By Grace Aheron, the chaplain of St. George’s Camp’s third session this summer. Off the mountain, she is a youth minister and campus minister to UVA at St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Grace lives in a Christian intentional community— the Charis Community— south of Charlottesville.
I might not have seen this month’s blue moon if I hadn’t been at St. George’s. I might not have made the time to stand in a field and take in her presence-- watching her slow, magnificent rise above the light-rimmed clouds.
“Sky break!” one of the counselors called out, notifying the camp that there was something worth seeing in the heavens in that moment. We had just finished a long evening of games--running up and down the mountain-- as 100 faces turned upwards to pay homage. The moment’s stillness dissolved quickly into typical evening camp joy and the campers walked back up the hill to their cabins. I stood in that field for a long time. Behind me, I heard raucous laughter and the thwap of a soccer ball being kicked and the chattering of 100 middle schoolers and counselors headed to bed after a long day at camp. In front of me, the moon’s luscious golden face shone down upon us, gentle and still. Behind me, life. And before me, stillness.
This has been the experience of camp for me as a chaplain thus far. Today is the fifth full day of ten, and full days they are indeed. I have moved through camp in coils of contractions and expansions-- moments of intensity and movement and noise and explosion while I am with the campers, and then the marked stillness of my own solitude when they are gone. These concentrated high-energy times with campers punctuate the expansiveness of quiet when I am not with them. As a chaplain, I am present with campers off and on throughout the day, but not constantly, like the counselors, which affords me time to feel the movement of the spirit into these expansions.
It has become a practice of mine to sit alone in the upper pavilion after the 45 minutes of chaplain’s time I get to spend with the campers each day. I take that time to feel the holiness they left behind in that place, to pray for them, to let the reality of their belovedness wash over me. Similarly, I have been spending time with different cabins in their “feeling check” time at the end of each day right before bed. I carry their wide-open hearts and God moments of the day and cabin love down the mountain with me as I walk to my own room. And in those moments, I give thanks to our Creator for the wide night sky hung neatly over Shrine Mont and the dreams of those young ones falling asleep.
The schedule at St. George’s Camp is nearly the same every day. In an almost monastic way, the rhythm of life here allows for these contractions and expansions as the campers and their energy move in and out of my day. It is a beautiful way to spend a few days of summer.
On that first evening, I stared up at the quiet moon and thought, “Here is God.” And as I felt and heard the energy and life of the campers moving up the mountain behind me, I thought, “Here is God.”
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.