Canadian Lament Parties

When is lamenting the reason for a party?

A. When Christian Reformed folks gather post-Synod to share their grief and their hope for the future.

Close to 60 people met in two separate Canadian gatherings recently – one group in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area and the other in Eastern Ontario – to lament the actions of the past two Synods of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, to worship, to pray, to fellowship, and to hope.

About 40 people met at the GTHA event, which began with a reflection by Rev. John Vanderstoep, and a time of worship. Vanderstoep said lamenting is a sign of faith and hope because it acknowledges things are not the way they should be but believes they can and should be better. “In the space between the garden of creation and the tree of life of heaven, God invites us to lament,” Vanderstoep said. It’s not griping or criticizing, but rather focusing on God and the creation that God calls very good. “You will not be judged by other Christians here for your sexual orientation, gender identity, chosen pronouns, or gender role stereotype conformity,” he said. “You will be celebrated for who God has made you to be!”

Rev. John Vanderstoep, centre, offers a reflection at the GTHA Lament Party in July, 2023. Also pictured are some members of the organizing committee, from left, Ken Tigchelaar, Nicole Vandenberg, Byron Elzinga, and Peter Vandermeulen.

Participants were of all ages and sexual orientations, and a number were parents of gay or trans children. They joined hands and prayed prayers of lament, mourning the harm that is being done in families, in congregations, and in Christian institutions. They lamented the cancellation of the All-Ontario Youth Convention and the ways in which the church is missing out on the gifts of queer members.

The participants then divided into four smaller listening circles, to share their reactions to the decisions of Synod and to share how they experience hope. Many said they have hope for a better future in the CRC and said the gathering was an example of that – being able to be open and honest about their posture of inclusion. 

After the listening circle groups reported their summaries to the full gathering, there was an update from some other groups who are active on this issue, including a group of pastors and Carol Vanderstoep of Hesed Project, followed by a barbecue supper and potluck.

Meanwhile in Prince Edward County, another group gathered for lunch, sharing their laments and fears and sense of loss. They prayed for each other, for those who are marginalized, and for the church. Then they talked hopefully about avenues that could be pursued, and what would be best for the fellowship and for the Kingdom.

In both gatherings, there was an awareness that the path forward is not obvious, even though there is a conviction that this is Christ’s call for the church. Some attendees are members of congregations that are already publicly endorsing full inclusion or talking about it, while others are in congregations that are split or that won’t even broach the topic.

Both gatherings wrapped up with the hope and the promise of more such gatherings – continuing into the fall when more people will be able to attend.  

“This gathering provided some closure for me, as well as wonderful fellowship,” said one participant. “All those gathered also gave me hope for a future community full of celebration, love and mutual respect for our queer friends and family.”

If you are organizing a future Christian Reformed event anywhere in Canada or the US, email us to have the details posted on our website and social media. If you are interested in attending a future event, watch our News page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for announcements and updates.