This column appeared in the Feb. 2013 issue of Anglican Journal.
When young people come back from events like the CLAY (Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth) gathering, or a summer at camp, we often hear the question, “Why can’t church be more like camp?” Instinctively, we get our backs up—even though we’ve experienced the ways in which summer camp has helped young people (and many of us!) to grow in faith. What does camp have that we don’t?
If it’s just about guitars and goofy games, I don’t think we should worry about becoming more like camp. But if it’s about developing a more integrated Christian spirituality, then perhaps we should pay attention.
This is the second year that the diocese of British Columbia is experimenting with its Camp in Community initiative. According to Su McLeod, that diocese’s family ministry facilitator, the Camp in Community model ensures that there’s nothing done during camp that can’t be continued once the summer is over.
Whether it’s Surfboard Spirituality on the beaches of Tofino or Wilderness Camp in the heart of Strathcona Park, each camp is grounded in the local community. Summer staff work with young people, as well as the local parish, to involve them in that summer’s ministry. And each experience seeks to ground campers in compassionate justice, spirited discipleship and deep community life, all the while empowering parishes to use their unique gifts to minister effectively among young people.
By moving camp throughout the diocese, more connections are drawn between camp and the parish church. Why is this important? It invites young people into the life of the church, and the church into the lives of young people.
And at the end of the day, that’s what we need. We need a church that is more like summer camp. And we need a summer camp that is more integral to the life of the church. Camp draws us together; it invites us to share stories of God’s faithfulness. It creates a place where it is okay to talk about spiritual things. Camp encourages us to embody our faith on a daily basis, in community with one another.
In fact, it sounds an awful lot like church.
Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.