“Who knows,” says Mordecai to his cousin Queen Esther,
“Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
The 15- to 17-year-olds at MAD Camp Session III couldn’t have asked for a better story to explore than that of Esther, Mordecai the Jew, Haman, the Persian King, the “Beauty Shop Jail” and the establishment of Purim, the annual Jewish celebration of deliverance from enemies. Through 13 days together at camp, we mined this scripture’s central themes of grace, courage, beauty, power, paradox, anger, objectification and justice.
For 13 days we played endless games of “Thing,” “What are the Odds?” “Ninja,” “Mafia” and way too many more to list. We swam and hiked, we had a giant pajama party in the Virginia House, we played King Ball and boogaloo, we became family and – oh, yeah – we took an extremely awesome show on the road.
Some of our campers were first timers, some “lifers” and some in-between. There is that teen registration that happens at, well, registration. Eyes darting around the Happy Pavilion, thoughts rising: “I’m not like her,” or “Do I belong here?,” or, as we discussed often in our time together, “Am I worthy … Am I enough?”
But fun and encouragement are great equalizers. Our incredible counselors worked hard at complete inclusion and blessed cheerleading. As days and nights passed in auditions, rehearsal, fun, budding friendship and stage swordplay, differences melted away, conversations became spontaneous and goofy – prayer became deep and heartfelt.
For 13 days, we got to carry each other.
Improv Night was hysterical. The Gospel according to Tina Fey became our inspiration for “Yes, and…” scenarios including ridiculous party guests, and portrayals of the worst lifeguard, doctor and camp counselor ever. Unguarded, inspired, sidesplitting performances ensued. It was very sophomoric and very holy.
Body silhouettes filled with “imago dei” character affirmations capped our discussion on beauty and objectification, moments typifying God’s grace. We dreamed strategically at the top of North Mountain; we examined power, anger, justice and our evolution as God’s people and we used found objects to build a new kingdom.
Our musical, Bow Down, traveled over two days to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Jerome, then to a center for adults with intellectual disabilities, then a retirement community and then to Christ Church, Winchester. With every visit, realization of our ministry took hold. Entertainment, for sure, but also solid preaching, relationship building, leadership and a ministry of encouragement were these players' gifts to their temporary congregations. By all-camp performance time, the joy was palpable, the invitation to grace and courage infectious.
Parts of the play and some of the music were cheesy for sure, but in true company fashion, directors and counselors issued a sending prayer from one showstopper’s lyrics:
These 15- to 17-year-old leaders, ministers, creative Christians and evangelists are now unleashed on a world very hungry for good news, and in great need of encouragement, beauty and the hope of justice. They have been unleashed for just such a time as this.
By Mary Beth Emerson
This is Mary Beth’s second year serving as a chaplain at Shrine Mont Camps.
A vocational deacon, she serves full-time as St. Thomas’, McLean’s associate for family ministry, and assists Region V churches with youth and family outreach.
Mary Beth claims that she's neither musically nor dramatically gifted, and says she "learned a whole lot from MAD Camp's super-talented campers and counselors."
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.