Ontario Retreat - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Generous Space?
Generous Space is a posture or way of being together where we learn to love across difference. We centre ourselves around four core values of humility, hospitality, mutuality, and justice. We are committed to dialogue, honouring each other’s individual autonomy, and developing respectful relationships and a deep sense of community together. Generous Space is also a community where we believe you are Beloved and you Belong.
Many of the retreat registrants participate in Generous Space Groups in their cities, where they meet regularly with other local LGBTQ2S+ Christians and allies to learn from one another and encourage each other in their faith.
Is Generous Space affirming?
Yes. Generous Space, as a ministry, affirms the relationships, families, gifts, and ministry contributions of LGBTQ2S+ people. There may be people within the community who hold a variety of theological views, however, our commitment is to ensure that LGBTQ2S+ people feel fully affirmed in our space.
Celibate people and those with traditional sexual ethics are still welcome in our community. We ask everyone to adhere to the following commitments: Will you listen deeply to the other and resist the urge to convince others to think and believe just like you do? Will you do your best to do no harm in our community, and if harm inadvertently occurs, will you pursue reconciliation to the best of your ability? Within these commitments, we recognize that people may hold many differing beliefs and values pertaining to theology and ethics, but focus on the common ground we share, being an encouragement and support to each other regardless of our differences, and ensure that robust conversation about differences is conducted in a respectful and kind manner. We recognize that our celibate folks and those holding traditional sexual ethics are in the minority within our community. So we particularly want to make space for them to feel that their story and journey are heard and honoured.
Will you organize rides to the retreat?
You are responsible to find your own ride to the retreat. As in past years, we've set up a Carpool page and we invite everyone to use it. If you are driving and have room for others in your vehicle, please add your vehicle by clicking in the top left corner (indicate the number of seats available not including the driver’s seat). If you need a ride, add your name to a vehicle departing from your area, or if none are available, add your name to the wait list. (If you've tried the Carpool page but you're still having trouble with finding a ride, please let us know at least 2 weeks before the retreat and we may be able to give suggestions.)
Note that it’s also possible to take transit between downtown Toronto and Trent University (with one transfer in Oshawa). The trip lasts about two and a half hours and costs about $25 one-way, and the bus drops you off right at the door of the main building we're using for the retreat.
What's the situation with beds and bedding?
Each room contains one double bed. Bedding and towels are provided by Trent University, and are the standard you would expect in a university dorm... so if you prefer your own bedding and towels, you are welcome to bring them.
Why do people who are sharing a bedroom pay the same price as people who are in private rooms?
In lots of church contexts, couples (especially married couples) are often privileged over single or celibate people. When you attend a retreat with your intimate partner(s), you often get better per-person rates because you can share a bed.
Instead of charging single people a higher rate because they don’t have a bed-mate, we decided we would privilege singles (for a change!), charging them the same rate as each partnered registrant. This way, every person will contribute the same amount to the overall cost of the retreat.
What's the washroom situation?
Each bedroom has a semi-private washroom with toilet, sink and shower (each one shares a lockable washroom with an adjoining bedroom - you just need to remember to unlock and give the other room access to the bathroom after you've used it!). There are rooms with accessible washrooms available for those who need them.
We’ll be putting signs on the washrooms in the main gathering spaces to indicate that they are all-gender washrooms for the weekend, noting whether they contain urinals and/or stalls.
Can I bring my children? Is childcare provided?
To make the retreat accessible for nursing parents, we are pleased to provide childcare for infants aged 0-3 years during the main worship sessions, workshops, and if applicable, community group sessions. For older children, we ask that you arrange off-site childcare.
Can I come late, or leave early?
We definitely recommend trying to stay for the full weekend. We've set it up to run longer than many retreats because we've observed that it takes time to build relationships of trust with other members of the community. Still, we realize some people have work or family responsibilities they need to attend to. The registration form will help you calculate your ticket cost if you’re staying for a shorter time.
What if I can't afford to pay right now?
We don't want cost to be a barrier to anyone who wants to attend. Here are two possibilities:
1. On the registration form, we offer the option to pay in installments, with a payment schedule that works for you.
2. For those requiring subsidies, we invite you to apply to our Equity & Access Fund here. You can still fill out the registration form if you're waiting to hear back about subsidies.
I'm not sure how I feel about church/faith right now. I might not call myself a Christian. Can I still come?
Yes! You won't alone; for lots of different reasons, others who attend the retreat are in a similar place, and our hope is that you would feel the safety to speak freely at the retreat about where you’re at. Your willingness to share where you’re at with faith gives other people freedom to “come out” of their own faith-related closets, which can sometimes be even more restrictive than the closets related to our sexual orientation or gender identity.
At retreats, we have an Affinity Group for participants who self-identify as “Triple A” (atheist, agnostic, or ambiguous about faith). We also have a “Nature Option” during most worship services for those who don’t connect with worship music and prefer to express their spirituality in other ways. We ask everyone to prioritize good self-care and to participate in the retreat in ways that are life-giving, and to opt out of parts of the retreat that they find triggering or less relevant to them.
To read more about how we navigate BOTH being a Christ-centered community AND being a place for those who are questioning, doubting, or no longer identify with faith, check out Wendy’s blog post on the topic, as well as her recent reflections on the key role of “Triple A” folks at last year's Ontario retreat.
I'm not fully "out." Should I be concerned about confidentiality and photos?
Confidentiality is very important in our community. Our community groups begin with a group agreement to keep what’s shared within the group confidential. At every retreat, we have registrants who, for a variety of reasons, prefer not to be photographed. At the registration table, you will be able to choose between a bright (red/yellow) or a dark (black/dark green) lanyard for your nametag. We will inform all participants (and especially our retreat photographers) that brightly-coloured lanyards mean “no photos.” Staff will be especially careful about checking to make sure there are no brightly-coloured lanyards in photos used on social media and for promotional purposes.
I am an introvert / I have social anxiety. Is this retreat a good idea for me?
Yes! You will be in good company with others who understand. We will have a designated “Quiet Room” with space to journal, colour, and do other silent activities to “retreat from the retreat.” There are people who do crafts, knit, colour, and do puzzles during sessions. You can also go on walks on the camp grounds to enjoy time alone. Some of our main sessions will include mindfulness exercises to help all of our participants practice coping skills for when we feel overwhelmed.
We give plenty of permission for people to practice good self-care at the retreat, and to participate in ways that will be life-giving, skipping things and taking time for themselves when needed.
I struggle with my mental health. Should I come? What supports are available?
Many people in our community deal with mental illness on a daily basis. To support one another as peers and to destigmatize mental illness, we incorporate mindfulness exercises into our main sessions and teach about mental health coping skills. We’ll have a peer support team on site, with information about accessing mental health help lines and local health services in emergency situations. Though we try to give trigger warnings when possible, at our retreats, people often share vulnerably from their stories and discuss sensitive topics. This can sometimes stir up difficult memories, trauma and trigger past emotional and spiritual harm. The retreat can be intense at times. So if you’re in a season of particularly shaky mental health, please take this into consideration before registering.
Can I attend if I'm straight / cisgender - if I'm not LGBTQ2S+? What would my involvement look like?
We warmly welcome straight/cisgender allies who want to be supportive and approach the retreat with a posture of listening and learning. Whether you’re a parent, friend, or pastor of LGBTQ2S+ people, your presence as learner can be a real encouragement to our LGBTQ2S+ participants. We invite you to come with an open mind, to listen deeply, and to experience what it’s like to be a sexual/gender “minority” in a predominantly LGBTQ2S+ crowd. You may recognize your privilege in ways you haven’t realized before, and while this can be uncomfortable, it can also be a tremendous learning opportunity. You will likely hear perspectives and stories that challenge how you’ve thought about things. If you are ready to fully engage with mind and heart, we’d love to have you!
I heard that pastors show up for one day of the retreat. What's that about?
Friday is “Pastors Day @ the Retreat," and this year, we're also inviting educators from Christian schools. The retreat is one of the few places where these folks can experience a glimpse of what it feels like to be in the minority (the majority of our retreat participants are LGBTQ2S+), what it is like to worship with LGBTQ2S+ Christians who are passionate about God, and what it is like to learn from the journey of resilient and faithful LGBTQ2S+ Christians. This experience is worth more than reading books, preaching sermons, sensitivity trainings, or thinking about how to better serve LGBTQ2S+ people. Pastors and educators will participate in worship and *select* workshops, and will share lunch with us. They will also spend time learning from our staff members.
We understand that some will be uncomfortable around pastors in particular, so rest assured that no retreat participant is obligated to connect with the visiting pastors. We will be clear about which tables they're sitting at for lunch, and which workshops they've been invited to attend. We will reassure them of the need for confidentiality and remind everyone that we have plenty of straight/cisgender people mixed in with our LGBTQ+ participants (so someone’s retreat attendance doesn’t automatically “out” them). Pastors and educators will be encouraged to listen and to learn from those in our community who are eager to talk to them, and give space to others who don’t express interest.
If your question wasn't answered here, contact us to ask it!