Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.


Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.
5 minutes reading time (953 words)

An Experience of Welcome–Prose Poem

An Experience of Welcome

I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day,...right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

It is early Monday and I am taking my morning walk along beautiful tree-lined pathways of my neighborhood which intersect with the American Tobacco Trail, and for which I am always in great gratitude: for the interesting interconnected people of the neighborhood, the beauty of the trees in their morning scent which never ceases to delight me, and all the thoughtfully designed walking trails that are being maintained just enough that I am appreciating the nature of spaces where trees and vines, tall grasses, bushes and weeds can be just as they are.

I am now walking the trail along the main road and it is not long before I begin noticing the many yellow buses rolling along (or bouncing as I remember they did when I was a child, though this might not actually be true of such buses in 2023), which signals that this is the first day of school. A day I’ve always experienced as thickly layered in possibilities of welcome, from the warmest and the richest to the harshest and the nonexistent. The first day of school almost always filled my heart with anxiousness about how I’d be welcomed upon entering a new place, or even a new moment or a new space in an old and familiar place.

The warmest and richest welcome I’ve ever had was on the very first day of school I ever had. I am four years old and meeting my kindergarten teacher, who is calling me by my formal first name which I am hearing for the first time ever, and the sound vibration of the words cascade upon my little girl self like a gift of enlightenment.

I once believed I was the only person besides my mother with the teacher in the kindergarten classroom that day, though I now find it hard to believe this could be true in a place like Brooklyn, New York in Williamsburg where the classes were filled to the brim even back then. But combing through memory I still cannot recall any other child being present, only my teacher who was young and beautiful and kind and wore kitten-heeled pointy-toed pumps that I remember to this day because she lifted her foot to show me how to flush a public toilet by not using my hands, which I never knew was a thing.

As a grown woman today the impossibility of no other child being present is really something of a miracle in which that teacher in that moment was gifting me with an experience of a welcome that resulted in me from that day on forever loving the possibilities that school might offer, even when it was most unpleasant. Which occurred three years later at age seven when I experienced the harshest of welcome that anyone might have on that iconic first day:

I am quite nervously boarding a school bus alone and see two sisters who I know and who are young like me and so I decide to sit with since I am a stranger to everyone else, though I later learned the sisters were filled with consternation because I caused them to be less comfortable once we became three in the seat.

As we arrived at the new school, the few of us for whom it was our destination began to file off. I heard the noises first and then froze at the top step at the sight of shouting angry adults and the slow realization they were shouting at me and calling me names I’d never heard before in a sound vibration I knew was not mine and so I refused to accept it.
And in so doing I became frozen.

Until a deep, kind voice said, “It’s alright, you can come down.” And I went toward the hand extended in my direction and proceeded with the group of small children interconnected as we moved along a pathway formed by police and teachers and others into the school away from the harshness and trauma of unwelcome, that resulted in me from that day on forever remembering the experience of what it feels like.

Nonetheless, in these later years as I am entering spaces I am filled with the expectancy of being showered in a welcome that is warm and rich, specific and particular, and when it is not, I know I can refuse it, and I no longer become frozen because there is always a hand from somewhere extended in my direction and it is like beauty and kindness and enlightenment.

The experience of welcome that is love.

Palms together,
Rev. Jacqueline

What is Nourishing Me:

Reading: We Heal Together: Rituals and Practices for Building Community and Connection by Michelle Cassandra Johnson.

Watching: Unknown: Cave of Bones, on Netflix. Discovery of a graveyard of humanlike creatures that practiced complex burial rituals 250,000 years ago.

Listening to: IAAI Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, by I Am An Instrument, Danish jazz musicians that I hope will release more music. All three volumes found on Spotify.

Learning from: The responses of my body when I eat certain foods, drink more water, and get more rest.

Bringing me joy: The sweet fragrance of trees at 6:00 in the morning.

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Welcoming the New and the Familiar
Living Legacy