The Friendship Bench

The “Friendship Bench” is an initiative begun in Zimbabwe to create therapeutic spaces in communities without professional therapists. Trained individuals, often grandmas, sit on a bench and listen to whomever sits down next to them. These grandmas create safe spaces and a sense of belonging in their communities, enhancing the quality of life. This model, rooted in both empathy and research, is being duplicated in communities all over the world. If you want to be inspired, check out their website!

This summer, we’ve brought a physical friendship bench into our Sunday Gatherings— we’ve listened to someone invited to sit on the bench with me to have a conversation. After our gathering is over, volunteers sit there to offer space for prayer and conversation. Deepening our experience of kinship through shared food and stories of “strange graces” has been my desire for our community this summer.

This week, our pre-arranged family was not able to sit on the bench with me. I opened it up to our community and invited people to share their stories of “strange graces”—those small things that happen in life reminding us that we, too, are beloved.

I was moved and surprised by the generosity of those who came to share. One story has lingered in my mind:  Maya sat down and told the story of their summer job gardening at a Buddhist temple; a job that felt so congruent and joyful for them. Yet, when the monks found out that Maya is gay and non-binary, the monks informed Maya that if they don’t become straight, they will return in the next life as a bug. The monks offered meditation as a “fix”. Instead of blessing and celebrating Maya, their words were dehumanizing and invalidating. While Maya was feeling vulnerable and unsafe during lunch break, a small boy came up and slipped his hand into their hand, a gesture which built a little bubble of safety for them both.

“I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.”

Someone asked me this week why I am choosing to be here, at Southpoint. I am here because I believe we are a strange grace. That we, in our togetherness, in our kinship, bear comfort and strength. That we can lean toward each other’s ears, and with curious insistence, whisper our truest of names: Beloved. [Extract from “Beloved is Where We Begin”, by Jan Richardson.]

I am here because I believe we are being formed into a friendship bench. I believe we are creating a safe space and a sense of belonging in our community, and that our presence here enhances the quality of life for our city.

I am here because I believe Christ is in us, between us, above and beneath us, on our left and on our right, meek yet powerful, in the heart of each to whom we speak, and in the mouth of each who speaks to us.

I am here because I believe that in the “boredom and pain” of being church “no less than in the excitement and gladness of being church”, we are touching, tasting, and smelling our way to the holy and hidden heart of it. (A paraphrase of Buechner’s words 🙂 

Deep peace and blessings.

—Anne

Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor of the Church at Southpoint

Worship Calendar

If you’re planning to join us for an in-person service, please read our Covid policy. It’s kept up to date, here.

In-Person 10:00 am on Sundays at 15639 24 Avenue, Surrey!

Celebrating Kinship with Creation

Sun. Sep 3

Ocean Sunday

Sun. Sep 10
Fauna Sunday

Sun. Sep 18
Storm Sunday

Sun. Sep 25 ALL IN
Cosmos Sunday

Sun. Oct 2 
St Francis Sunday
Blessing of the animals

New to Southpoint?

At Southpoint, it all begins with God’s love. Just as a plant grows, it receives sunshine, so we grow as we receive God’s love. At Southpoint, we are growing in our capacity to love God, ourselves, one another, and creation.

We seek to be a community of grace that is intentional yet organic, spacious yet authentic, grace-filled yet accountable. * We are fully welcoming. *

We encourage relationships rather than run programs, yet we recognize the importance of intentionality and structure as we nurture life together.

As a community, we seek to put our love in action. We value helping out on Sunday mornings, sharing food, and showing up in hard times. We keep our church life simple so folk have time to build relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. We encourage folk to serve in tangible ways within the wider community. We rent space rather than own a building, allowing us to do more with less, supporting missions at home and abroad.

Curious to know more? If you’re reading this on Facebook, please visit our website (southpoint.ca) to learn more about us! If you’d like to really peek inside, sign up for our weekly Southpoint News, a MailChimp distributed email—you can unsubscribe anytime and will not be added to our contacts list. To reach out by email please write to office@southpoint.ca.

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