What's In a Name?

Aug 06, 2018

What’s In a Name?

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America

“That’s Mary Seeklander.  She grew up in this church.”  Those were among the sweetest words I heard on a recent Sunday when Jack and I got to lead worship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Estelline, South Dakota.  It always touches me to return to that congregation – one of the few places on earth where people know me by my maiden name – the name given me and shared by my parents.  Here is where I learned about the Bible, and where I learned what it is means to be a Christian woman.  Many of those role models, including my mom, are gone now, but some are still there, remembering with me that it was there that I learned to make egg coffee.  (If you have to ask about this, don’t bother.  Suffice to say that it was a rite of passage to know how to make this coffee in large porcelain pots.)  Another of these role models, who was also a neighbor to the farm where I grew up, reminisced about my riding my bike up a very long hill on hot summer days to visit a friend.  In short, these people know me, and I remain secure in their love. 

That’s what we want from community, isn’t it?  We want to be loved and forgiven.  We want to belong.  There are people who live on the fringes of society who struggle to belong, whose communities of origin have long forsaken them.  It is into just such circumstances that we, the church are called to step.  We, the church, are called to share an amazing truth – that there is a God who knows us, loves us, and calls us my name – no matter what.

It has been my great pleasure to work among just such people – many of whom are incarcerated.  In prison congregations, there is community – a place to belong, a place to start again.  It is my constant prayer that when these beloved children of God walk out of prison, that they find church homes where that message of love, forgiveness and acceptance is repeated and lived.  It is my prayer that when one of these precious ones walk into your church, you will say.  “Hello, what’s your name?  You are welcome here,” and maybe someday that same precious one will come back to visit and they will hear a blessing as I did on a recent Sunday morning – that of one’s name spoken in love.


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