I serve as pastor of Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, where we are proud next door neighbors to Shrine Mont. This is my third summer serving as a chaplain with Shrine Mont Camps and assisting with worship throughout the summer.
Working with children is not a big part of my parish responsibilities, so I thought that a week with St. George’s would force me to remember those silly camp songs from my younger years (I’m most proud of teaching “TARZAN OF THE APES!” to Session II campers), to keep up with the latest field games (what we called “toilet tag” has been replaced by “dead ant tag”), and to sharpen my skills at teaching Bible stories to parishioners whose minds are still growing, whose imaginations are still amazing, and whose questions are never-ending.
In short, I thought this chaplaincy would be good “continuing education” on ministry with children—and it has been. Since children aren’t the Church of the future, but full members of the Church today, such ministry is vital to our life together as followers of Jesus. In that sense, Shrine Mont Camps is a community where I get to round out my ministry skill set and learn new ways of serving our Church today.
But in addition to honing my skills with youth ministry, my time with Shrine Mont Camps has surprised me with the way it’s evolved into an annual sink-or-swim experience with another vital part of the Church’s ministry: evangelism.
Think about it: I show up to serve the spiritual needs of ninety-or-so campers, plus another fifteen-or-so counselors and staff. I have about a week to let them know they can ask me any question and can share with me any answer without fear of ridicule. That trust does not come quickly, and it won’t happen on its own.
So in addition to learning and teaching those songs, games, and Bible stories, I’ve learned to greet them every morning outside Tucker, to eat most of my meals at their tables, to play along in their field games (when I can keep up), and join them for the hike up North Mountain (my favorite part of the week). In other words, Shrine Mont Camps is a community where I’ve learned to put into practice what we in the Church so often say evangelism is all about: meeting people wherever they are.
And it’s made a difference for who I am when I’m not at camp. I sometimes think I have all the time in the world to get to know somebody new who shows up in my community, but that’s not true. Meeting them for a meal, a hike, or a game, is a way I can let them know I’m available to serve them as their pastor whether or not they’ve stepped through the doors of my church. That trust does not come quickly, and it won’t happen on its own.
St. George’s Camp draws inspiration from the “body passage” of First Corinthians 12, that we are Christ’s body in the world, formed together with different gifts so that we can serve others and thrive as one body. During my time as a chaplain I hope I’ve brought gifts to share with the body of Shrine Mont Camps, but I know for a fact that I’ve grown as a pastor thanks to being part of Christ’s body here.
Your brother in Christ, your fellow member of his body, and your next-door neighbor,
Pastor David C. Drebes
Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Basye & Orkney Springs, Virginia