Over Labor Day weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the GALA retreat held at Camp Red Cliffe in Utah. My experience there was one like no other. It was a wonderful weekend filled with the love and spirit of Christ, laughter, new and old friends, and the grace of fellowship I wouldn’t trade for anything.
One thing that I enjoyed most this weekend was the ample opportunity for sharing in story. Many indulged in sharing deep and heartfelt stories of struggles faced for simply being true to themselves. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with opening oneself up to a group. I am grateful to have been a part of that vulnerability and to hear and understand the challenges that are faced by many in this community. Even during times that were not specifically dedicated to sharing there seemed to be a raw unfiltered sense of sharing not only of our stories but of ourselves. Talking about being vulnerable, the whole weekend was a chance to be your most authentic self and to be accepted for exactly who you are.
I have attended many church camps and events in my life, growing up in Community of Christ. Each one of those has been special in its own way, I’ve always known a deep sense of community and acceptance in those experiences. However, GALA embodied something completely new. It seems to me that most people have what I would call a “church self” - a side of them that they show in a church setting, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We all have versions of ourselves for every part of our lives. Our home life, school and work, family and friends etc. GALA for me was a blending of my church self and my outside self. It was simply permission to be vulnerable in showing my most authentic self and a true genuine acceptance of that self.
Attending this retreat was phenomenal. I was able to meet lots of new friends and share in love, laughter, and acceptance. I am proud to now be a part of this wonderful community working towards a goal of acceptance for all. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything.