Every day at every camp at Shrine Mont, there is an hour dedicated to chaplain’s time, an opportunity for the camp chaplain to teach and to engage campers about their faith life in a way that meets campers where they are. Chaplains are both lay and ordained; they come from many different vocations – each chaplain with gifts especially suited to the camp and session they serve. On Monday, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, the chaplain to the staff, held a chaplain’s time for the assembled faithful at Staff Week.
Susan began with the question, “What is the Good news?” Counselors turned to one another and discussed this for a few minutes before reporting back. Some of the answers: God loves us; Christ died for our sins and was resurrected so that we might know eternal life and so that we can take part in God’s love; and that the universe trends towards goodness. James Brown, St. Sebastian’s director, asserted that the good news is encapsulated in the Shouting Prayer.
“The way you think about the good news may not be what the person next to you thinks is the good news, just as there many ways to understanding the good news of God in Christ, “ said Susan. “It’s a longstanding theological principal that whatever we say about God will at some point fail us, because God is bigger and stranger than our thoughts about God." Susan wrote on butcher paper the names of six, non-exhaustive approaches Christians take to understand and relate the good news in their lives and gave a brief overview each approach.
They were (please excuse the following simplifications):
The approaches bearing the most green x’s were moral influence and abundant life. One counselor offered that he’d ticked moral influence because it was the most tactile and practical approach, and that the golden rule transcends all cultures and religions. Another offered that abundant life best delivered the good news because it was most closely aligned with the business of camp: to do the best to realize the Kingdom in the short time a camp has together.
Some counselors spoke about their fear and anxiety in response to oversimplified visions of atonement theology presented to them earlier in life. Susan spoke of her experience at other church camps and youth programs that were emotionally and spiritually manipulative and made her fear for the eternal salvation of many people she loved dearly. One counselor recounted being told that without a “plan of salvation” some family members and friends of other religious persuasions would “go to hell.” Another counselor offered that he believes atonement theology places too great an emphasis on individual behaviors but ignores the larger structural sins like racism, sexism, and systemic poverty. However, several counselors noted the importance of atonement theology in their sense of freedom and belovedness in God – that we have been separated by sin but can tack back towards God was in fact good news to them.
More pictures of the discussion are posted below.
While there was controversy over some and general agreement about others, no approach was without a red x, and none without a green x, a fitting parallel to the “wide tent” of the Episcopal Church.
Bringing chaplain’s time to a close, Susan emphasized, “All of these theological stances are Christian, and they are all contained in the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer and, thus, rooted in our Episcopal faith. Wherever you all are in your faith journey, no matter which approach fills you with hope and which approach makes you uncomfortable, you are safe at Shrine Mont.”
“You will find yourself surprised by the way you journey through these approaches,” continued Susan. “You are going to change and grow, as are the campers you serve. It is not our job to ‘fix’ or ‘change’ the campers that come to us, but to trust that God is already present and working in their lives and create a safe space to engage the questions of faith. Campers will know that they can participate, be respected, and be loved.” And that is the good news.
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.