What can I say but our first day went off without a hitch!
Counselors worked hard all morning preparing for campers’ arrival. We did some teambuilding exercises, boundary and safety training, and got all the worship, cabin, and group gathering places ready to go. Turned out a few buses and a handful of families arrived early this year so our counselors kept working on our projects while campers unloaded items from the bus but timing-wise there wasn’t too much hassle. Just make sure y’all are on time for pick up on Saturday!
Campers looked to some big posters in the registration office hallway to see which cabin they’re in for the week. Then, counselors helped them get their gear stowed away and took them to different pockets of people to get introductions underway. Remember: we’re merging two weeks plus 1/3 of the camp is brand-new this year. From my perspective, it appears people are really taking to saying “hello” and asking for each other’s names. In short, they’re practicing Christian hospitality and this is exactly the sort of practice that will come in quite handy tomorrow night…
Sunday night dinner is one of the my favorite moments of LYFE Camp. The counselors spread out at the tables, we crank the music, and let the campers into the Dining Hall with cheers and applause as they seek a seat to sit. After some brief “Informational Messages” and suggestions for a good week (a.k.a. “THE RULES”), we headed over to the Assembly Hall for evening program and worship.
Tonight’s evening program was introduction comedy sketches by the CITs and the SCs so campers have a chance to see us all and learn our names. It’s rare, but every few years the sketches end up remarkably the same and this year both staffs performed a series of TV / film vignettes in groups of 2-5 – a manageable and fun way to introduce a group of 24 and 18 people, respectively. The CITs sketch featured parodies of The Dating Game, Frozen, Dr. Mehlhaus, MD CIT, and more (I’ll need to ask someone to help me fill in these details). The SCs offered up The Counselorette, SCSI: Paynesville, SC Jumpstreet, Camp of Cards, and SC-Nado (which is exactly what it sounds like). After introducing ourselves, we all got to stand up in front of the whole camp as we announced the Small Group rosters.
Small Groups meet at least once, maybe twice per day. It’s a circle of confidentiality, listening, sharing, accountability, action-plan making, and emotionally/spiritually supporting one another in faithful discipleship. For you Methodist historians, this is very reminiscent of the small group “Bands” that John Wesley started up that took off in 1700s England (while camp meetings are what really took off for the Methodists in the US in the 1800s). Groups met for the first time and made their Secret Friend Bags (more to come) and we moved into worship.
At Worship, we introduced this year’s theme, LYFE Practice. Here’s a little info:
Sometimes, we put things off to tomorrow. Or we invest in something only if it’s convenient or the benefits are immediately obvious. We find ourselves talking the talk but seldom strapping on our shoes and walking the walk. Maybe when things get really tough then we’ll invest and everything will work out. And sometimes things do. But it begs the question: what if we had practiced all along? How much deeper, further, better could we have gone in our journey? How could we have impacted others’ lives that much more? Too often, those thoughts and feelings bubble to the surface after the fact, in times of stress, when we are lost
Thankfully, that’s not how God operates.
God doesn’t put us off until tomorrow. Jesus doesn’t love us only when it’s convenient. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t call us into something new only when things are at their absolute worst. Our loving God is a practicing God, still creating, still loving, still working on us. Still calling us.
God calls us to LYFE Practice.
Sunday | We love God by showing up because we Practice with Presence.
Monday | We wonder aloud at what loving God does in our lives; we ask Why Practice?
Tuesday | We know life isn’t always 100% pristine, that sometimes Practice Makes Imperfect.
Wednesday | We feel the Spirit call us every day so we commit to Practice Like You Play.
Thursday | We journey into new life in Christ every day because Practice Makes Perfect.
Friday | We stand tall in our faith and resist hypocrisy, because we Practice What You Preach.
My Co-Dean, Mitch, offered a sermon centered on Acts 8:26-40 (The Message), the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Here is a disciple who doesn’t appear all that much in the gospels (at least, not compared to, say, Simon Peter or John) who is called by the Spirit to engage with someone who wants to know more about Christian faith. If he was out of practice, if he never thought about how to engage others about his faith or think about how to speak about it out loud, perhaps he wouldn’t have been ready to share something that means so much to him. Here is a foreign person, one who knows nothing about Jesus, and is asking to be taught; he wants to be engaged. Because he practices his faith, “Philip grabbed his chance.” This week, we’ll encourage campers to look at their LYFE Practice to affirm what they’re doing, examine what they could do next, and empower them to take action to truly live their faith everyday.
Worship closed as it always does: singing “Day By Day” from Godspell (a light, thoughtful rendition) while in a circle, then traveling down to a Sanctuary space for a time apart for silent prayer, meditation, reflection, thinking, and so on. It’s the highlight of the day for many people, and it’s possible some of you parents, Dear Reader, have a tough time picturing your teen being in silent meditation for 5-10 minutes. Yet you’d be amazed by the power of a community of solidarity who are experiencing a time apart with God. It’s our hope this may end up being a spiritual practice these teens can pick up on for their lives the other 51 weeks out of the year. By the way, when I say this part has “always been this way,” it truly has. The same and/or very similar ritual has always closed out the worship service at LYFE Camp since its inception in the 1970s.
The night didn’t end there, though, as we also had a rockin’ roarin’ campfire filled with fun songs (I Am a C, I Like Bananas, Jesus Is the Rock and He Rolls My Blues Away) and more thoughtful, lighter fare (Pass It On) before “circling up” to sing Bamboo. The night did finally end with cabin meetings and a good night’s sleep to energize us for tomorrow – our first full day of LYFE Camp!
Your comments and prayers are felt and appreciated, Dear Reader. Loving God, we thank you for this time apart to reflect on and grow in our relationship with you. May each young man and young woman at camp feel your compassionate presence. Amen.
Here’s a small handful of photos from today: