Growing up in a stain-glassed Episcopal church, I had a very specific idea of what "The Peace" was in the Eucharist. It came after the confession, and it was a cordial way for me to greet and share the peace with three people in the congregation and hug my mother.
The procedure was generally to turn left, shake a hand, turn to the pew behind me, shake a hand, turn forward, shake a hand, and turn right to hug my mother. All together, the peace lasted about twenty seconds before our Very Reverend began the offertory. Before camp, I thought of the peace as the seventh-inning stretch of a worship service.
The primary driving force at all Shrine Mont Camps is building an inclusive community, where everyone feels safe and loved. No one cares if a MAD camper misses a line at their final show, or if a St. Sebastian's camper still can't dribble at the end of their week, as long as each camper felt like they were a valued part of camp. The peace is a time when campers and counselors take time to make everyone feel warmly welcome, so no one is satisfied with the look left, look back, look forward, and hug your mother. Instead, aisles are cleared in a cacophony of loud greetings and warm hugs, as each member of the congregation strives to hug every other and tell them personally, "peace be with you."
As a math teacher, I'm reminded of the classic "handshake problem," where students are asked to determine the number of handshakes needed for every member of the class to shake each other's hands exactly once, and then work to generalize a rule for n people shaking hands. Not to spoil your fun in finding it yourself, but the rule is if you have n people shaking hands, then there will be n(n - 1)/2 unique handshakes.* So, with a hundred people at a service, there are 4,950 hugs attempted. Needless to say, this takes longer than the twenty-second seventh-inning stretch I grew accustomed to at my church growing up.
To accommodate the freedom of movement and time needed to undergo this joyful expression, the peace, long ago, was moved to the end of camp worship services. Given the opportunity, the peace could easily last longer than the rest of the worship combined, and I have seen many that have come close. Program directors, whose job is to keep the camp on schedule, will eventually concede to the impossibility of however many thousands of hugs are being attempted at that particular peace and will start singing a loud and popular song. Campers will slowly get back to their pews by the second or third time through the chorus, both satisfied that they did their best to include everyone they could, and feeling fully a part of their community.
*One way to think of the problem is n is the number of people shaking hands, and n - 1 is the number of hands each person will shake, since they won't shake hands with themselves. If you multiply these, it will give you the total number of handshakes both given and received, so you need to divide by two to get the unique handshakes.
David Churchman first went to camp at Shrine Mont 1993, the day after his 8th birthday, and he's been back just about every summer ever since. As a camper, he attended Soccer Camp (now St. Sebastian's), Explorers, and MAD camp, and then went on to work at all of those camps.
He is working to end guitar hegemony at camp, and plays the accordion wherever a camp will let him.
Off the mountain, David resides in San Antonio and works as a middle school math teacher.
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.