From across Ontario, 95 young adults gathered at Maranatha CRC in Woodstock, Ont., Jan. 25-27 for the seventh annual Young Adult Winter Retreat.
Organized by a group of young adults from the Christian Reformed Church, the retreat aims to provide a space for men and women ages 18-30 to deepen their relationship with Jesus and build connections with others who are seeking to do the same.
“We hold this retreat because we recognize there is a need within the community of young adults — a need to make connections, build relationships, be encouraged in faith, and realize that we as young adults have an important and relevant role within the church,” said Simon Veenstra, a member of the planning team.
The retreat is indeed meeting a need. Each year the event grows in popularity. This year attendees came from all over southern and southwestern Ontario, from Strathroy to Barrie to Peterborough (see map of congregations represented by this year's attendees).
The long drive is worthwhile, said the organizers, because each year attendees can “look forward to making new connections with people and learning and growing from the retreat as individuals — but, more importantly, we look forward to seeing how God uses the weekend to bless everyone who attends.”
The keynote speaker for this year’s retreat was Dr. Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director for the CRCNA. He helped the group dive into the theme “Something More Profound: Standing in Awe of God” by using a variety of reflections and activities. As a result, attendees were able to explore the balance of intellect and emotion on our faith, and how these things can influence our feelings of awe.
“Darren did an excellent job of breaking down some factors that contribute to awe (acknowledgement, wisdom, and emotion), and he spoke of the balance needed between them,” said Marissa Mulder, one of the event organizers.
In addition to worship times, the retreat also offered attendees spiritual encouragement, faith-based discussions, and times of fellowship. Throughout the weekend, they were led in worship by musician Daniel Kikkert.
On Saturday afternoon, attendees participated in a variety of activities, including workshops led by local pastor Daryl Meijer and Gil Clelland of Sanctuary London, playing board games, going on a prayer walk, playing volleyball, and spending time reflecting on the event theme in a personal silent retreat.
Clelland’s workshop focused on recognizing and embracing the awe that we experience in day-to-day life, while Meijer offered a tutorial about testimony writing and how our testimonies can be used to bring glory to God.
Participants also spent time volunteering at three local nonprofits: the Salvation Army, Indwell, and Cedarview Gracious Retirement Living.
On Sunday the group joined the congregation at Maranatha CRC for worship and concluded the retreat by sharing a meal together and reflecting on their time together.
"It was a great weekend! It was my first time attending the retreat, and I was tentative at first because I am so shy and always feel lonely at these kinds of events, but everyone was so welcoming that I didn’t feel that way,” said one participant. “Thanks for everything you do — and see you next year!"