Arrested Development sang these words, “For some strange reason it had to be, He guided me to Tennessee...” The last time I was here in 2009, I reflected on the same words and mused about my learnings and experiences as a Communities of Shalom Intern working in Gallatin, TN. If I am honest, that experience grew me and left me vulnerable. I thought I’d return to Tennessee as a Doctoral students in Homiletics at Vanderbilt University. Instead, I was married to my love, Joseph, worked as an Assistant to the Pastor at the Bethesda Baptist Church in New Rochelle, NY, had children and settled into life and ministry in New Jersey.
This trip to Tennessee was to celebrate the conferring of the Doctorate of Philosophy on my best friend of 28 years, the Reverend Dr. Courtney Alma Bryant-Prince. She worked hard and pushed past what she thought she was capable of to produce a work on Erotic Defiance that the academy and the church need to consider as we move forward doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. And we did celebrate. There was unabashed joy, unencumbered laughter, engaging conversations, and communion at the table. And while we celebrated, other things were happening too.
If I had to capture what happened in one word, it would be RECONNECTION. I reconnected with myself—Donna Olivia—in life giving ways. Sometimes it is important for me to disconnect from my family and sit in solitude with the sounds of birds chirping or the songs of Zion. Sometimes it is important for me to sleep for hours on end, going to bed early and sleeping in late. Sometimes—even on this Mother’s Day—I need to be called by my name, Donna, and not my title, Mommy. I also reconnected with Mama and Papa Bryant, Courtney’s parents, who are a huge part of my faith and life formation. I reconnected with the Bass Family who loved me, embraced me, took care of me, fed me, and prayed for me during the Summer of 2009. I reconnected with Brittany, one of the young people from Bethesda who is a fully grown woman loving God and living life. Most importantly, I reconnected with God—the source of my strength and the strength of my life.
So I guess this time around being guided to Tennessee wasn’t strange, but rather necessary for me to reconnect to my past and present in order that I might live more deeply into the future.