22 June 2010

Camping Season

Several years ago an acquaintance asked me if I ever took my kids on a "real" vacation, or if we only took them camping. I screwed up my face and asked what she meant.

"You know, like going to Wisconsin Dells and staying in a hotel instead of living in a tent in State Parks and things," she sneered.

I was blown away. I spent my childhood exploring the west in a car with my father, mother, and sister, living in a tent and visiting places like the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon, not to mention the dozens of places in northern New Mexico and Arizona that commanded our attention and wonder. I felt richly blessed, so much so that my husband and children have spent all of their childhood engaged in the summer vacation ritual of camping. It's my favorite mode of family vacation!

I realize it's not for everyone. But our family does the other kind of camping, too. My sons spent years attending Cass Lake Episcopal Camp in Northern Minnesota where I also volunteered as camp staff during my parish youth ministry days. They are applying to be counselors for our Episcopal Youth Music Camp this summer. Episcopalians have a long and proud tradition of summer camping for young people.

Some would argue that if well planned and directed, a week at summer church camp can be more enlightening and transformational in the life of a young person than an entire school year of Sunday School participation. Unfortunately many of our camps have gone so deeply into the red financially that we have literally lost them, or have caved in to economic pressures and lost our mission in Christian Camping.

The good news is that many of our camps are alive and well! Episcopal Camps and camping programs are engaged in significant inreach as well as outreach; creating safe space for children and youth to experience God's amazing creation, abundance, and unconditional love through singing, hiking, working, swimming, praying and more.

One group on the east coast is engaged in some pretty demanding programming for children whose lives are not so blessed with abundance. You can click the link here to learn more about a program for children with incarcerated parents. I pray for this group with gratitude and hope.

The Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers is a great resource for those engaged in camping ministry. ECCC is an Association of 106 Camps, Retreats and Conference Centers in 86 Episcopal Dioceses in 47 States, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. They have a FaceBook Fan Page where you can follow Bill Slocumb, ECCC Associate Director, on his summer journey to visit numerous Episcopal camps. He and Executive Director Peter Bergstrom are excellent resources for and supporters of our efforts in camping ministry.

So what's your favorite moment at church camp? Offer your comments here so we can share the transformations we've witnessed along the Lifelong Journey in Faith Formation.

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