The next time you visit Camp Stevens you’ll notice a new sign at the bottom of our driveway.
In an effort to help our Episcopal friends know they’re in the right place with a familiar image and to share our pride in being part of an inclusive, welcoming church, you’ll now see “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” as you pull into the Camp Stevens drive. Over the next few months we’ll also be updating other signs along the driveway and in the parking lot to help our guests, campers, parents, and other visitors know where to go and to offer helpful information.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about welcome since we’ve started the process of funding and ordering this new sign. I’m often discouraged by churches that boast the “Welcome” sign but keep their gates and doors locked to visitors, especially those looking for a place to sit quietly and pray or who genuinely need food or other help – the folks the church is, arguably, supposed to be serving. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this seeming unwelcome: safety and worry of vandalism are likely near the top of the list; and I do understand the need to be cautious.
So as a retreat center rooted in the Episcopal Church, how can we say “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” and then restrict who comes on the property? Doesn’t this seem confusing at best and hypocritical at worse? I don’t think so, and here’s why:
Welcome and openness require healthy boundaries in order to be sustainable. We have boundaries regarding who can use Camp Stevens when so that we can assure the parents of our outdoor education students and summer campers that their children will be properly supervised by loving and professional staff and counselors. Reducing accessibility reduces risk. We promise exclusive use to our retreat guests so their goals which often involve intentionally building community within their members can be met. We work to preserve and protect our wild spaces, trails, and buildings so they are hospitable and accommodating, natural, clean, clear, and as safe as possible.
On our website, we describe what it means to be welcoming:
We provide program that is inclusive and community-focused, aiming to encourage individual growth. Retreat attendees, campers and staff have opportunities to discover:
A loving, accepting and compassionate community;
Respect and responsibility for self, others and God’s creation;
Personal expression and creativity;
A deeper sense of spirituality.
Facilities for retreats and conferences are available to religious and other non-profit groups; Camp Stevens does not serve for-profit companies or corporations. Rules for employment, acceptance and participation in our programs are the same for everyone without regard to national origin, creed, color, sex, or handicap, providing that program requirements are met.
Here’s what our new sign means: The Episcopal Church welcomes you and Camp Stevens welcomes you. Please come by the office for more information about who we are, to share with us about who you are, and to inquire about using this peaceful place apart for prayer, a group retreat, or a walk in the woods. If we cannot provide what you need, it is our goal to make connections and point you in a helpful direction.
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!