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I am a southerner by birth. For the first twenty years of my life I lived in about every corner of the state of Georgia. Most of my childhood was spent in Columbus, the town where John Pemberton, a former Confederate officer, came up with his first formula for Coca-Cola. It’s the hometown of the southern gothic author Carson McCullers who penned The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

In my teens I lived in Cuthbert, a steamy town tucked twenty five miles from the Alabama border. Cuthbert was founded in the 1830s after the Muscogee were forced west on the Trail of Tears. In my time it was a sleepy town with little industry save for the small Methodist junior college where my father worked as the baseball coach and dean of students.

I left Cuthbert for the foothills of the Appalachians and Piedmont College. There I was introduced to the Episcopal Church which would become my spiritual home. While there I left the country for the first time and was exposed to new people and ideas. The south started to feel too small for me and I started to imagine myself in other places. After graduation I left Georgia and haven’t lived in the south since.

In the nearly twenty years since then I’ve lived in Connecticut, Denver, and now Santa Fe. In each of these places I embraced the cultures and lifestyles. In Connecticut I fell in love with New Haven pizza and singing sea chanties in a salty colonial pub. In Denver I embraced the vibrant music scene and mountain lifestyle. In Santa Fe my family is trying our hand at high desert agriculture, connecting to each other and the often-harsh land. I have been connected to strong and diverse communities. I have been welcomed to each new home. Still, in each of these places I begin as a stranger in a strange land.

There’s something interesting that happens—to me at least—as a stranger in a new place: you begin to identify where you’re from. For me it started in little ways: I began making southern food. Even collard greens, which I don’t think I ever ate until I was in the north. I found other southerners and we sang country songs, which I hadn’t realized I knew until we started singing. I even let my accent occasionally slip in, something I worked hard to keep at bay before.

In Christ, we are strangers in a strange land. In this world we build our homes, our families, our communities. These are important and we should work to make them better and this world more just. But our home is in Christ. Our thoughts, our prayers, our actions reflect the reality of where we’re from. And when we gather with each other we sing songs of our home, we share a meal, we tell our stories. As we do, let’s let the memory of where we are from remake us each day more into the likeness of Christ.

About the Photo

Welcome to Earth, Spaceman
Seth Reese

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