I’m Kate, the Summer Program Assistant and Communications Coordinator at camp this summer. For a bit more about me, see this blurb.
Summer staff arrived last Sunday, June 6. Sitting in a room with over 20 people, unmasked, was surreal, even knowing that we are all fully vaccinated. It was also a little emotional, especially when we sang for the first time that evening. I got chills hearing harmonies in-person again.
In between trainings and informational sessions, we planned for the coming weeks and enjoyed newfound social opportunities. It was an exhausting, rewarding, and incredibly important week. Then on Sunday, June 13, high school campers arrived, careening us into summer program. And so far, everything is running smoothly. Navigating COVID restrictions is getting easier, and campers and counselors alike are settling into a barely believable yet familiar routine.
This summer’s theme is Longing. Each day of each week we will talk about different kinds of longings: longing to be heard, to be invited, for change, or for peace. A large part of this theme is also exploring prayer practices—talking about those that resonate, those that don’t, and recognizing that there is no wrong way to express what one is longing for.
In order to prepare ourselves for talking about the theme with campers, we integrated it into orientation. During each evening campfire of staff orientation week, staff were invited to share a bit about what their faith means to them and what they are longing for in this stage of life. Leadership staff all shared on the first night. I was so nervous that I remember basically nothing, but what I had written down beforehand was this:
I think that everyone is always longing for something, and it often changes depending on your season of life. Often I am longing for a purpose, but for the next months of my life, that will be decided for me. So right now, I am longing for peace within myself. I am tired of missing someone wherever I go and trying to reconcile where to go and who to be with. I also left school this year feeling insecure in the ways others perceive me. I long to be known and loved deeply, by others, and perhaps by God as well.
That phrase, “to be known and loved,” had been rattling around in my head for days before I shared. I wasn’t sure why, and when I went to write down my thoughts for sharing, I jotted it down. And I realized that it was true to the question.
Every day of orientation week we got to know each other a little better, and every night more and more people shared. I was floored and deeply touched over and over again by the vulnerability demonstrated by everyone on staff. Several common themes emerged, the first being that many of us have a hard time talking about our faith. It is difficult, uncomfortable, or simply something we don’t do much. It is also something that many of us felt we needed the right words for. Much of the week was spent coming to terms with not always having those words.
The other common theme throughout our sharing was a longing for clarity or direction. Each summer staffer is at a different place in their faith journey, but almost all of us expressed our desire to grow closer to God. Several people spoke about reconciling their own individual faith with the power of a faith community. Several people also talked about wrestling with the historical oppression at the hands of the Christian Church while still recognizing the good things happening within the Church. Some long for the language to talk about faith, and some for the strength to love even when it’s hard, or the ability to trust that our struggles will come to an end.
On the final night before campers arrived, we convened so that Abigail, our worship leader, could give a blessing. The love in the room was tangible—we had just gone from near-strangers to a cohesive summer staff, one already with inside jokes and knowledge of some of our innermost thoughts. For the prayer, we held hands in a circle and Abigail invited anyone to say aloud a word or a phrase from the week’s sharing that had stuck out to them. I listened as we repeated each other’s words, plucked carefully from each night’s sharing and lovingly remembered. I teared up a bit.
I firmly believe that our longings and our questions only make us more qualified to lead campers in exploring their own faith. The coming weeks will be challenging and beautiful and sacred. One staffer’s words stuck with me most, and I think it’s what I’ll take with me as we begin the summer: “Camp is a satellite for talking to God. For me, it’s the only place with good reception.”