By Bishop Susan Goff
We're all in this together. The tune from High School Musical blared out from the speakers as a camper danced on stage and sang along. His joyful offering in the talent show embodied the lyrics of his favorite song:
"Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong
We're not the same
We're different in a good way
Together's where we belong."
It was the last night of St. Elizabeth's Camp, our program for teens and young men and women who are part of the largest minority group in the U.S. - persons with disabilities. The 26 campers this year are among the millions of Americans who live with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and who, because of the ways they are different from the majority, are all too often made invisible. But at St. E's, as buddies with "majority" teens, they were truly seen as they formed the center of a community of love, support and joy. It was the most diverse camp on the mountain. It is the most diverse every year as it includes the largest percentage of minority persons of any camp. The joy that came when participants recognized and celebrated differences, without making judgments about those differences, gave us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Our differences, after all, don't divide us - it's our judgements about our differences that divide us.
During the four days of camp, distinctions were made so that each person could be at his or her best. Differences were acknowledged so that all could participate fully in their own unique ways. Limitations were noted but not allowed to get in the way. The weight we humans so easily attach to differences melted away as everyone, everyone, everyone was recognized as a beloved child of God.
Leading and supporting the godly work of building community across differences for the past fifteen years has been the Rev. Laura Lockey. Laura began this ministry thinking she would do it for a year until someone "more suited" was identified. In God's surprising way, though, the call to Laura was clarified and she answered it faithfully year after year. At the end of this year's camp, Laura announced her resignation from this vital role. With tears and hugs, campers, staff and families offered heartfelt thanks for all Laura gave, and they prayed for blessings on the new ways God will call her. Her compassion, good sense and relational spirit have helped shape a camp culture that is a clear and strong reflection of God's Kingdom, right here on earth. While the St. Elizabeth's community will miss her, she leaves behind the legacy of a program that, God willing, will continue to be the most diverse camp on the mountain as it supports minority persons for generations to come.
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.