by SommerAnn McCullough
Every month when our Women’s Group meets, we start with what we call “whines and wins.” Each member is invited to share one whine, something that is not going great in their life, and one win, something exciting: an accomplishment or celebration. It’s a great way to catch-up with each other, what we’ve been working through or looking forward to in our lives, and it sets the tone for our evening of discussion and faith formation.
What I love about this ritual, is how we bring our full selves to the group every time. We don’t pretend everything in our lives is ok, or fine. We don’t have to hide less than perfect days in the office, or struggles we’re having with our families. We can share these whines with each other, knowing that we will receive support and lift each other up. It’s that last part of lifting each other up that I reflected on at our Fall Retreat earlier this month.
Six of us from our women’s group were able to take a weekend trip to New Buffalo, Michigan for our 3rd Annual Fall Retreat. It was a weekend of envisioning the future of our community, of listening to how God is working through our group and our members to build a powerful church, and dreaming how we can support each other on this journey. As we were recalling our favorite memories over the years, from our traditional potlucks and sermon discussions to our retreats and social outings, I brought up this tradition of whines and wins.
So often in the world outside St. Luke’s I see people trying to “out-complain” each other. One person’s bad day can always be trumped by someone else’s drama or month-long struggle. Whenever someone would bring up a whine in my workplace, it would quickly spiral out of control until we were left with this pile of negativity, drama and hopelessness. It would leave me feeling even more overwhelmed and anxious than when I entered the conversation.
However, during our whines and wins at our women’s group, I always leave feeling lifted up and supported. Instead of spiraling out of control, trying to top each other’s negativity, we acknowledge the issues in our lives, ask each other meaningful questions, offer support and continue with our discussion. In our group, we create a new kind of power when instead of focusing on negativity we choose to build each other up. By being our full selves, and accepting each other, we create deeper relationships, grounded in a counter-cultural power of unity and strength.
I see God working through us in these moments, in the compassion and support so readily given and received; in the ability for women of different Christian backgrounds to come together in a society that tells us we tear each other down, or don’t want to see each other succeed.
God is empowering us to build a powerful church through these relationships and the strength we find in each other in these tough moments. God is present on these retreats where we create space to challenge our beliefs and what it means to be Christian, and how we want to live out our values. God will continue to work through our discussions, our studies and our community as we create a powerful church that accepts all, lifts each other up, and prepares each other for the whines and wins that lie ahead.
St. Luke’s is grateful for all the testimonies and stories shared from members at St. Luke’s.
To learn more about this practice, please speak with Erin Coleman Branchaud (firstname.lastname@example.org)