By the Rev. Peter Ackerman
One aspect about Music and Drama (MAD), Session 2 that I love is the great questions that come forth from the Middle School youth; particularly those dealing with their faith, the Episcopal Church, the bible and more. I learned that this age is a formative time for them as they no longer accept answers at face value and it is important to be forthright with them in responding because they can recognize insincere answers right away.
With this in mind, I decided at this year’s camp, during one of my Chaplain’s Time to hold a “Stump the Chaplain” question and answer program where they could ask me anything that they wanted. What surprised me most on the day that we held this was just how many hands went up right away, as well as the depth of what was on their minds.
Before I began this, though, I asked one of the counselors to write some particular words on each side of a double-sided dry erase board that I knew would be helpful. The first question asked was “What did you think of the "Noah" movie?” My answer to that got us into some deeper conversations about the Noah and Creation stories and if those aspects of scripture were true stories or fictional ones…and if that truly mattered. Through the questions that emanated following the first, we had a nice discussion about the message of God’s love for humanity that is in both of those stories, and how that same love is offered to us.
More than once during our time together I had to refer to the writing that was placed on the double-sided dry erase board. For instance, when asked “Why would God allow a baby to be born who was only to die a few hours later?” I pointed to words on one side of the board which read “I don’t know…” and then quickly flipped it to the other side where they read the word “but…” to which I verbally added “here is what I DO know,” while answering their question from my own personal experience.
To me this session was an important one in our relationship together. Though we had all been together for a number of days by that time, the thoughtful questions, the serious answers, and a clergy person who was willing to say “I don’t know” brought us to a deeper level of our trust of one another. I was touched later that day when at supper a camper asked to sit with me and asked me a question, the subject of which dealt with the camper’s fear that a relative was not going to go to heaven. As we dialogued over dinner I remember thanking God for the Shrine Mont experience and for those staff, counselors, contributors and more who make it possible for young people to bring up the hard questions that they face in life and by doing so learn to discern their faith on a deeper level than when they arrived at camp.
It was a true joy having the challenge of the questions and being able to see how respectful the youth were even when in disagreement with one another. If these campers are any indication, I am happy and proud to report to you that the future of God’s church is in good hands with these inquiring souls.