By The Rev. Canon Pat Wingo
Last weekend I had an experience that is familiar to many: Singing. Words spoken of God. Fun. Building community. Silliness. Good food. Sounds like Shrine Mont Camps, doesn’t it? But this was the Shrine Mont that I experienced before camp ever started. Because last weekend ten camp directors, two chaplains, one leader, an assistant, and a diocesan outlier got together at Shrine Mont to think, to pray, and to discuss the camps that would start in just a few days. Paris Ball led the group in her organized and easy way, as someone might lead a nature walk through the woods, showing them the beauty of what they were doing, telling them to watch out for the bumps and holes in the path and helping them look for God through it all. Giving them maps and signposts for the journey.
There were questions as well, lots of them—Why? Why do we do it this way? Why should we do it this way? How can we do it better? What do we value? How do we give campers an experience of God that they can get perhaps nowhere else? More importantly, how can we help them take that experience of God home, out into the world? There was prayer for one another, and for the counselors and campers who would arrive in waves all summer long. There was sadness, hard stories told of breakups, death, uncertainty about the future. There was teaching about leadership. How to facilitate a meeting of your counselors. How to honor someone while you correct their behavior. How to plan, how to organize. There was joy, about an upcoming marriage at the end of the summer, about a new career. Through it all a special community was forming that continues old traditions and creates new ones that will be passed to future generations.
I found that some of the most interesting and compelling things were the stories of how many of these camp directors had been formed at very young ages to become leaders, sometimes without ever realizing it had happened until they found themselves back at Shrine Mont as a counselor or a director. This gives me great hope for the future of the church, because three-fourths of these leaders gathered at Shrine Mont were under the age of thirty. With all that is being written about the “nones” –those who tell pollsters that they do not affiliate with any religion—and all that is being written and discussed about the decline of the church, I find it extremely refreshing and inspiring to be around young people who are committed to their faith and interested in how to share it. These are not young adults who want to relive the fun of their childhoods (although they probably can’t help but do so), these are leaders. And they will leave Shrine Mont at the end of the summer and take their considerable gifts, enthusiasm, passion and faith to various places in the world and make it a little more like the Kingdom of God. I would be willing to bet that the people they serve and love and lead this summer will do the same thing.
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.