By The Rev. Beth Magill
With each group of campers and staffers who have the privilege of gathering for a summer on the mountain comes the inevitable plea from chaplains and directors to take what has been learned and lived on the mountaintop into the valley of the world. It is too rich, too critical, and too good to be kept a secret, or left only for those who were able to experience it. It is a Gospel based imperative, as much as it is an invitation.
I was nervous. Of course this framework had worked well and permeated the lives of generations of folks from the Diocese of Virginia. It had such an impact on me that it is the passage after which I strive to order my life and ministry. But, I couldn't help but wonder if tradition, emotional attachment, or simple complacency hadn't led us to laud it's success, after all these years. Being out of my comfort zone often leads me to questions that seem silly and even unfaithful in hindsight. I persevered and set out to buy hundreds of feet of body string.
As is often the case, my fears were unfounded. Campers and staffers alike were completely taken and moved by a reminder of their deep and abiding importance as a member of the Body of Christ. Middle school students were enlivened by the challenge of building a community stronger than that which they had dreamed possible. They even humored me by wearing the body strings. My expectations were quite low and so, at the end of the session, I marked this one down in the books as an outrageous success.
Fast forward four years to this summer, at the all-camp Eucharist. A returning counselor with whom I had the privilege of working previously was assigned to a different camp site this year. We were excited to reconnect as we gathered around the lake to worship. Before I returned to setting the altar, he stopped me and asked, "Do you think I could get another Body String? It really helped me a lot this year, but I gave it to a friend when he moved to North Carolina." Not only did he find meaning in the simple symbol, but he had met the challenge of sharing the Good News with another. "Yes, why don't you take mine."
I also had the privilege of visiting Camp Capers, of the Diocese of West Texas, throughout the summer, where students of our ministry both attend and work. As I was going about my visit I happened to notice a common sight on the wrists of the staffers - Body Strings. Their staff director, who worked with me last year at camp and throughout the school year, without my knowing had shared what she had experienced with a whole new body of folks. Exponential and surprising growth, all birthed of a simple reminder that we can all use help remembering our place in the Body of Christ.
What I had initially failed to focus on was the unfailing power of scripture when it comes alive. Did it all look, sound, and smell a little different than that of our lives on the beloved mountain? Of course. But it still had meaning - deep, transformative meaning. So, I suppose I write simply to celebrate with those whom I still consider my beloved community of origin, and those in this new place, who are intimately tied to one another.
What you're doing works, Shrine Mont Camps, both for people to whom you once ministered, to those whom you currently minister, and to many, many others beyond the grasp of the mountain.