Each summer that I spend at Shrine Mont Camps, I am continually surprised by the contrasting activities, approaches and people that trickle in and out of camp life on the mountain flowing ceaselessly, always present and yet, still somehow startling. Beside campers running themselves breathless on the ball field, you will find a free elective practicing mindfulness or doing yoga; the excitement and energy found in the presence of a camp pool party is countered by the silence and calm of post-lunch rest period; the eagerness to jump out of bed in the morning exists as a moment contrary to the unwinding sacredness of feeling check in the evening. Though most everything we do at camp is rooted in God’s unfailing love for all- regardless of whether we feel worthy or not- and our aim to love each other unfailingly as well, each day of camp offers a new series of contradictions, big and small, surprising and not-at-all.
That evening, however, as all of the camps gathered in the Shrine for the first All-Camp Worship of the summer, the distinction between old and new campers was not quite as recognizable. Though some of the conversations appeared to be those of old friends and others seemed to be those of new acquaintances, a unifying force sprung up as MAD Camp announced the first song of the evening. The years of camp experience may have existed in a wide range for the gathered crowd, but the palpable presence of intimacy seemed to send those differences down the mountain, as if by a stream newly created from a heavy rain, and away from that sacred place. Perhaps the youngest campers had finally begun to trust in their counselors and see the promise of a new environment or perhaps the oldest campers had finally begun to shed their outer skins of ‘too-cool’ or ‘too-old-for-this’, but what rose from the crowd throughout that first camp hymn was an undeniable enthusiasm that can only be felt amongst those who have decided to live fully into their present landscape. These campers of every age were committing to the song of the moment, to the cabin-mates around them and to the wholly different space in which they now existed. It did not matter how many times a camper had been to the mountain or how many evenings he may have spent dreading the separation from his parents, for at that moment all of the campers were cut from the same cloth, whether it was their first summer or their tenth. In a holy place, surrounded by counselors and leaders who would lift them up and calm them down in the coming days, these young people were catching their first glimpse of the camp-kingdom for the summer and feeling that, perhaps, they were exactly where they were meant to be.