Our First Annual Oriented to Love Reunion
It’s all about building community across deep difference
By Kristyn Komarnicki
Earlier this month ESA hosted the first annual Oriented to Love (OTL) alumni reunion. Based on the feedback we’ve gotten, it will certainly not be our last! Twenty-one alums (representing nine of 11 dialogue groups), our program spiritual director and myself gathered at Kirkridge Retreat Center for a weekend of connection, fun, discussion, and worship.
Why would alums travel as far as the opposite coast to attend this intimate gathering? They came looking to connect with others interested in dialogue and to learn to love better. They came hoping to deepen their faith around LGBT issues and the church. They came to be stretched, to grow their listening skills, and to be heard. They came, above all, in search of a loving community of Christ-centered encouragement and support, regardless of differing viewpoints—a place of compassion where it is safe to be fully and vulnerably oneself.
The alums brought it all. They facilitated discussions, taking on challenging topics like “Cultivating dialogue in the hardest spaces,” “Inclusivity in the church,” “Gender in the Kingdom,” and “Celibate LGBTQ Christians: What’s our place in the church?” They invited us into the Scriptures, asked challenging questions of each other, invented new words for hard-to-describe experiences (see photo below), shared lectio divina reflections, and enjoyed a silent meditative walk in the rain. We laughed and prayed together, and some of us even danced and did yoga together! We listened to each other across theological differences and found the courage to share hard stories as well as stories of great hope and victory.
Did it rain all weekend? Yes, it did, and we enjoyed the mountain vistas and the lush, green woods anyway. Did we have uncomfortable moments of misunderstanding and hurt? Yes, we did, because that is the natural result of risking an encounter with the other. We also offered each other grace, and asked clarifying questions, and sought to understand. That is what OTL is all about—loving across difference, learning from each other, daring to walk in another’s shoes for a minute, or an hour, or a whole weekend.
I marvel at this growing OTL community. One dialogue at a time, Christ is raising up a network of bold, beautifully embodied souls who seek to listen to, serve, and love each other as Christ loves us: with humility, authenticity, and a hunger for building God’s kingdom here, on earth as it is in heaven.
Kristyn Komarnicki is the director of ESA’s Oriented to Love dialogue program.