WRITTEN BY: CATHIE OSTAPCHUK
I don’t know about you but all my life I have had a longing to be part of something, to be invited in to a community where I could be myself and be loved for being me. I longed for a safe space where there was no expectation that I should be something or someone else.
During one of our Gather Circle weeks we talk about belonging. The dictionary defines belonging as ‘fitting in’ and being ‘suitable’. What would it feel like to be included in a community where you were found suitable enough to belong? Would you have to change who you were to fit in with the group’s expectations?
Sadly, in many communities where women follow Christ, it may be more common that really fitting in is rare – and like-minded women create boundaries around their sameness, which intentionally or unintentionally, do not allow the unsuitable to belong.
Every day I am grateful that my family provides me a place of belonging. And yet every day I am still conscious of the longing to be found suitable enough to be invited to places of safety, security and synergy in my relationships with women. Sometimes we don’t choose our places of belonging – like being born into our families, or gaining extended family, or becoming part of denominational streams because of our church association.
Other times it is all a matter of choice. Others’ choices – to extend an invitation, or not – to their table. Your choice….to invite others to belong to your circle…or not.
Every day I am grateful that the words of Jesus were recorded once and for all and for all of eternity, and spoken right to my heart:
"You did not choose me, but I chose you" -John 15:16
As a result of His choosing me to belong, Jesus is declaring that I have been found more than suitable, and I fit in to His Kingdom community! I have a place there – a place of honour right in His presence. I can be myself, loved for myself, accepted for myself. When there is that safety, and my longing to just be me is satisfied in this relationship of belonging, I have confidence to go outside of that space and invite others to belong.
Gather Women exists to create spaces of belonging across Canada. You are the women that make space for others and invite them to join you in your journey to be transformed to be more like Christ. We are wanting to be a catalyst to help you create those spaces of belonging. And so we are offering resources for Gather Circles to make it easier for you to invite women to your table and have rich dialogue and develop deep relationships. You can sign up to be a Gather Circle leader here.
We are also creating spaces through our regional Gatherings. There is still time to join us for Gather Alberta – register here . And we are just announcing that we are creating a space of belonging in Montreal as we launch Gather Quebec on June 11 – you can register here.
This is a call to belong, girls, and to create spaces of belonging for others as we open streams of connecting with each other in 2016. We commit to this by being fully present – to ourselves, God and to others. We want those of you who are already in places of belonging to extend your reach to the invisible and isolated. And we plan to join you in that by being present in parts of Canada that have few options for safe spaces.
And we want those of you who are longing to belong – know that you have a place here with us – at Gather Women. We would love to hear from you. We are always aware that we are partners alongside the local church as the Bride of Christ and that these communities of belonging are ideally meant to be in the church community. Would you look around you in your pews and find the women that are sitting alone, at the back, and are just waiting for your invitation to come, and be. There should always be room for all of us to Belong.
Let us Gather.