Soulation Gold Gathering

Untitled

A couple of years ago, my friend Hillary suggested I read Ruby Slippers by Jonalyn Fincher. Hillary’s brother-in-law is a staff writer for Soulation, the ministry Jonalyn runs with her husband Dale, and she’d met Jonalyn when she came to town for a speaking engagement. I read Ruby Slippers, loved it, and started recommending it to other women. From there I got hooked on Soulation’s blogs and was taken in by the ministry’s honesty, depth, fresh perspective, and focus on “being fully human.” I appreciated that the Finchers weren’t afraid to wrestle with big, difficult questions.

Soulation holds small retreats called Gatherings three times a year in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where Dale and Jonalyn live. Each Gathering focuses on a different topic. After my friend Esther attended the White Gathering last winter, I wanted to go too. But due to cost and personal insecurity, I didn’t expect to do so anytime soon.

At the beginning of August, I got an e-mail from Soulation saying that two people had canceled for the Gold Gathering at the end of September. If they couldn’t fill the spots by that Friday, they would have to cancel the whole thing. The theme was What Is The Church? Since I’ve spent the last few years increasingly pondering how to find my place in the Church, my antennae went right up. I texted Esther, talked to a few friends, and called my dad. Their support for the idea was unanimous. Despite the expense, and the potential craziness of crossing the country to hang with a bunch of total strangers, everyone encouraged me to go for it. I hurriedly applied that night and was accepted by the weekend. As my mom loves to say, it was a God Thing.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Gathering. I hoped to be refreshed, feel closer to God, get some new insights, and enjoy nature. I got all of that in spades. Our group was made up of twelve people (counting the Finchers), all Christians but from different backgrounds and in different spiritual and life places. Many attendees were struggling with legitimate church-related issues a lot bigger than mine. Normally it would take days of small talk to reach deep topics with new people, but our group dove right into it. I loved that. Of course we got to know each other at a more surface level too, but it was great to feel like we had a common mission. Each day we had a presentation and at least one “official” discussion time, but there were plenty of free hours to hike, bike, explore the area, or just have down time at the gorgeous chalet where we were staying.

Untitled

I’d been to Colorado twice before – once to ski when I was in high school (it wasn’t as fun as it sounds), and once en route from the Denver airport to visit my ex’s grandparents in southeastern Wyoming. But I’d never experienced Colorado. Just being there was invigorating for my body and soul. The changing trees, the unexpected snow, the rivers, the fresh air. To my own surprise, I pretty much fell in love with the place.

Untitled
Photo by Dale

What most drew me to this particular Gathering was my feeling of isolation within the Church. I think other regions of the country, and other Christian groups, are more integrational (is that a word?). But in a conservative denomination in the South, as a single (divorced!), childless 30something, I’m perpetually out of place. Even though I don’t believe one’s marital or parental status should be the core of one’s identity, the fact remains that the American Church in my neck of the woods is designed for families. There’s no proactive path laid out, no mentors for someone like me. Rather than get bitter and complainy about it, I try my best to do positive things with that frustration, to blaze a trail for myself and for those who will come after me. But it’s often lonely and sad.

I hoped to find some answers about that at the Gathering. If I did, they haven’t fully formed yet. But I learned many valuable things that will stay with me. I was reminded that my neck of the woods is just one small section of the giant forest that is the Body of Christ. I saw the presence of God in other Christians who are different from me, and heard their stories. I felt, in the best possible way, that many of the spiritual and churchy things I worry about aren’t such a big deal. That maybe I can give myself and others a break sometimes. Honestly, I think it may take months to fully process my thoughts and feelings.

My fellow Gatherers will always be in my heart. We climbed mountains together. Literally and figuratively.

Untitled

Photo by Rob

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister’s iced tea.

View all posts by Brenda W. →
Posted on
Posted in faith, soulation, travel
     

7 Responses to Soulation Gold Gathering

  1. I’d been to Colorado twice before – once to ski when I was in high school (it wasn’t as fun as it sounds), ….

    That doesn’t sound like fun at all. Maybe it’s just the words high school that ruined the image for me. I’m hard pressed to recall much of any sentence I could utter with those words that would say “fun” to me. ;-)

    Glad to learn, after your last post, what sorts of things were going on in the trip that brought back such beautiful photos. And apparently brought back much more that just photos.

  2. Jessica says:

    So glad you had a great time. I’d love to hear you talk in more specifics about the spiritual and churchy things you worry about that aren’t a big deal.

  3. sarah says:

    What a wonderful experience and the setting is perfect. That topic is interesting too, because I feel similar — sometimes I feel like there’s hardly a place in the church for me too, especially when I go and it’s all young couples with young children and the “singles” group is all college or just post-college people. I don’t know. I keep thinking that I’ll find my place but I always seem to miss it. I don’t know. This sounds like it was really great for you and at the perfect time!

    • This surprised me because I tend to think of church in NYC as more progressive and balanced. Like if I lived there, I wouldn’t be the weird older single person. Sorry you’re experiencing this too!

  4. Pingback: What I’m Into: March | Don't Stop Believing

Talk To Me