St. Elizabeth’s closed a few days ago on July 30th. St. E’s is easily the shortest camp to grace the mountain, in session for four full days. But the days are just that, full, and the time during camp moves as fast as any other camp. In just four days, the campers and their buddies grew together as a team through dance, music, worship and laughter.
With a camper to buddy ratio of 1:1, the camp is grouped into three team colors: red, green and purple. A typical St. Elizabeth’s day begins with a morning rotation called adventure time, filled with games on the Happy Pavilion, chaplain’s story time with Laura Lockey, and arts and crafts in the Dear Frances Rec Hall at Woodward.
The theme for St. Elizabeth’s this year was parables. They discussed parables like the pearl of great price, the mustard seed, the lost sheep and the lost coin. Chaplain’s time for St. Elizabeth’s was based off the Godly Play platform. Godly Play is a type of Bible study based on the philosophy of asking “I wonder why... ,” allowing campers and buddies to evaluate their own prayer lives by imagining they are physically inside a parable. Laura said, "Jesus told stories about coins and seeds. If he were telling stories today it would be stories of lost car keys and lost iPads." Talking about the parable of the sower, Laura asked, "When the seed of a tree reaches its full maturity, what happens next to that seed?" Chaplain’s time for St. E’s was about the wonder and mystery of God and whom God finds so important and valuable (hint: the answer is all of us).
Throughout the day at St. Elizabeth's, impromptu song-festivals played, skits were acted out, and the staff called out a game of Bingo.
Traditions are held steadfast in the soul of every camp at Shrine Mont; St. Elizabeth’s has countless traditions of their own. One classic is just before their “hay-less hayride,” the campers march down the center of town and sing for all of Orkney Springs. They sang “Light the Fire” and “Wade in the Water,” to name a few. Each year, everyone in Shrine Mont and Orkney looks forward to this closely held tradition.
“Light the fire in my heart again. Oh lord, light the fire in my heart again.”
The hayride this year was a bit of a wet drive, but nothing can dampen these spirits. The beauty of camp is that we can worship anywhere, pause, and restart under a dry roof without missing a beat.
Of course, camp is never complete without a talent show on the final night, topped off with marshmallows over an open fire.
St. Elizabeth’s closing worship is unique compared to other camps' closings. Instead of a traditional service, St. E's puts more of a focus on thanksgivings and blessings. Each buddy receives a superlative about what they mean to the camp, followed by countless hugs, grinning faces and a reflection on who St. E's is as a team.
They say, "all good things must come to an end," but at camp we say, "goodbye, for now." Next summer St. Elizabeth's will be back for another four days on the mountain and, while there will be a different cast of campers and buddies, St. E's will continue to live out its traditions, to grow together through dance, music, worship and laughter - to be St. Elizabeth's Camp. And to that we can all say, "Thanks be to God."
By Greg Deekens
Photo Credit: Greg Deekens and the St. Elizabeth's 2014 Staff
Greg Deekens first came to Shrine Mont Camps three years ago, working as a counselor at St. Sebastian’s Sports Camp. Since then camp has been a big part of Greg's life, and allowed him to take the skills he has learned as a counselor and apply them to life off the mountain.
Greg is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he studies broadcast journalism and business management.
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.