Healing Our Imagination: A Retreat for Women of Color FAQ
Women of Color FAQ
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS [FAQ]
Q: Why is ECV doing a women of color retreat?
A: Over the last few years, our staff and elders noticed that women of color, especially Black women, were experiencing challenges in our multiethnic context in unique ways. Between a lack of community, a lack of support and mentorship for the service opportunities they were often invited to, and a sense that their belonging was contingent on their service, all was not well despite strong numbers in our Body. A brave contingent of Black women shared their concerns with Josh, and several initiatives were done in response to their concerns. While a start, it was not enough, some women of color left, and the time is now to go deeper with our support for women of color. In particular, as elders, we feel urgently that an effort is needed that publicly centers women of color and involves a space to rest and retreat. Thus, Healing Our Imaginations: A Retreat for Women of Color at ECV was born.
Q: Wait. Where’s the registration? I’m a woman of color and this seems like such a gift. Thank you!
A: Thanks for the encouragement! We have been praying that this feels like a gift and an investment in the lives and well-being of women of color. We are praying that this next step will be a blessing. While registration has officially closed, you can reach out to Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire if there are still any spots available.
Q: This sounds great. How can I help?
A: Thanks for your generosity to give of your time, treasure, and talent. We have been raising money in order to provide generous scholarships, honorariums, and to cover expenses. You can give here and mark it as “WOC Retreat.” If you want to help practically, you can email Hannah at email@example.com as there are a number of small and big tasks left to do. Here is one opportunity worth highlighting: giving rides to/from the retreat center.
Q: Fantastic! How can I pray?
A: Thanks for partnering with us in prayer. Our deepest hope in prayer is that this retreat does healing work in women of color. You can also pray for restoration, refreshment, and renewal through the Holy Spirit. Some strategic prayers would be: 1) that there is grace in the planning of the retreat and that women of color experience the protection of God in planning and attending, 2) that our Body remains united despite a new and bold centering of women of color through this retreat and a public differentiation of care in the Body, and 3) joy through the Holy Spirit that lasts much longer than the few days of this retreat.
Q: Hmm. I’m concerned. I’m not sure why I’m feeling this way. Do you have any idea?
A: Possibly. Many people enjoy a multi-ethnic community but there is often unseen work to keep one healthy and growing. Part of that unseen work involves gathering together in smaller cohorts whether that be through gender or ethnicity or both. Sometimes, that can happen organically. Usually, there needs to be some institutional support for that to deepen regularly. In those smaller spaces, people often feel free to speak more candidly (in ways that they may be growing towards in the whole Body), to let their guard down more easily, and to experience a different kind of intimacy that may allow them to connect with God and with others more easily. However, when we don’t understand the good in this differentiation of care sometimes we experience this “retreating and coming back together” as divisive.
Perhaps, people wonder “is this really needed?” or “will they talk about someone like me?” So, what you might be feeling is the tension of feeling your own questions as they rub up against the tension of what might be needed for the care of others. This is when we need to bring our questions to the Spirit and others we can trust to help us grow in the Body. Our questions help us explore where we are and what we believe. There’s nothing wrong with them, but we need to make sure this questions connect us back to the Body instead of giving us a bad or troubling feeling (sometimes, anxiety) we cannot resolve. The goal here is to be present to your feelings long enough to get some definition on what they are and why you feel them and then to connect to God, trusted others, and the Body given what comes up for you.
Q: This rubs me the wrong way. Why can’t there just be a retreat for all women?
A: Thanks for your honesty. The elders expected that this could be a potential response. Truthfully, Josh and Tina put together more experiences for all women a few years ago, led by women of color, after a cohort of brave Black women shared their concerns. Unfortunately, that programming did not move the needle that far in terms of the kind of health needed at this moment. This is a different strategy that boldly centers women of color in front of the whole Body, not adjacent to it. This helps us communicate our honor and love for women of color, shares with honesty our need for an event like this given our society and our local Body’s brokenness, and it invites people to pray, to give, and to be part of healing and renewal. It also stirs up good conflict as our elders are publicly backing this strategy for differentiated care as one way our Body will become whole.
Q: But if you’re a multi-ethnic church, why would you divide yourself?
A: In the heavenly vision of Revelation 7, there are all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples. What happens when one forgets their own language though? Strategic efforts like Healing our Imaginations are an effort to recover language, distinction, and belovedness in our ethnicities because it will be a wholly good and praiseworthy thing to worship the Lord with our ethnic background at the end of all things.
Unfortunately, the work of white supremacy can produce a sameness and flatness that can be most reinforced by calling all people together and then having them speak with the same tongue, pressuring POC, especially WOC, to lose our God-given distinctness. While we would love to experience more protection in this area as God’s people, sometimes, the multi-ethnic church ends up “norming” some of this sameness and becoming an abrasive and vulnerable place that can feel exposing.
It can be helpful and healing to take time apart—not to escape or disassociate—but to rest, to breathe, and to be released from constant consciousness of how white people feel or experience us. Sometimes, we can work all that out while remaining in a multi-ethnic context. But often, we need other spaces of differentiated care to heal the Body and to return to the Body whole. One result of that differentiated care is we come back stronger and healthier together.
Q: Fair enough. Are there women events happening soon for me to know about?
A: Thanks for persisting with us even though you may disagree! This retreat is one strategy out of many. Some other strategies will involve specific events for women of a certain ethnicity, more women of color events, or all women events, or different kinds of breakouts based on area of ministry, passions, etc. Of course, these strategies will include events for all women again. Tina, who helped lead our last women’s group right before the pandemic, is planning another women’s group for the future. If you’re interested in serving or attending, email Tina@elmcityvineyard.org.
Q: I’m not sure if I qualify as a “woman of color.” I have trouble claiming that identity. Is this retreat for me?
A: If you are a woman who is mixed, Black, Indigenous, Latina, or Asian American, you are invited to this retreat. This retreat is for any woman of color at any level of leadership and involvement at ECV and at any stage of engagement with the term “woman of color,” from early curiosity to deep alignment. Whether you are newer to the term “woman of color,” whether you experience tensions around such categorical labels, or whether you’ve long desired a space dedicated to WOC—come and see!
If you have any questions about whether this would be a space that would be restful and healing for you, please reach out to Tina at Tina@elmcityvineyard.org or Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I still have a concern. Who should I reach out to?
A: If you’re a women of color with a logistical question, ask Hannah: email@example.com. If you’re a women of color with a question of whether this would be good for you, ask Michelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not a woman of color and have a question, talk to Josh. These events are costly to plan and, currently, the burden is falling on women of color, especially Michelle Ho, who is our lead planner and organizer. We love questions at ECV, but we’d love to direct more of the ones about why a WOC retreat or potential downsides to Josh as a way to spread the work among our elder team. Thank you for considering that.
Q: Low-key. This FAQ was convicting and helpful. Now, I’m kind of concerned that we’re only doing one retreat. We need more stuff like this! What’s the strategy moving forward?
A: Phew. Thanks, fam. Come back to this spot in a bit because this FAQ-writing tired me out. Pray though! Pray specifically for our staff and elders to be renewed, to be filled with the Spirit, and to experience God’s favor as we seek to cultivate and grow a thriving multi-ethnic church.