Jul 02, 2018


By Mary Mortenson, Director of Prison Congregations of America 

I miss my mom. She was born on the 4th of July, and she died in 1984 about ten days after her 70th birthday.  I always assumed that it was because she was born on the 4th that she was such a patriot.  She loved our country and she loved the 4th of July.  Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” always moved her to tears, and she loved the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance.   

The last time that Mom attended her church was July 8.  During the announcements, the pastor reminded the congregation that there would be a party for Mom’s 70th birthday that afternoon.  We were sitting towards the front of the church - something Mom insisted on doing and which was a supreme embarrassment to me when I was younger - and so, from the back of the church, we heard a lone voice start to sing “Happy Birthday.”  Other voices joined until her entire church family was singing to her.  I will never forget that beautiful moment, when those amazing people surrounded my Mom in love and community.  The next time they would gather would be to celebrate her life and commit her to her Creator. 

Mom didn’t live long enough to know anything about Prison Congregations of America, but I have no doubt that she would have shared my passion for this ministry, because she understood the power of community – of congregation. Like those we serve through PCA, Mom experienced the blessings of belonging, learning, teaching, struggling, arguing, crying and laughing within the context of a safe and healthy Jesus-centered community.  Mom knew that we are created to be in community where all are welcome, and while it is sometimes difficult, it is in community where we learn how to live into the gift of freedom in Christ.  

So, in memory of my beautiful and courageous mother, I wish you Happy Independence Day!  There will be food and fireworks, parades and marching bands as we revel in the reality of our freedoms. And, if we are honest, there will also be lament, as people of God, we see cruelty and violence within our borders, and as we experience the breakdown of civil discourse.  It is for the church - for us - to remind ourselves and each other that as Christians, we claim God’s unconditional love for everyone, and we can give thanks that we live in a country where we have the freedom to do just that.

In the midst of the celebration, I will also offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the life of and lessons taught by Mayme Seeklander, prophet, teacher, and my Mom.




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