Part of the reason I love that video is that it captures a moment of total un-self-consciousness and pure, unrestrained joy.
The video of our daughter dancing came back to me as I joined the camp dance at the pavilion the other night.
Dances are one of the more popular Shrine Mont customs, and part of what makes them even more popular is the custom of wearing goofy clothes to the dance. The goofier, the better.
But part of the genius of the counselor hiring process here is that while those counselors take their responsibilities very seriously, none of them take themselves too seriously.
And too often, the performance bar our society sets is the impossibly high measure of perfection, whatever that means. But “measuring” and perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and spontaneity, not to mention fun and a robust spirituality.
One of the gifts that campers are given here is an escape from constant measurement. One of the spiritual lessons campers learn at Shrine Mont Camps is how to escape perfectionism.
And there’s nothing better than a goofy dance, mixing everyone together - the youngest of Music and Drama campers with older Sports and Explorers Campers and college-age counselors - to accomplish those goals.
Back home, there are travel team workouts and summer homework assignments and auditions. At Shrine Mont, there is making sure that Chaplain Connor has been introduced to Woodward Camp's year-round resident Rick-the-Life-Sized-Tiger.
No one is trying to be cool. No one is out. There’s a sense that you are accepted. You are accepted. Yes, you, the real you, the behind-the-mask, drop-all-pretensions, mix-of-emotions you.
And that “new normal” of acceptance, and inviting, and including, and of dropping pretenses plays itself out at Shrine Mont dances more than perhaps any other time.
About half way through the hour-long dance, I noticed a young camper sitting off by herself, knees pulled up to her chest, slightly sullen look on her face, watching the dance, but not engaged in it. She’d only been sitting like that a minute, but MAD camp counselor Tori Lindsey also noticed her, and slowly danced nearby, and then directly in front of, the camper.
With an irresistible smile on her face, dancing with both arms out in front of her, both palms up, Tori issued a wordless but clear invitation to “come join me.” Tori just danced. And kept dancing until the camper popped up with a smile, took Tori's hands, and joined in.
By John Ohmer
John authored a weekly spiritual advice column titled “Faithfully Yours,” and covered the past four General Conventions as an issues writer for the Diocese of Virginia’s “Center Aisle.” He blogs at Unapologetic Theology.
Prior to his call to The Falls Chuch, John was rector of St. James', Leesburg for 13 years. During his years of ordained ministry, John has served on the Board of Directors of Samaritan Ministry for the Homeless in Washington D.C., and on the Diocese of Virginia’s Commission on Ministry and Resolutions Committee.
Before entering Virginia Theological Seminary in 1994, John had a career in government and politics, having worked as a Capitol Hill and presidential campaign staff member as well as a press secretary and speech writer in his home state of Indiana.
John and his wife Mary have three children: a son who has recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, another son who is a senior at James Madison University, and a daughter who is a senior in high school and a counselor at St. Elizabeth's Camp.