Amplifying our Voices: Reflections on the 2019 West Coast GS Retreat

The West Coast Generous Space Retreat is known among the staff as the "chill retreat." The laid-back West Coast vibe is alive and well when it comes to our annual retreat at Camp Squeah in Hope, BC.

This year was our fourth retreat, and we had 65 people join us, one third of whom were first-timers. We had *almost* our full staff team travel to help run the retreat (we missed you, Caro!), including our newest member, Holli, coming from all the way from in Halifax.

Our theme was "Amplify," and throughout the weekend, we focused on overcoming barriers and finding the courage to tell our unique stories and let our voices be heard. We also talked about the voices who are missing or underrepresented among us, and considered how our commitment to postures of hospitality and mutuality call us to seek out those voices. Some of the stories we heard at this retreat included those of disabled queer folks, LGBTQ+ people from older generations, asexual folks, non-binary folks, and people in mixed-orientation marriages.

There were some other factors that made this retreat particularly special...

- The night before the retreat, we held a large allyship-themed event in Vancouver with guest speaker (and former West Coast Retreat speaker) Sarah Bessey. It was great to see over 250 allies and community members attend; it gave us lots of momentum as we headed into the retreat together. For videos from that event, check out these three links!

- This was the first Generous Space Retreat where we had young children present throughout the weekend. Two newborns and one energetic four-year-old became well known among our attendees (they willingly amplified their own voices!), and many retreat participants took turns holding, playing with, and caring for them. Their presence felt like filling in a missing piece, and made our retreat feel even more like family.

- Our artist-in-residence, Lyzanne Foth, who drove all the way from Saskatoon to be with us, amazed us with their guitar virtuosity and their incredible songwriting. Their vulnerability and their fantastic songwriting workshop provided inspiration for many other participants to share their own voices in song.

- Our keynote speaker, Jenna Tenn-Yuk, brought us both her poetry and encouragement and inspiration from her unique story. (Stay tuned next week for video of her keynote presentation!)

- We had our first-ever West Coast Triple A campfire, highlighting the experiences of folks in our community who are atheist, agnostic, and ambiguous about faith.

- In a surprising turn of events, the rain (mostly) held off during our time at the camp, allowing for peaceful hikes through the trails in the surrounding rainforest during free time.