Another great summer is at an end. St. George's closed on Sunday, Art Camp on Monday, the last two camps on the Mountain. It seems like an eternity since staff week began, but it was less than two months ago (June 20) that we posted the article about Susan Daughtry's chaplain's time with the camp staff. This is kind of the way things go at camp: fast and slow. Every day seems so full, friendships and bonds are made in a day that would take months to form in the "real world." But then it's over and you wonder how it all could have gone so quickly.
Always taking our cues from camp, The View from the Mountain is closing up shop for the summer as well. There's so much more left to write, topics to cover, camps to lift up. But the blog shares camp's good fortune: There will be a next summer. More songs to teach, more games to play, more plays to perform. The same North Mountain will be there for campers to conquer. More lives to transform and transfigure. In John, Jesus says, "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me," and so it is with camp. But in the mean time, in the Valley of the World, all of us who came to camp will do our best to seek and to see Him, to look for and to recreate the love we experienced.
We leave you with a look back at some of our (and hopefully your) favorite articles from the summer.
The View from the Mountain Staff
Blessings abound at the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration all summer long. Camps gather to worship there daily, singing joyful, sometimes rowdy songs of praise. Parish groups, visitors, guests and staff gather to worship on Sunday and Wednesday mornings. Campers and other artists go there to draw or write. And only God knows how many go there to sit in silence in the peace of the cathedral with the world's highest ceiling.
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, four generations of Moomaws, Woodwards, and Gibsons gathered with other worshipers to celebrate the 88th anniversary of the Shrine, which was consecrated on August 6, 1925. Recent ancestors of the three families envisioned and built the Shrine and began the development of Shrine Mont as we know it. The families continue to love the place with all their being and to be deeply invested in its present and future. Thanks be to God for their energy, commitment and witness.
The next day, August 7, the Liverpool Virginia Youth Pilgrimage gathered for worship at the Cathedral. The 26 Liverpudlians and 20 Richmonders were spending two days of their 10 day journey at Shrine Mont, playing in the pool, hiking to Seven Springs and North Mountain, enjoying good food and sleeping in the quiet of night in the mountains. Worship at the Shrine offered a time for reflection and thanksgiving. In the midst of that worship, I had the great privilege of announcing to the young people that the Rev. Malcolm Rogers, leader of the pilgrimage, has been appointed an honorary Canon of Liverpool Cathedral. This tremendous honor recognizes Malcolm for his ministry of envisioning the pilgrimage and shepherding a faithful community who brought the vision to life. It also honors the youth who took great risks in stepping beyond their places of comfort to learn together about the horrific legacy of the slave trade that connects their two cities, and to learn about ending slavery in all its forms in the world today. At the end of the service, the group gathered around Malcolm to lay hands on him in blessing. It was a holy moment of joyful thanksgiving for ministry well done. You'll be able to read more about the pilgrimage in the fall issue of the Virginia Episcopalian.
As the summer camp season has drawn to an end and campers and staff go home, the Shrine remains filled with songs and prayers, joys and tears, hopes and promises. It remains a spiritual center for those who go there all year long and for those far away who carry it in their hearts.
By Bishop Susan Goff
A reflection from Pat Wingo, Canon to the Ordinary.
I still consider myself new to the Diocese of Virginia, having come here as the Canon to the Ordinary last September. I've been to Shrine Mont twice this year, for the Fall Clergy Retreat and the Bishop's Spring Conference, and while those events began to give me a sense of how important and beloved this "place apart" is, I could not understand Shrine Mont without coming to camp.
Last weekend I had the privilege of spending a few days at camp, and here's what I discovered: the key to Shrine Mont is in small things. Anyone who has been here knows the overwhelming beauty of the place--grand white buildings and unique cottages rising from the earth with stories to tell, surrounded by God's huge garden of hardwoods. The inviting pool, the wide ball field, the pavilions--they all shout "come have fun!" Heck, the Shenandoah Music Festival sponsored Kris Kristofferson in concert Saturday night in the lower pavilion, growling out his famous songs to a packed house.
But while Shrine Mont is easily seen in these things, I also found Shrine Mont in college counselors who puzzle over ways to combat homesickness or bullying. I found it in the hilarious announcement time after dinner at St George's camp, when a thirteen-year old girl happily showed off her ability to burp while exhaling and inhaling, to thunderous applause and laughter. I found Shrine Mont in Vienna House, where Paris Ball, Jacko Post, and JG Wood read Compline every night with whoever showed up. I found it in my door in Maryland House, which did not require a key--not just because one does not exist, but because we believe this place to be different from the rest of the world.
Jesus spoke often about mustard seeds, and widow's mites, and the lilies of the field. He paid attention to those who were small in the eyes of the world, insignificant--like some kids feel in school or on the playground, or sometimes, maybe, at home. Jesus spoke of the kingdom breaking into the world when one sees God not just in the great and grand, but in the ordinary. Bread and wine. Water. A child's project at Art Camp. A college student telling jokes to 13-year olds one minute and talking with them about weighty questions of life and God the next.
I went to the daily St. George's staff meeting Sunday, held on the porch of the camp director's cabin, where Mike Wade, who works with us at Mayo House as diocesan youth coordinator, also spends his summers. Some of Mike’s roles at camp are overseeing, guiding, gently helping (and sometimes bluntly helping) the counselors be their best and give their best to the campers. As I listened to bright young adults discuss plans for electives, report on the state of their cabins, and check-in on how each one is holding up to what can be an extremely challenging job, I glanced up at the rafters above us. There were names written there, of counselors from previous summers. Small signatures in Sharpie, written across the weather-worn two-by-sixes. Some of those names had been campers themselves, raised up in the Shrine Mont summers by customs, prayers, games, songs, places, and, of course, people. As someone reminded me last weekend, it's the community that is created by all these small things that makes Shrine Mont a place to which we want to return. In just a couple of days, I was drawn into that community. I can’t wait to go back.
By Canon Pat Wingo
"[The campers] are more more deeply theological in their orientation than a whole lot of adults in our churches - because they are still passionate about the questions, because they haven't stopped wondering and asking."
Imagine 45 minutes with 86 campers in the upper pavilion. Noise from the pool competing for attention. The rain beginning to fall on one side of the pavilion but, curiously, not on the other. The purpose of the time? To talk about the life of faith. In many settings, that would be a recipe for distraction, boredom and worse. Yesterday during Chaplain's Time with session three of St. George's Camp, however, it was pure blessing.
Penelope Davenport has been guiding the group all session in exploring the theme of "wrestling." They looked at the story of Jacob wresting with the angel and David wrestling with Goliath. They also listed questions with which they themselves are wrestling. It is a long list - two and a half pages, single spaced.
Yesterday I had the privilege of reflecting with the group on how Jesus wrestled with the devil in the wilderness - and how he wrestled again at "an opportune time" when the tempter returned later in his ministry. Things I discovered and learned during the time:
Our campers, at least this group of them, are biblically literate. They know Bible stories in the Old and New Testaments. They make connections between stories.
Our campers, at least this group of them, are passionate about questions. They are articulate in naming questions. Most of the questions they ask have been around as long as humans have been on this earth, but the children ask them with an urgency and passion that is always brand new.
Our campers, at least this group of them, are doing theology. They are thinking about, talking about and passionate about the things of God. They are more more deeply theological in their orientation than a whole lot of adults in our churches - because they are still passionate about the questions, because they haven't stopped wondering and asking.
Our parents and congregations have laid a solid foundation of faith in the lives of these children. There is much for which they should be proud.
Our parents and congregations have a great responsibility ahead of them - the responsibility for helping the children to keep the questions coming, for helping them to live in the questions even when answers are slow, especially when answers don't satisfy. The responsibility not to offer quick, pat, or canned answers that dampen enthusiasm or, worse, end the questioning.
I have great, undampened hope for the future of the Church because of the faithful, passionate, uninhibited questions of our youth.
By Bishop Susan Goff
The between times. By that I mean the unscheduled moments that come between the scheduled activities. The time spent walking from the cabin to the dining hall and back. The time in line in the bathroom. The moments hanging around when nothing seems to be happening. These are the moments, it seems to me, when all that the directors and counselors and chaplains teach about the life of faith and about healthy relationships are put to the test. These are the times when what our kids really believe is made evident. It is somewhat easy, after all, to maintain a facade of good behavior when the adults are around as obvious supervisors. But what happens when the campers don't know that adults are looking?
I have seen wonderfully good news this week during these between times. During chapel yesterday evening I saw a number of campers gather for a moment around one who was homesick to share the peace. This morning I overheard a group as they were walking past the cabin in which I am staying. The group was mixed, including boys and girls of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. They were singing and laughing and talking about music. I waited a moment after they passed to see if there were any stragglers who were not included in the group. There were none.
We all bring our full humanity to this place. So our interactions are not always selfless and loving. We do hurt one another, we do misunderstand. But what I've seen in the between times is people who more often than not live the best of their humanity in this place. I've seen people of all ages more often than not being their best selves. That's what Shrine Mont can do - it can bring out our best selves. It takes attentiveness and intentionality, for the fullness of our frail humanity is always with us. But we are attentive and intentional here. The faith is lived here, not only when we talk about it overtly, but even in between times.
By Bishop Susan Goff
It is an amazing joy and privilege for me to spend this week as bishop-in-residence at Shrine Mont. One of the delights that makes this week special is that today is the Feast of the Transfiguration, which we will celebrate at the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration.
The parallels between our experience at Shrine Mont and Jesus' experiences at the place of transfiguration are striking. Jesus went up a mountain to a place apart. Sound familiar? He didn't go alone, but took his friends. Familiar, too, since even those who come to this mountain alone typically discover new friends quickly.
On that mountain, Jesus and his friends prayed. On this mountain, people pray. All the time. At staff meetings, in the dining hall before meals, in the songs that are sung, in cabins before bed, at daily worship, in unexpected moments.
In his mountain place apart, Jesus was changed. The light of God shone through him. In this mountain place apart, we are changed. I've seen the faces of counselors and campers shining with the light of Christ. I've seen them glowing with love for God and for others. It's not just sunburn, it's not just the "glow" from strenuous exercise. The love of God is visible here.
There was confusion on that mount of transfiguration, too. Jesus' friends didn't understand what was going on. There was hurt as they prayed about Jesus' coming death. There is confusion at times on this mountain. There are hurts and fears. We are real human beings living real lives even here, after all.
Jesus left the mountain with the strength to overcome hurts and fears and to face the coming crisis: His arrest and trial and crucifixion. We leave this mountain strengthened to face the stresses and trials of our daily lives, and to face them with faith and hope.
We are changed in this place. And we are challenged to do all we can to help ensure that all who come to this place apart will be changed for the better.
By Bishop Susan Goff
Thanks to Explorers Camp, you can now find rain barrels around Shrine Mont: There's one in the garden next to the Virginia house (the main hotel), another down the hill from Tucker dining hall, and a third next to the equipment shed near the Rectory.
Lorne Field, the environmental outreach coordinator for Chesterfield County and former Shrine Mont counselor and camper, came to teach Explorers about nature conservation and rain barrels.
Rain barrels are used to conserve and reuse rainwater; the water they collect will be used to water Shrine Mont's gardens. The barrels also prevent water from flowing over paved surfaces and other places dirtied by development, picking up pollutants, and then flowing into local streams and eventually rivers. In short, they will help keep Shrine Mont and the Shenandoah Valley healthy and beautiful.
Field taught and supervised, but it was Explorers that put in the work to make and install the rain barrels. They set spigots on the bottom of the barrels - a process that involved one brave camper climbing inside the barrel in order to caulk the spigot into place. They installed netting to keep bugs from laying eggs in the water. Once the barrels were ready, campers worked to replace the aluminum drain spouts running down the side of buildings with a plastic, flexible spout that could be attached to the rain barrel.
This was all very technical work, but with a far-reaching objective. Olivia Bambara, an Explorers counselor, said, "We were trying to teach the kids about respecting and enjoying nature ... [about] looking at the beauty of nature through the lens of God ... and really appreciating the complexity and wonder of creation." These rain barrels allowed Explorers a very tangible way to participate in the stewardship of creation, and to play a part in protecting the Shenandoah Valley for future generations.
The great hope of Shrine Mont Camps is to teach campers - and counselors, too - to serve God better back in the Valley of the World. To love and to be good to your neighbor even if he's not always good to you. To do your part to treat God's creation with respect, even in the face of so much disrespect - country-sized flotillas of garbage and oil spills. It's projects like the rain barrels that illustrate to camp how what's done at camp is inextricably linked to the Valley of the World. We pray that Explorers' good work will go even beyond keeping the Shenandoah River clean and Shrine Mont beautiful. Hopefully, the time at camp has planted a seed in every camper to "go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord." And to that we can all say, "Hallelujah."
By Ed Keithly
Photo credit: Alex Palin
Knowing names, remembering names, and calling people by their name is something St. George's -and all of the camps at Shrine Mont - stress over and over. St. George's works the simple but essential practice back into the central message of building the Body of Christ. So it's only appropriate that there would be an introduction of every camper, counselor, and director at every Closing Eucharist.
The SHouting Prayer
Churchill Gibson (IV) leads four campers in The Shouting Prayer. Churchill is the grandson of Churchill Gibson Jr., author of the prayer.
No Eucharist is complete without song, and no Closing Eucharist is complete without an extraordinary number of guitars - plus some ukuleles and accordions too, if they're handy. St. George's has a rich history of song: marching in to "Oh When the Saints," circling up around the Shrine to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and dismissing to "Oh Happy Day." But the rich tradition is propelled to holy heights by the additions of songs that are unique or especially loved by that session. At the end of Session II, to close out David Drebes' sermon, the entire camp sang "Home" by Phillip Phillips, a clear expression of the strong bond they'd built as the Body of Christ.
By Ed Keithly
Photo credit: Ashley Cameron. To thank Ashley for all of her quality pictures, her name is a shameless link to her wonderful blog about her work with the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps.
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.