My experience at the CUC Young Adult Retreat

I was floating in water so clear I could see the bottom. I sat on a paddleboard and relaxed on the pond. Dragonflies danced around me. There was occasional splashing from fish leaping out of the water, and there was laughter in the distance. I felt serene, content, and a sense of belonging. I felt that there was nowhere I would rather be than there at that moment. 

It was my first time at Unicamp, at the retreat, and really at any young adult Unitarian Universalist (UU) event other than a games night at the congregation I attend. Everyone was new to me but the friend I had invited, and when I got there I felt immediately accepted into the group. 

On the first morning, we created a schedule together as attendees, trying to fit in everything everyone wanted to do, and we did pretty well with it! Campfires, worship, singing, a dance, even a group centered in Loving Justice. I didn’t participate in everything, and that was okay, but next time I attend I would like to try even more new things.

One person at the retreat reached the age cap while there, and I participated in what was referred to as a “mini bridging ceremony.” I hadn’t met that person before the weekend, and didn’t know what a bridging ceremony was, yet tears came to my eyes. It was a beautiful experience to be a part of.

Whether I was walking the labyrinth, having early morning chats over a hot beverage, or enjoying people’s offerings at the coffee house, each moment felt like a gift. Most, if not all, of us retreat-goers had a wonderful time. Others described the weekend as fulfilling, magical, and rejuvenating. A sense of community and deep relationships were common threads for many of us. When asked what people brought home with them, one person said “more confidence in my faith community.”

What I took away was more than memories and thoughtfully written “warm fuzzies.” I was in a space that simultaneously nourished me spiritually, socially, and physically to such a high degree. It felt safe and welcoming and it’s changed me a bit as a person. I feel more inclined to be gentle and intentional in my everyday life. As the friend I invited so beautifully put it “thank you for bringing me here—these people feel like home.” Home to me is not a physical place, so even though the Young Adult retreat only happens once a year, I carry it with me in my heart.


Bridging Ceremony: A ritual that recognizes the rite of passage of someone aging into or out of the youth or young adult community. The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) holds one annually in May. Typically it involves a time for the “bridgers” to share what their time in the community has meant to them, to hear from others in the communities they are entering or leaving, and the ritual itself of walking through a loving tunnel of people with their arms raised overhead, to be welcomed on the other side by one’s new community. 

Warm fuzzies: At youth and young adult conferences, each person makes a “mailbag” with their name on it which is left out in a prominent location. Throughout the event, mailbags get filled with short notes of appreciation from other attendees. Traditionally you will open your mailbags and read the notes after you have left the event, at which point you are filled with warm fuzzy feelings! 

Call and Response, the Canadian Unitarian Council’s new blog, is a forum for sharing ideas, tools, and resources with people and organizations who want to create a more loving, just, and equitable world. 

Nina Strang, the author of this blog post, is a young adult and has been a congregant at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa for just over one year. At this congregation they are involved in the Mental Health Support and Action Group and recently shared part of their story during a service. As part of the congregation’s Embracing Diversity Committee they have co-designed and co-facilitated a well-attended ‘Gender and Pronouns’ workshop.


One Comment, RSS

  • Techylist

    I had a great time at the CUC Young Adult Retreat! The facilitators were great and the atmosphere was really comfortable and welcoming. I would definitely recommend this retreat to others!

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