by Father Moses Hibbard
If you’ve attended summer camp, at any time in your life, you know some of the usual circumstances that accompany it. You head out from wherever you live, slowly progressing to some small town, before venturing off to the relatively unknown, where only a few are fortunate enough to live year round. Beginning the ascent up a beautiful Colorado range, we trekked slowly up a dirt road and came upon a scene that you would expect as the proverbial “summer camp.”Sure enough; there’s the lodge, the small grouping of cabins, games for the children etc.
But, after a short while, one realizes that this is not your ordinary summer camp, not even “religious”summer camp. Of course, we’ll have our fair share of fun and games, but the first event beyond the practicality of eating, is to serve Vespers. A novel idea? Not really. We are Orthodox Christians gathered together to draw closer to Christ. How else would we begin, but with the prayer that we are so accustomed to every other day of our life?
The Rocky Mountain Orthodox Youth Camp has gained a good reputation over the years, and rightfully so. The practice of Orthodoxy infused into the life of a summer camp full of children from 6 through 18 years of age was done with the grace that is indicative of a deep desire to instill the Love of Jesus Christ in the children of our Church.
This year’s camp consisted of 175 campers, inclusive of Rocky Mountain Deanery clergy and a myriad of adults graced with the ability to love and shepherd children from all ages over the course of three days. When one stops to consider what the benefits of this specific camp are, a few things become obvious. First, with the exception of a few select activities, the camp functions as a united whole. We often talk about the virtues of families. Well, this camp was like a gigantic extended family. Whether it meant eating together, playing games in the evening, or most importantly, worshipping the LORD in Church, all the children had the tangible experience of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. We even discussed the virtue of the Church as an extended family in one of the camp talks!
Secondly, while the camp functions primarily as an OCA event, the whole experience was cross-jurisdictional. While most Orthodox know the theoretical benefit of this, to have a lived experience of it is another matter altogether. To witness young people from any jurisdiction talking, playing, and again, worshipping together, without any inhibition about “the other”is a blessing beyond words. This type of witness from the youth of the Orthodox Church is something we all need to pay very close attention to!
Lastly, when the older group of campers were asked what they most enjoyed about camp, the answer was enough to melt the heart of any pastor. “When I’m here at camp, I feel my faith become stronger.”“Being at camp makes me feel closer to God and gives me the strength to go back to school for another year.”These sorts of comments are at the heart of the purpose of a summer camp.
The majority of anyone’s time, youth or adult, is either taken up with activities that have nothing to do with Christ, or even if we are mindful of Him, external activities at least challenge our ability to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Knowing that summer camp has provided a time of refreshing where youth have encountered Christ, have drank from a well of spiritual water, and have increased the bond of love which is in Christ alone gives reason to believe that we would all do well to attend the summer camp of our souls and reignite the flame of Christ’s love within us!
Camp Slideshow: https://vimeo.com/holytheophany/rmoyc2015