By Kathryn Coneway
A few years ago we anticipated a big snow. While others made last minute trips to the grocery store, I ran out to the art supply store and my studio to ensure I had enough projects to work on should we be snowed in for a few days.
It’s the same for me when I travel. There are two parts to my packing, the usual: Clothes, toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen. Then there’s my art bag: sketchbook, pen and pencil, watercolors and maybe some scraps for collage. How much is enough? Will I want a crochet hook, any small unfinished projects I should bring along? I usually have to pack and unpack several times to get down to just what’s essential.
I feel a bit the same way as I prepare for my first summer as Artist-in-Residence for Art Camp. I’ve been collecting ideas and researching supplies since staff training in June. I want there to be a variety of medial and choice so young artists can find something that really excites them. I want to have just the “right” thing for each artist.
As I reflect on my own process, I am reminded that once the journey begins, it’s as much about improvisation and preparation.
On one family trip, I feel in love with the light on trees and fields along the road and began painting small watercolors in the front seat of the car as my husband drove. I used my water bottle for water and put the paintings to dry on the dash board in the sun. This ended up very different from imagining myself sitting in the woods painting but invited working quickly as I would try to capture colors just as they slipped from view in the moving car.
On a train trip last summer, I had trouble defining shapes with watercolor as the train moved along. I switched to collage but noted the paper I brought was lacking greens. This was a chance to use my paints to create a palette of papers that I then tore to make the collages.
In both of these cases, my excitement to make something and record what I saw overcame the worry of having the “right” materials.
Packing for art camp I’m reminded of this. I want to invite improvisation and surprise and to remember that as much and I put into preparation, there real invitation to create comes with limitations and sometimes those limitations are the greatest gift. I can’t wait to see what we will need next week that I haven’t thought of and to see how we will improvise to make it work.
St. George’s III had a great time with old and new traditions this session! They celebrated Christmas with a full Eucharist service and Easter as they have done in the past, but this year they also added Halloween to the mix. For the whole day Halloween music was playing and counselors dressed up in costumes. For their evening program the campers went cabin to cabin trick-or-treating, went through a haunted house, and sat around a bonfire telling ghost stories. The session had fun evening programs such as a pool party, coffee house, and two different kinds of dances. With all of the exciting events they all united around the body passage understanding the importance of each member of their camp. We’ll see you next summer, sweet St. G’s!
Art Camp had a super session this summer! What a wonderful camp filled with campers and counselors who are passionate about making art to glorify God. Art Camp’s theme this summer came from a reading by Frederick Buechner. Buechner writes about “putting a frame around the moment”, to “stop, look, and listen to life on this planet”, and to always “consider the lilies of the field” which are three important points that Art Camp focused on. On the first day at art time, Artist- in-Residence Kathryn posed three questions to each camper to think about throughout the week: what is something that surprised them, challenged them, and something that someone would only know if you talked to them. While our artists were hard at work creating masterpieces, they also had a dance, a talent show, and the flyers went on an overnight to seven springs while the swimmers went on a hayride. We can't wait to see our artists next summer!
By the Rev. Deacon Mary Beth Emerson
Job sharing this camp season with the Rev. Amanda Knouse and the Rev. Rock Higgins as a Staff Chaplain, and bouncing back and forth from life on the mountain, and life off the mountain, I became acutely aware of time. We all spent Staff Training Week together, which was one of the most impressively professional leadership training's I’ve ever experienced, and then did shifts a couple of weeks a piece. So, after Staff Week and back at ministry in “the valley of the world” I began to count the days, the hours until I could turn my car back toward the Shenandoah Valley.
It’s about two hours from my front door in Arlington to Shrine Mont with no traffic, and perhaps in some universe other than Northern Virginia there’s no traffic, so again, time awareness. Arriving midday at Shrine Mont, and in that space between where I came from and the rhythms of camp, it took maybe 24 hours for time to slow and the pace of camp to be set by wake-up bells, meals and The Goodnight Song. Time is very different at camp, and in a wonder-filled way.
I don’t like wearing a watch, but it’s mandatory as other tech devices have no place at camp (for good reason). I noticed soon enough after arriving again that the face of my cheap, old plastic sports watch had become cloudy. I peered intently at the thing, wishing for more clarity, but the watch-face stayed cloudy, attempting to school me in being open to outcomes.
As St. G’s Session One came to a close, I noticed how much the Camp Directors and Counselors had poured themselves out for the Campers. They were spent, and I wondered how I could assist in their restoration during their short “Tweener,” the brief break between Camp Sessions. So -- we turned the top floor of Tucker into a Spa, replete with facials, foot scrubs and hand massages. It was such a big hit that our Explorer’s Camp Staff had a Spa Nite a few days later.
In prayer and meditation before our Spa time, we talked about Chronos and Kairos, both Greek words for time. Chronos being, you know -- cloudy watch time -- and Kairos being God’s time. I may have freaked the St. G’s Staff out a bit, as I thanked them in Kairos time for helping raise my own kids, young adults their age, but raised as many of them had been in the light and love of Shrine Mont Camps. I think they got it.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” say the writers of Ecclesiastes. Kairos Time is composed of God-Moments, and Camp Time is Kairos Time. Generations before and generations to come gather in song and joy and play, in breaking bread, in creation, to become God’s dream for us: this whole, new family. The Kairos Time of camp is composed of moments of pure, ripe, whole connection and possibility.
And sometimes even foot scrubs and facials.
By Emily Rutledge
I saw you, during that opening in the pavilion this week as you dropped your babies off at camp. I was the chaplain, the one that prayed during the opening and watched carefully as you each worked your way through the registration line to get your child’s cabin number and head up the mountain. See, what you may not have known was that across that field in a home I could see from where we were standing were my two little people; 4 years old and 2 years old. They are here with me as a chaplain for the next week and a half. As each of you walked up that mountain to settle your camper and then walked back again to get into your car and drive away, I prayed for you. My mama heart could not imagine that feeling. Maybe this isn’t new for you and the anxiety was less, maybe it was your first time and you worked hard to hide any concerns you were feeling.
We feel it, don’t we? When we are responsible for a human and then drop them off with people we know are good people but know nothing about -- there is a tiny knot in our stomach that forms. We worry about whatever we have to worry about for our particular kid; bullying, breaking a bone, missing home, food allergies, lack of a filter, sleep difficulties, and all the things that make our kid our kid.
Here is the report from the front lines: they are okay, better than okay actually.
Those counselors. Their whole self is invested in your child finding community. I’ve seen it. They seek the outlier. They spend their time knowing your child, connecting them to others, and finding ways for them to grow life-long friendships. They worry and pine and pray over the child that is struggling and refuse to give up no matter how many failed attempts at connection or brush-offs they receive. They come back early from their days off just so they don’t miss their favorite evening activity with them. They are all in.
Those medical forms. People read them… carefully. The nurse is of course fully aware of all issues but your child’s nut allergy or asthma is the first thing covered in the first staff meeting that they have when your child arrives on the mountain. No one is playing around with allergies or illness. There is care and kindness and attention paid to each child’s individual needs. Those forms are not looked at once and thrown aside. Cabinets are cleared, bunks chosen, and daily plans made to be sure each child is safe and well-cared for. Also, those emergency medicines are no small thing! Those counselors are ready at any second for the worst to happen… fanny pack on hip.
Those kids missing home. They exist. They miss you… and they are never ever left alone to do so. Those first few days can be hard as they miss the people who care for them at home. When they feel that creep in, the people here show them how worthy of love and time they are. They are learning about the body of Christ in a tangible and concrete way. Yes, your child may have shed a tear at some point. No, it was not unrecognized or pushed away. They were given an extra dose of love, a few more hugs, and lots and lots of reminders of why camp is exactly where they need to be… we would be incomplete without them.
And finally, yes, they have found friends. We are mid-way through St. George’s III and those kiddos are connecting and laughing and being ridiculous together. They already have cabin inside jokes and nicknames. They are walking arm in arm, singing silly songs, giving high-fives, and being part of something positive and life-giving and real.
My two little people are here with me and I have to tell you, I’m so glad you raised the kids you’ve raised. They have taken my children in, loved them, played with them, and made them feel safe and secure. Someday, I bet, your child will be my children’s St. G’s counselors and that makes the knot in my stomach for drop-off in 5 years much much smaller.
So no matter what totally non-detailed answer they give you about camp… I caught them having the time of their lives, and they are thankful for you loving them enough to send them here!
Blessings and camp joy,
By Bishop Susan Goff
Packing for a few days at Shrine Mont Camps is always a particular joy for me. It is different from packing for any other trip. It's what I don't pack that makes it different - no collars, no suit jackets, no change of jewelry, no hair dryer, no laptop. Packing for camp is packing for life stripped down to basics, stripped down to what is really important. At camp, an abundance of material possessions is not only unnecessary but it would get in the way, literally as well as figuratively. At the very least, an abundance of stuff would inhibit creativity, like the creativity shown by campers who find all the skit props and talent show costumes they need from whatever is available.
Too bad the rich man in Jesus' parable (Luke 12:13-21) never went to camp; he might have lived quite differently. As Jesus told it, the land of the man produced abundantly, so abundantly that there was not enough room in his barns to store all the crops. The man decided, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink be merry.'" But that very night, the man died. He died alone, quite rich in things, but poor in what really counts. Notice that every pronoun the man used is "I." He had stuff, but appears to have had no relationships at all, no one at all who shared his life. It never occurred to him that his abundance would have been a blessing to others, especially to hungry people. Other people were simply not in his heart and mind. When an abundance of stuff trumps relationships, we all become utterly poor.
Camp is all about those relationships, all about deepening connections with God and with other people. Camp is all about life stripped down from the abundance of clothing and electronics and beauty products and countless other things that we choose to need in our daily lives. Stripped down to the basics, we are rich. Stripped down to the basics, God's abundance increases and we become free at last for the things that really matter.
By Erin Ginnerty
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews of Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
~1 Corinthians 12:12-27
It has been a long held and sacred theme at St. George’s to understand and be of one body for Christ. This passage is read to campers on closing and opening day as a reminder to them and their counselors that their love for one another in Christ is to be of one body, not of many.
For their first worship service of each session, counselors give “the body talk” to campers. They learn about how they can live out their own gifts into one greater body for the Lord. This clip shows how the counselors demonstrate as a machine that if one part can’t work, then the rest of the machine can’t function. This is true to camp: if we don’t lift one another up and use our gifts as an offering to others, then camp will not be able to function. This week, St. George’s campers and counselors will use their gifts to create their own machine that will work for the body of Christ. Together, we will be one unit, one body for the Lord.
What a wonderful fun-filled four days we had with St. Elizabeth’s camp! Their theme this year was the Olympics and counselors and campers were separated into four teams: Green, Yellow, Red, and Blue. The first evening they had their opening ceremonies for the camp, and for the rest of the week they worked in their teams as if they were competing in the Olympics! Their evening programs also included a hayride and a carnival where they had an egg and spoon race, freeze dance, and a photo booth. On their last night, they had a talent show that ended in a big flash dance for all campers and counselors. Throughout the week, they were filled with a joyful noise and high spirits. See you next year, St. Elizabeth’s!
By Ashley Cameron
Campers and counselors are some of the many characters that make up Shrine Mont Camps every summer. These camps wouldn’t function without any one of them. We’ve asked them to #ShoutIt from the mountain what they love about Shrine Mont Camps, what causes them joy, what brings them back year after year, and where they see God on the mountain. These are the characters of camp.
By Katie Franzel
A few days after I left the mountain this summer, I was out to lunch with a friend when someone approached us. “I didn’t know people still wore those shirts.” She was passing through town but recognized the classic, worn St. G’s t-shirt. She started recounting her days as a camper at Shrine Mont and I started thinking about the web. At camp we talk a lot about connection. We make meaningful connections with those present on the mountain. Yet, we also enter into a larger web of connections that has been carefully molded and shaped within the history of Shrine Mont Camps. It is a web so deep that strangers can exchange shared understandings and stories. I think about the campers - campers who become counselors, counselors who become colleagues, colleagues who become friends and friends who become family.
This summer, while sharing conversation with another staff member, I said to him, “you probably don’t remember this, but one of my most profound God moments on this mountain involves you. MAD camp was walking the labyrinth and I was one of the last to enter. Right before I walked in, you asked me to sing Sanctuary. My head said ‘no way—just because I work at MAD does not mean I sing!’ But my heart and my voice said ‘of course,’ after all this is camp and we are open to outcomes.” I couldn’t plan for this experience of singing along to be an incredibly spiritual experience. But isn’t that how this web works? We can’t plan who will step on this mountain and mold our lives in a profound way. All of a sudden this memory was weaved into my web, connecting me to my campers, the mountain, and to God in a way I could not have predicted. It’s these little moments, these unplanned memories that shape the web that is camp. It’s the conversations walking to meals, the wind that blows during the good night song, the goofiness of evening games, it’s all these little moments that weave their way into camp that form our web.
As each new wave of campers and counselors step into the Shrine Mont family, I am blessed to be part of the expanding web. As I think about all the unplanned memories happening on the mountain this summer, I feel hopeful always knowing that even in the valley of the world, two strangers can meet and these little unplanned memories join us together—after all, we are all connected to the web.
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.