Our deputation showed their Shrine Mont Camps pride at the 78th General Convention. General Convention (GC) is the governing body of The Episcopal Church, meeting once every three years. In 2015, GC is June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
That’s the moment. Turning left on Rt. 263. I roll the windows down and the little bits of trash start to swish around the floor of my car. After having the air conditioner blasting for the past 2 hours, the rush of warm air causes my glasses to fog up. Every muscle relaxes and the smell of agriculture permeates my sinuses. Under the bridge and around a few turns, the sky opens wide and my soul resonates with the power of God’s awesomeness. Even here, still 15 minutes away, the Mountain welcomes me back - past the churches and over that one hump in the road that lifts me out of my seat. Over the hill, and down into Bryce, Smiley’s ice cream is calling my name. I give Bob’s Market a wave and cruise past the lumber yard. Home.
Two years ago, while working as the director of Senior High Youth Conference (SHYC), my wife and I learned that our duo would expand to a trio. And although he’ll have to wait until 2021 to officially be a camper, I can see that he already feels the same way I do about this place. He had no fear about running off into the woods, or taking his shoes off (which is how you know he is comfortable) and we had to keep corralling him back onto the porch. With shoes back on and our rooms set up, we made our way down to dinner.
It’s funny to see the hotel dining room with only two camp tables set out. There’s still a sizable church group here filling up the front of the room, but like many parishioners feel about their pew at church, those are our tables. Small but mighty, the camp staff fills in. The conversation revolves around final scheduling plans – evening programs, cabin assignments, and facility requests. Everyone stops by to say hello to my wife, Ellen, and son, Cooper. There are other staff children here as well and I imagine they’ll spend the next week hanging out on a fairly regular basis.
The trays are collected and the staffs go their separate ways to ready their ships for the big day. The thoughtfulness, openness, and intentional preparation which each counselor brings to their camp is inspiring. As the disciples waited in Jerusalem for Pentecost, so too do these young men and women await their moment to share God’s unconditional love with every child that arrives tomorrow.
There is an air of anticipation across the mountain tonight. Not too dissimilar from Christmas Eve. I will most likely lie in my bed tonight – repeatedly telling myself, “The faster you go to sleep – the faster it will be tomorrow!” I imagine there are a few campers doing the same thing. So with prayers for safe travels and the sound of frogs from the pond – I begin my mantra. Tomorrow is Christmas.
By Phil Woodson
Every person has spiritual gifts given by God for the building up of the whole body. There are all kinds of “tests” that you can take on line to discover your spiritual gifts. A better way to identify them, though, is to listen to those who work with you in the community day after day.
That’s exactly the process we began among the staff during training week. I named ten spiritual gifts that I have seen at work on the mountain over the years patience, endurance, gentleness, courage, compassion, truth-telling, joy, encouragement, kindness and peace-making. We began our exploration with Bible study on courage, looking at the stories of Joshua and Mary. Then we broke into nine groups. Each focused on one of the remaining gifts. Groups read a passage from Scripture and talked about what the gift looks like in daily life during the camp season. (My favorite of these verses is Hosea 11:4 – “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” This verse took on special meaning every time Paris and Toby were in the room!)
The conversation around these gifts was strong, joyful and invigorating. Before we finished, all agreed to share in identifying the gifts of others. The way is simple: look for examples of the gifts in action, then tell each other what you saw. By the end of the summer, or even of a session, the group will have recognized and named the gifts of each person. And through recognition and naming, the gifts of each will have been strengthened.
A poster with the list of gifts hangs in Vienna house as a reminder to all who see it. The rest of us can join in this joyful spiritual discipline from afar by looking for these gifts wherever we are, then telling those who use them what we have seen.
By Bishop Susan Goff
Kids come from all over
Cause school's out
We're pumped to meet them
We can't wait
My clothes are getting gritty
Got sunblock on
Gotta sing this song
All the parents think we're pretty
It's Hot! (so hot)
Jumping into the pool's my plan
It's Hot (so hot)
Makes the Moomaws want to retire, man
It's Hot (so hot)
Worship, yeah now that's my jam
It's Hot (so hot)
Gotta hydrate to be great
It's time for camp, Alleluia
It's time for camp, Alleluia
It's time for camp, Alleluia
Shrine Mont Camps Gonna give it to ya
Cause Shrine Mont Camps gonna give it to ya
It's Saturday night - is there a dance tonight?
All will be revealed
When I was in my 20s, decades ago now, there were times when I felt awkward talking about Jesus outside of church. It's not that I was embarrassed to talk about him; I was never ashamed to be a Christian and to be a follower of our amazing Lord. But I wondered how I would be heard when the voices who spoke his name most loudly also spoke about him so narrowly. "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and savior?" they would ask. And if I didn't tell the right story in exactly the words the inquirer sought, I would be told that I wasn't a real follower, that I didn't really know Jesus. My story just didn't fit into the tiny box that others were holding up. Jesus' story doesn't fit into that tiny box, either.
During Chaplain Time with the staff of Shrine Mont Camps this training week, I shared my experience and wondered aloud if others had ever had experiences like mine. There were nods and a few stories around the circle. Then I said to our vibrant, energetic, faithful, loving staff, "Don't be afraid to talk about God this summer. Don't be afraid to talk about Jesus. Tell his story as we read it in scripture. Talk with your campers about how Jesus loved the poor and healed the sick and challenged the powerful. Talk about how he turned the status quo on its head. Talk about how he lived and died and rose again for the sake of everyone, everyone, everyone. Let's reclaim the name of Jesus from those who have tried to confine him in a box that is way too small."
Before I even finished the sentence, the room erupted in finger snaps and clapping and cheers. In a Holy Spirit moment, the box was torn open. So often at Shrine Mont, as in The Episcopal Church in general, many have been afraid to talk about Jesus, afraid of how we'd be heard when the name is all too often used for religious or political purposes that are just too narrow. But Jesus is out of the box - he never was good at staying confined! We're talking about Jesus. And that talk changes everything.
By Bishop Susan Goff
It’s hard to believe that we are finally in the midst of the dog days of summer we so earnestly yearn for throughout the year. The crunchy, snow-filled streets have been replaced with scorching asphalt. Cold-sneezes have been replaced with allergy-sneezes and eyes have begun to water from pollen and the sting of the sun’s brightness rather than from bitter cold and whipping winds. Sweaters have been tucked away to make room for shorts, swimsuits and clothing that favors higher temperatures and jumping in pools. With this warm weather advent comes another moment we anticipate all year long- the noisy, sweaty, grass-stained, love-filled opening of the camp season.
Professionally speaking, we all seem to be afforded a more lackadaisical approach to work during the summer months. Let me rephrase that broad generalization- those who are not involved in summer camp programs may have a bit of professional reprieve when warmer weather arrives. Perhaps, for non-camp professionals, casual Fridays blend into activity-filled Saturdays, sleepy Sundays and slow moving Monday mornings. For the camping professionals of the world, however, this is the moment at which our preparation is put to the test. That preparation can look like one thousand different things: registering campers and receiving health forms; finding and training dedicated staff; building relationships, supporting each other and supporting camper families.
Now to say that these ‘tasks’ encompass every piece of preparation would be foolish; in fact, it’s foolish to refer to them as tasks in the first place. While filing and processing may not be the flames which keep our hearts afire during the cold months, we do find great satisfaction in many aspects of camp preparation. If we are able to take a step back from the overwhelming feeling that THIS year may just be the year that it all falls apart, we can find deep joy in recognizing the talents and gifts of our camp staff, in imagining the ways in which our campers will make us laugh and challenge us this summer and in connecting with camper parents throughout the year.
This is all to say that sometimes the preparation which leads up to the beginning of camp can eclipse the profound spontaneity, gratification and feeling of God’s presence that arrive when camp actually does begin. It’s not always easy for us to keep our eyes on the prize, but thankfully the kickoff to our camp season always arrives- whether we are ready or not. That moment is upon us. The kickoff to our camp season has arrived and with it we can finally leave behind our feelings that ‘maybe next year we should start that project earlier’…for now, at least.
Now we turn our eyes to the staff members, new and seasoned, who have arrived to Shrine Mont and are in the midst of preparing themselves mentally, physically and emotionally for the days, weeks and months ahead. We turn to the once empty cabins that are now being swept out, wiped down and strung with twinkle lights. We turn to the camp directors who have tirelessly put their hearts into staffing and supporting their camps. We turn to the programs to come which will inevitably include wacky outfits, silly persona's, exceptional dance moves and many, many song-filled nights. We turn to the warmth, butt buns, hilly paths and fireflies of Shrine Mont during the summer- as if it has been waiting behind a wardrobe door for us all winter long, only waiting to be opened.
The door is finally open and 2015 Shrine Mont Camps season has officially begun. We hope that you will keep up with us this summer, as we desperately want to let you know about the magical and hilarious goings-on of the mountain while camp is in session. We hope that you will pray for the staff, counselors and campers who will be laughing, growing, praising, running, eating, dancing, singing and loving at Shrine Mont Camps this summer. We hope that you will have the opportunity to indulge in a little camp-esque fun yourself this summer. We hope, above all, that you know you
are being prayed for and loved from afar by everyone at Shrine Mont Camps. We hope that this is the best summer ever, and we’re so thankful that you are a part of it.
By Paris Ball, Director of Christian Formation and Shrine Mont Camps
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.