This reflection by first appeared in the CDC Reporter, November 2020.
This year has required us to reconsider nearly every aspect of our lives; the same has been true for Camp Friedenswald.
In Camp Friedenswald’s 50th anniversary history book, Vision, Faith, Service (1950-2000), a conference leader from 1920’s is quoted saying, while advocating for church-wide youth retreats, “The rising church (young people) wants something to do.” Certainly the vision that birthed Camp Friedenswald was more than simply “something to do” – but still, in light of the patterns in our lives today, I have to wonder: do the “young people” still want something to do? Or are they wanting – and needing – permission, a model, and a place that invites them to stop the doing? Are we all yearning for an invitation to pause and simply be?
Over the past year at Camp Friedenswald we have sought ways of providing retreat in the midst of a pandemic by offering weekend “Getaways” – an opportunity to spend time in the peaceful woods alone or with family. The Getaway includes a small fire ring, meals delivered to the doorstep, trails to explore and a lake to swim or sit beside – all invitations to simply slow down, to reconnect with one’s self, family, and God. In getting away, daily routines and habits are disrupted and the unstructured space and time open us up to the gifts or rest and reconnection.
I’m not suggesting that we should do away with structured programming that seeks to draw people together from across the conference, for there is much to be gained from gathering as a community; however, this moment has opened our eyes to a new way of imagining how we might continue to live into our mission. What if our “young people” – and all of us – long for a place to come to stop all the doing? What if we simply desire to receive an invitation to slow down, wander through the woods, splash in the water, gaze into the fire, and to be reminded of the goodness of God’s creation?
For its only from a place of rest, renewal, and reconnection, that we can ever hope to inspire the creativity and energy needed to be part of the change that helps foster churches, communities, and a world where black lives matter, where justice prevails, where the poor are fed, and where all creation is deemed worthy of our care.
In early October, CDC pastors were invited to participate in a “Getaway” at Camp Friedenswald. It was a weekend that held no expectation for doing anything. Pastors (and a spouse or friend) were simply invited to come and to be. As one pastor shared at the conclusion of the weekend, “I appreciated the quietness of Camp. I hadn’t realized how totally zapped I had been. I really needed this time of quiet peace–the regenerative peace that only comes from being quiet with God in God’s peaceful woods.”
It’s too early yet to say how the pandemic and the movement of change in our world will go on to shape the place we call Camp Friedenswald, but I certainly hope that we’ll use this opportunity to pay attention to where the Spirit is leading.