Family Camp had its closing worship last Saturday. We'd like to share with you some photos of their time on the mountain and three reflections from Family Camp written by Rock Higgins, the director; Jason Smith, a "camper"; and Stephanie Higgins, Rock's wife, family camper, and bishop's office staff member.
They reflect on "porching," musical spirituality and, most of all, the family they built last week.
Rock Higgins, Director
So let me get this straight. I get an all-inclusive week at a mountain resort, all meals included. I get mental and spiritual enlightenment with engaging speakers. I get to sing at the top of my lungs and clap along to awesome tunes. I get to bring my whole family, even the littlest rugrat or the gangliest teen, and they have programming and activities of their own. Every evening there is a family-friendly party that we can attend. Every afternoon I can hike, splash in a massive pool, "porch" with the adults, or read a book and take a nap. What do you call this and where can I sign up?
Family Camp, a 62-year-long tradition.
This year we were at it again, with a phenomenal week of being at a place apart from the busyness of the outside world. We had long-timers and new faces having a wonderful time together. Guest speakers Tripp Hudgins and Ana Hernandez led us to rethink our approaches to faith and creativity exploring Sonic Theology, the practice of approaching liturgy from the musical components exploring and applying the creativity to the liturgy and ourselves. The children and youth had fun times of their own. The Family Camp Band led us with singing and celebrating. It was a glorious week. Our Chaplains, the Rev. Dwight Brown and the Rev. Deacon Mary Beth Emerson, led us in times of reflection and inspiration, especially the beautiful closing Eucharist at the Shrine.
One of my favorite moments was when the children presented all their crafts, telling stories, sharing verses, and singing songs that went with their daily activities. Having kids of my own there, we came home with two birdhouses they are just dying to put up. The only thing that would have made it better would have been more people to share in the fun with. I hope you might be thinking about how to join with us next year.
By the Rev. Rock Higgins
This is Rock's second summer as the director of Family Camp. Before working at Family Camp, Rock served as the director of Explorers Camp. Over the years, Rock has served many camps outside of Shrine Mont, both large and small. Rock is the associate rector of St. Thomas', Richmond.
Although there are no time machines akin to H.G. Wells' vision, this week I experienced something that measures up. I just returned from Family Camp at Shrine Mont. That simple trip transported me back in time, to days of porch swings and lemonade. Even if my ideas of yesteryear are pure nostalgia, the experiences on that holy mountain are real and their impacts permanent.
For anyone who has not attended Family Camp, I have a few simple questions to put this rare place apart into context: When was the last time you experienced a week or even a day without stress? Had a vacation without using your car, wallet, or cooking a meal? If you’re a parent, when was the last time you let your kids run and play for hours out of your sight without worry?
All of these things happen on the mountain during Family Camp.
I’ll leave you with a panorama of thoughts and memories from this week and a simple question: Conversations of family, faith, and experiences, but almost never of work; laughter that was neither forced nor constrained; flashlight beams among the fireflies as children played a game of late-night tag; guitar and mandolin jam sessions; children spontaneously holding hands during song; morning coffee at sunrise; time in relationship with others; the time and quiet to be in relationship with my family and myself.
Although the experience is difficult to accurately convey in a short blog post, I urge readers to consider: When was the last time you had a vacation like that?
By Jason Smith
This was Jason Smith’s second year at Family Camp. He is a parishioner at Trinity, Manassas. He attends family camp with his wife, Jennifer, and his two children, eight and ten years old.
Family camp is both the newest and the oldest of the Shrine Mont camps. Originally called Family Conference and run by Shrine Mont, Family Camp concluded its sixty-second year last week! Two years ago, Family Conference became Family Camp and joined the other Shrine Mont Camps family. And that’s what this week is about – family.
Family campers come in all age groups and families come in all compositions: men, women, kids, grandparents, friends, nieces and nephews. No matter who is included in your family you are welcome here, and we are family for this week.
This year’s speaker was a friend of mine from college, Tripp Hudgins. Tripp is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and is the director of admissions at American Baptist Seminary of the West. Tripp brought his talent and interest in liturgy and music to Family Camp as we made spiritual sound tracks and explored how music brings us into relationship with God – and with one another. To begin, with we cataloged sounds all around us – everything from birds to cars and children playing. Then we started building our personal spiritual soundtracks. On Friday most of us played the song from the list which most engaged us with our spiritual life – as long as it was under five minutes – and had the opportunity to share the rest of our list and the significance of each song. For those of us who did not have time to play our song during the week we moved this conversation – as well as many others – over to our Facebook group so that we can share playlists, pictures, and news from throughout the year.
As this is my second year at Family Camp, I enjoyed picking up on conversations that we left last July and seeing how tall all the kids have gotten. Some of the other families have longer traditions – some going back 61 years! – and had much to catch up on with each other. One long standing tradition which picks up speed every summer is the "secret pal" exchanges. It’s lovely to see the items – usually brought along with us or perhaps found through the camp – that are left with love and care for secret pals. Kids often received small toys, skipping stones or candy. Adults might be harder to surprise but a jar of bubbles or a plastic cup full of clover and small flowers might have been left to brighten someone’s day.
So we picked up on conversations and begin new ones as we sit with each other at meals, joined in group discussions and in worship. There was a hike up North Mountain that was abbreviated by a thunderstorm, swimming, bring-your-own prize Bingo night, and plenty of social time in the evenings, including a lovely wine tasting hosted by Boo Elmore and Joe Kittle. And the best part is we got to be family for another week.
By Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins
This is Stephanie's second year at Family Camp, but she's been coming to Shrine Mont with her family for years now. Stephanie works at Mayo House in Richmond as the bishop's assistant for congregational support.
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.