giant dining table I’d never seen.

My final Sunday in New England, a handful of friends gathered to pray and send me off. They prayed a blessing over that table and all the new friends who would soon sit around it. They prayed over my new kitchen, my new city. They prayed that it would feel like home.

My first week in Durham, my mom came to help unpack. We purchased the rest of the furniture needed to fill up my house; we drove around my new town to find fun lunch spots and the best grocery stores. All the pieces came together: a $30 dresser and nightstand, a clearance dining bench, a bed and mirrors on super sale, display model lamps offered to me with the shade and light bulbs for free. With each surprise find, mom would declare, “God is in this move.”

Last Thursday, the admissions director of Duke Divinity School gave the opening address for orientation:

“Some of you never thought you’d be going to seminary.”

I remembered my disinterest in the required bible courses of undergrad.

“Some of you have had your sights set on Duke for a number of years.”

I remembered the phone call three years ago when my friend jokingly told me, “You should pray about North Carolina.”

“Some of you might be questioning God, ‘Why right now?’”

I remembered the surety I had last winter that I would defer my admission a year. I remembered my desire to have more time to get financially stable. I remembered my job and my church that I left just as I was deepening friendships, finding great healing, and doing work that I love.

 “Some of you come from communities who fear this school is too liberal and you might lose your faith.”

I remembered the prayers and the warnings of those who knew well the difficulty that comes with stepping into a school where my deepest beliefs will be challenged and questioned and tried.

“Some of you come from communities who fear this school is not liberal enough.”

I remembered the remarks of folks who sent me off with the reminder that not all Christians do theology this way. I thought of those who questioned if I should go somewhere more ecumenical or more progressive.

“No matter where you are coming from, I want to start by saying, ‘Welcome home.’”

I remembered the speed with which I devoured Mere Christianity in the seventh grade. I remembered the fervor with which I argued against predestination my first month in high school. I remembered the passion with which I took notes when I first began hearing a form of liberation theology. I remembered the excitement and the need to explore more when the sacrament of Eucharist was first connected with my longing for equitable food. 

My path has been a circuitous one, a journey of God saying "This might not make sense, but let’s go.” But in retrospect, I see the ways each shift in direction has ultimately led me here. I realize that this new place—this place about which I’m restless and anxious and where I’m not totally sure I belong—is the place to which I am called, the place at which, for now, I am at home.

After the opening address, we heard from the dean, Dr. Elaine Heath. She spoke of the need for prophetic movements of hospitality in the Church. She spoke of the need for dialogue around tables, for communities of welcome. She gave a nod to the dinner church movement and the hope these congregations signal for the future of Christ’s church. She urged my fellow incoming class to foster our creativity and our passion, to let God move in new ways through our work.

As I sit in my living room, surrounded by my old books and art, my new furniture and dining room table, I cannot say yet that this place feels like home.

But with every turn I can’t help but declare, “God is in this move.”