“A love letter to St. Stephen, NB; SSU; and the SCV community.
You met me when I was a 19-year-old just recently deported, self-emancipated from the evangelical church, and grieving a newly divorced mom and dad. You embraced me then.
You saw me attempt and successfully attend university at Canada’s smallest liberal arts school with only $1000 in savings and no clue what I was getting myself into. In this totally unfamiliar environment, I wrestled with God, myself, and had trouble managing student loans and getting paperwork completed in a timely way (Sheila Brooks can vouche). You embraced me then.
You travelled alongside me in Europe and Asia. In Thailand, you gave me a private room after a 10-day bout of constipation so that I could recoup and not have to use the squatty potty every 30 minutes at our homestay’s place. You embraced me then (not literally, though, ’cause…well, you know).
After a terrifying brush with death, you offered counselling and support; you wrote songs about it and sang together, celebrating “The Shadows Of Luck” that stayed so close when the 5 of us were twisting and flying in an uncontrolled car. You embraced us then.
You let me share my music; letting me worship in your church and song-share in your community. It was never comfortable for me, because I have crippling stage fright and anxiety. You reminded me of my gifts and stood with me in my fears. You embraced me then.
I have visited you through the years since moving to Vancouver and back east to Halifax. Some visits were delicate for me after I told you I was same-gender attracted; I didn’t know if you would still love me and be my friend, because sometimes relationship end in these situations. To my surprise, our relationship grew stronger. You embraced me then.
A couple of weeks ago you asked me if I would join you in worship and share my gifts with you. You explained that since you had many new Syrian neighbours, you were looking to create an inclusive space for everyone to feel safe and welcomed to worship together. I cannot tell you how honoured I felt to be among the many who are celebrating this diversity. You saw me cry, but these were not tears of sadness; they were the tears of a person who has been fully embraced and fully loved by a humble and intentional community. You embrace people and I don’t know what I would do without you.
Fare forward in grace and peace always.
With gratitude, respect, and love,
– Holli Durost (SSU Alumna, 2011)