There must be some correlation between mountain top experiences and connecting with God, as church camps are often located on mountains. As a youth, I spent many summers at Camp Mitchell, the Diocese of Arkansas’ camp located on Petit Jean Mountain outside of Little Rock. When Maggie Kennedy and Paris Ball invited me to Shrine Mont to serve as a guest blogger for a few days, I leapt at the opportunity to return to another holy hill. I have come to Shrine Mont on several occasions for clergy conferences, but never for summer camp.
My memories of camp include hot, humid summer days; opportunities to exercise my body and my creativity; reconnecting with old friends; and joyful, embodied worship. Trees, water and living creatures of all types provided the perfect environment for getting in touch with God and with myself. I would spend part of each day seated on a rock overlooking the valley below the mountain. Having quiet, unstructured time was just as important as the bonding experiences with my peers.
I have come to learn that 21st century church camps haven’t strayed very far from these tried and true methods. I came to Shrine Mont on a cloudy, overcast day, but the weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of either the campers or the staff. I was graciously welcomed by all who were present and invited to join existing groups. Hospitality remains a hallmark of summer camp programs, and Shrine Mont is no exception to this rule.
Meals and worship have been lively occasions. The campers and their young adult leaders utilize all of their senses in praising creation and the Creator. While I appreciate the solemnity and reverence of our Episcopal liturgy, I wish we could bottle some of this energy and enthusiasm to be sprinkled liberally throughout the congregations in our diocese. I look forward to the remainder of my time at Shrine Mont.