Camp Stevens namesake, Bishop Bertrand Stevens, believed in the power of a summer camp experience for children. As the story has been told to me (I hope to be corrected if I’m wrong!), Bishop Stevens took children by the church-load to experience and learn about God and the natural world. The program has evolved significantly, but we are still Camp Stevens.
Then, the children likely knew each other before they went to camp. Now, campers might know one or two others but have the opportunity to make many new friends.
Then, the site was rented and camp was held at different locations throughout southern California. Now, Camp Stevens location has been the same for over 60 years and we take pride in our facilities, our grounds, our trails, and our gardens.
Then, the campers were entirely or mostly from Episcopal churches and the program was overtly Christian, almost Sunday School like in its telling of the stories. Now, we are delighted to serve a wide range of campers: some Episcopalian, some Christian from other denominations, some from other faiths, and many who come from families who are not religious at all, and the chaplains, staff, and counselors invite campers to wonder about the mystery of God and all of creation.
I am personally proud of this invitation to wonder and hope to continue to foster relationships with people of all faith traditions while holding on to our Episcopal Identity. That’s a tricky line to walk and one we continue to learn to balance on.
This summer, the chaplains who have graced us with their presence have done a phenomenal job balancing. During the first session, The Revs. Kelli Grace Kurtz and Ricardo Avila figuratively walked the Camino with Adventure Groups and wrapped up their week at Eucharist with this collect:
God of Nature, God of Friendship, God of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Thank you for Camp Stevens; thank you for this week together, for all the fun we had, the things we learned, and the friends we made; thanks for the awesome counselors and staff who took such good care of us this week; thank you for trees and grass, for chickens and pigs and foxes and ants, for sun and moon, for sky and wind, for stars and for dirt; please let us never forget this time together, even when it was hard; and may all the lessons we learned about trust and teamwork and fear and courage go with us when we leave this place and bless us as we travel along our Buen Camino. Amen.
The Rev. Shireen Baker re-imagined Eucharistic Prayer D during Session 3 and it sounded something like this:
We are thankful, God, for the beauty of creation, for the wonder of life, and for the love we are able to give and receive. We thank you for our friends and family who support and encourage us. We thank you for the challenges we face every day and the joy and delight we get from accomplishing our goals.
We thank you also for the disappointments and failures that remind us of our need for the love and compassion of others, and of our dependence on you O Lord.
Lord God, before time you set all things in motion filling the entirety of creation with your love. And you made us in your image giving us the power to explore the beauty of nature and the wonders of the cosmos. Fueling our imagination with the mysteries that surround us, you gave the world to us that we might care for it and all of its creatures but we were distracted by selfishness and pride, abandoning our duties as stewards of the earth we wandered far from you forgetting who we were as your children. But you did not abandon us and called us back to you again and again.
You loved the world so much that you became incarnate in the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Born of the Virgin Mary he lived as one of us but without sin.
To the poor he proclaimed the Good news of salvation, the prisoners freedom, to the sorrowful joy. He gave himself up to death and rising from the grave destroyed death making all creation new.
So Lord we now offer you these gifts out of your creation, and we ask that you send your Holy Spirit to descend upon us and upon these gifts showing them to be holy gifts for a holy people, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
And The Rev. Mike Stone, a camp chaplain and board member beloved by campers and staff, summed up his week in an e-mail with tips to future new (or veteran!) chaplains by stressing the utmost importance of relationships: with campers, with staff, and with counselors, through time spent on the trails, carrying stuff of all kinds, helping with dishes, learning names, adding voice to reflections, and honoring the myriad spiritual traditions of campers, counselors, and staff.
The truth is, we are an Episcopal camp and that’s why we have Episcopal chaplains. It’s also why we honor the tradition of our church, rely on wisdom and reason from our own and others’ experiences, look to Christian stories from scripture, and find God in the natural world. And we do all these things in a way that intends to open the doors for people of all faith traditions and those outside any tradition to come in. It’s why we care about the land, our food choices, recycling, compost, and people. It’s why we teach about being in healthy relationship with ourselves, one another, and between people and the natural world. It’s why we want every camper and person to know that they are deeply loved, by God and by us. It’s why we have camperships for children whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to send their kids to camp. And it’s why we continue to seek to find balance – a middle way – between the church proper and the diverse and wonderful people we have the opportunity to work with and serve.
After all, the Episcopal Church Welcomes You!
Whim: “sudden idea.” This monthly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!