A reflection from Pat Wingo, Canon to the Ordinary.
I still consider myself new to the Diocese of Virginia, having come here as the Canon to the Ordinary last September. I've been to Shrine Mont twice this year, for the Fall Clergy Retreat and the Bishop's Spring Conference, and while those events began to give me a sense of how important and beloved this "place apart" is, I could not understand Shrine Mont without coming to camp.
Last weekend I had the privilege of spending a few days at camp, and here's what I discovered: the key to Shrine Mont is in small things. Anyone who has been here knows the overwhelming beauty of the place--grand white buildings and unique cottages rising from the earth with stories to tell, surrounded by God's huge garden of hardwoods. The inviting pool, the wide ball field, the pavilions--they all shout "come have fun!" Heck, the Shenandoah Music Festival sponsored Kris Kristofferson in concert Saturday night in the lower pavilion, growling out his famous songs to a packed house.
But while Shrine Mont is easily seen in these things, I also found Shrine Mont in college counselors who puzzle over ways to combat homesickness or bullying. I found it in the hilarious announcement time after dinner at St George's camp, when a thirteen-year old girl happily showed off her ability to burp while exhaling and inhaling, to thunderous applause and laughter. I found Shrine Mont in Vienna House, where Paris Ball, Jacko Post, and JG Wood read Compline every night with whoever showed up. I found it in my door in Maryland House, which did not require a key--not just because one does not exist, but because we believe this place to be different from the rest of the world.
Jesus spoke often about mustard seeds, and widow's mites, and the lilies of the field. He paid attention to those who were small in the eyes of the world, insignificant--like some kids feel in school or on the playground, or sometimes, maybe, at home. Jesus spoke of the kingdom breaking into the world when one sees God not just in the great and grand, but in the ordinary. Bread and wine. Water. A child's project at Art Camp. A college student telling jokes to 13-year olds one minute and talking with them about weighty questions of life and God the next.
I went to the daily St. George's staff meeting Sunday, held on the porch of the camp director's cabin, where Mike Wade, who works with us at Mayo House as diocesan youth coordinator, also spends his summers. Some of Mike’s roles at camp are overseeing, guiding, gently helping (and sometimes bluntly helping) the counselors be their best and give their best to the campers. As I listened to bright young adults discuss plans for electives, report on the state of their cabins, and check-in on how each one is holding up to what can be an extremely challenging job, I glanced up at the rafters above us. There were names written there, of counselors from previous summers. Small signatures in Sharpie, written across the weather-worn two-by-sixes. Some of those names had been campers themselves, raised up in the Shrine Mont summers by customs, prayers, games, songs, places, and, of course, people. As someone reminded me last weekend, it's the community that is created by all these small things that makes Shrine Mont a place to which we want to return. In just a couple of days, I was drawn into that community. I can’t wait to go back.
By Canon Pat Wingo
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.