|A view at the Menucha Retreat & Conference Center|
I recently attended my first FLGBTQC Mid-Winter Gathering at Menucha Retreat & Conference Center in Portland, Oregon. I treated it as a mini-vacation from my busy and stressful everyday school life. Well, that was my initial take on my retreat day until I finally came to the realization I had during my time there. It wasn't just a vacation. It was a time for me to be able to take a break from my usual life and take a step back to take a look at where I am at the moment and where I want to be in the future.
This was a spiritual growth retreat which blends contemplation and community. Emphasis was on the worship sharing groups, along with ample time for the solitude of prayer, meditation, and reflection. This was a time for all of us delegates to come together to renew our spirits and re-center ourselves through time in the Christian community and intentional time with God.
The theme of the conference was about “Inclusivity” which was well expounded by Mariana Ruybalid. Another topic that we studied was semi-programmed meeting for worship on the theme of theological diversity led by Alivia Biko, pastor of Freedom Friends Church. I also had an opportunity to lead a workshop based on my spiritual journey as a Kenyan Quaker. I shared about my life history, my conversion and call in the ministry, and my understanding of the Bible and homosexuality based on the Kenyan context.
As I am about to finish my Master's of Divinity degree with hopefully two semesters left, I needed that time to know what God intends for me to do as I begin a new chapter in my professional/work life. The retreat was an eye-opener for me. I got to know myself better through the questions asked in our worship sharing groups, each of which had different intentions. An example was the the question “What is my passion?” This made me think of what I would love to do or what I am interested in, disregarding the degree I am taking and what is it about. Honestly, I am not happy with where I am right now and knowing my passion could help me find another path that I could take because doing what I love to do could or might be the best thing.
|Justimore (2nd from left) marching in the Indy Pride Parade in 2013|
Another question asked was “What is my biggest or most important question in my life as of the moment?” My answer to is was “Why is there need for me to suffer, be dishonored with my family, friends, and church based on my sexual orientation?” My reason was, “I'm just curious to know why because why do I need to suffer if we are all Christians and the Bible says that God is Love and we need to love all people even the unlovable ones? Can't we just all be happy instead?” I don't know but my question sounds cliché. Maybe I am to suffer for me to remember that God is always there for me. And that I can always find refuge, security and rest in Him.
The retreat also reminded me that in everything that I do, do it for the greater glory of the Lord. There are times when it is hard for me to be productive with God in my mind because I get caught up with mundane things. The solution I was presented during the worship sharing groups was that I need to let go that which holds me back and hinders God's spirit to be manifested in my life.
I am so grateful for Earlham School of Religion for the traveling assistance and West Richmond Friends Meeting for my registration fees. I was given chance to share about ESR. I discovered that most people at the retreat didn't know much about ESR. I was lucky to find friends who showed interest of coming to ESR for further studies. It was such a wonderful moment in my life to connect with my tribe and my new family. Glory be to God!