Where They Say Your Name

We all need communities in our lives that know us, cherish us, and value us. This is a real, human need.

We need communities that will say our names – communities that will remember us, voicing who we are with respect, support, love, and belonging. I was thinking about this the other day:

Canterbury House is a place that says my name. 

Canterbury House is the Episcopalian student ministry center at the University of Michigan. It is a house of shared meals and community building. It is a venue for concerts, particularly for jazz. It’s a space for spiritual exploration. It is a community where I am so grateful to know students and work alongside them.

And it is it is a community that says my name.

It’s a community that says a lot of names, in fact. Over the last year and a half, I’ve thought about this many times. On Wednesday nights, Canterbury House has a time of worship, reflection, singing, and prayer. When we have that time of prayer, we end up listing names. We remember people before God and one another just by saying their first names aloud. And when we voice those names, we remember them with respect, support, love, and belonging. We do this during the quiet improvisations of reflective, creative, jazz musicians.  It is a sacred ritual.

And during this time of prayer, Reid Hamilton, the Chaplain of Canterbury House, always says my name aloud. Every single week. This means a lot to me.

In fact, everyone who participates in that prayer has lists of people we remember each Wednesday night. I have a list too. We don’t know all the people named, but after more than a year together, I think we all know each other’s lists. These are litany of people’s names, a rhythm of people to whom we are connected, people for whom we have hope, people who are remembered especially when they are struggling.

This is so important.

I wish that people scapegoated and discriminated against by religion, people with sacred names and identities, had more spiritual communities who said their names with respect, support, love, and belonging, rather than marking them with labels of disregard and exclusion.

We all need communities in our lives that know us, cherish us, and value us. This is a real, human need.

Renee Roederer

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