Unpacking Friendship – Ontario Generous Space Retreat 2018

As the Ontario GS community prepares to gather for our 6th annual Ontario Generous Space Retreat (OGSR), we’re inviting our retreat participants and the broader GS community into some of our team’s reflections on this year’s theme: friendship. Our first reflection is by our E.D., Wendy VanderWal-Gritter:

It wasn’t long after the last Ontario Generous Space retreat that I knew friendship needed to be the theme for the next retreat. That might sound like a Hallmark greeting card, but my experience of pondering and reflecting on this over the last year has been anything but.

I knew that this theme would bring the whole community together. And given some of the growing pains in the broader Generous Space community, this was important. Our sense of friendship with God and with each other is the level ground where we all experience longing and pain and hope and joy.

I am so grateful for the ways that God has deepened our attunement to intersectional justice. I’m grateful for the awareness and recognition of the privilege and power dynamics that have silenced or caused some to experience erasure – and thankful that we have taken intentional steps to pass the microphone and hear from those experiencing multiple marginalized identities.

I am also aware that we need to come together this year with deep attention to the image-bearing need within all of us to experience relationship where we are known and know each other. Loneliness is no respecter of persons. And as we seek to cultivate vibrant faith community together, we must look into these painful places with resurrection hope. True and deep friendship doesn’t just happen. And cultivating a truly loving community where everyone can experience knowing another and being known requires intentional investment.

As I’ve been contemplating this theme, I find myself face-to-face with some difficult questions. Am I a good friend? Who are my true friends? What has shaped my understanding and experience of friendship?

Truth is, I was bullied pretty consistently through elementary school and high school. One of my longest friendships from those years was marked by a pervasive sense of competitiveness that left me feeling constantly inadequate. My early adult years brought several deep and traumatizing betrayals that have taken years to process.

If I’m honest, I long for a safe and soft place to land where I am simply seen and loved for just who I am – no more and no less – no personas, no posturing, no pretending. And I long for that for the Generous Space community – to be that kind of family, that kind of circle of friends together. With God and with each other.

We all need to be accepted, unconditionally. That is the starting point to grow, to heal, to move forward. As we unpack this idea of friendship together this retreat, I am praying that it would be deeply affirming of our belovedness, our value, and our worth. I’m praying that it will encourage us all to keep growing in our relationship with God and with each other. And I’m praying that we will be enriched from having both faced our need and receiving the gift of friendship.

~ Wendy VanderWal-Gritter

For more blogs related to our 2018 Generous Space Retreats – click here.

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