Faith Works 6-21-14
To camp, or not to camp?
One year ago, as I write this in Licking County this week, I was somewhere around 10,000 feet above sea level, looking out across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There I was marveling at the glory of creation, humbled by the chain of grace that had brought me to where I could be with my son at this place, and enjoying the fulfillment of a dream that began decades ago, standing by the door of the old Scout troop meeting room in my hometown, looking at a creased and worn map thumbtacked onto the paneling. A map of Philmont Scout Ranch.
Those memories made that day are, obviously, still with me. I got the patch and the belt buckle, brought back an appalling number of pictures, and gained a new appreciation for a phrase I'd long offered to others: "Slow and steady wins the race." I may not have gotten to the top of Baldy Mountain first, but I got there. And it began with a backpack full of bowling balls walking along roadsides and through golf courses a year before that.
Philmont isn't church camp, but each crew has a chaplain aide, and I liked mine quite a bit. He made sure we said grace at meals, even when lunch was SPAM, and led the crew in the "Thorns and Roses" exercise each night before "lights out," closing it with a different devotional each evening.
Now, my denomination's church camp facility over between Delaware and Marysville, Camp Christian, is a property that's flat as a dinner plate, and you may have cots and running water, but there's no A/C, no digital devices allowed, and the bugs alone remind you you're out of doors. There, the day begins with Morning Watch, and days close with a trek to the Vesper Spot, and worship that's generally planned and led by the youth themselves.
Why go to camp? Whether a week or more away, or with the Cub Scouts to a Monday to Friday day camp as many of us did last week out at Camp Falling Rock? It's because today we have to work at being out of doors, we have to make an effort at being there, more than cutting through it from car to living room.
The Bible is full of nature. Jesus loves to tell parables about growing things, and weather, and the creatures we share this planet with. For those reasons alone, we need a grounding somehow in the outdoors just to be able to read our Bibles well.
But more importantly, there's a way of being in community that you only find in nature. Families at the cabin, groups on the road, campers at camp: we relate differently to each other "out there." And we relate differently to God, as well.
May you find your own taste of camp this summer, whether on the patio, the front porch, or out in the middle of a lake with a million stars all around.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your camp experience shaping faith & understanding at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.