This past weekend I had the very good fortune to spend time as a guest at the Glenorchy Uniting Church annual church camp. Held at Blue Lagoon (in Hobart’s Dodges Ferry), the camp reminded me of all the things I love about church camp. Read on for my top five, and add your own…
1. Table Tennis Matters: At one level it was just a bunch of middle aged men playing table tennis, trying to recapture the glory of their sporting youth.
But it was so much more. We played, defensively, attacking, wining, losing – and as we played we chatted, laughed, joked, insulted and commiserated. And somewhere along the way we strengthened relationships and built just a little community in a way only playtime can.
You can sit in church looking at the hairstyle of the person in front of you for years and not know them particularly well…..but play together and something changes.
2. Food lubricates community: Meal times are the heart of any good church camp. Sitting around the dinner table, sharing food (preferably good food, and plenty of it), telling stories and getting to know people in an informal setting matters. Its no wonder Jesus spent so much of his time at the dinner table (go ahead, read the gospel, see for yourself).
There is nothing like a shared meal to lubricate community. It’s even better than table tennis.
3. Traditions build trust: Glenorchy have been doing church camp for quite a few years now. And like any repeating event, they have developed some traditions that go along with it. None of them are particularly mind-blowing, but they build trust in the event, within the community and between individuals.
The annual carpet bowling tournament provides opportunity for young and, male and female, sporting and not to compete alongside each other in friendly combat. The 70 year old with a sprained wrist made it through to the semi finals….while I was dumped out in round one by an 11 year old.
Saturday night’s variety concert included items from members of the congregation who’ve been bringing those same items to camp for years. There is something special about seeing that folk dance, hearing the same jokes, competing for the highly prized “Quiz Champion” trophy that in little (but important) ways helps that community trust each other.
4. It takes a village: Nowhere is the truth of the statement “it takes a village to raise a child*” more obvious than when living in community. There is a shared sense of responsibility for all the kids on camp, held by all the adults on camp. Parents get a little breathing space. Kids get to hang out with adults of all ages who have so much to offer in terms of wisdom and experience. I love it when my kids have those opportunities to do live-in life with other adults who I trust.
5. Do something unusual: Camp is a great chance to do something that daily life doesn’t always allow. Jump on trampoline. Ride a bike. Play basketball. Play guitar and teach new songs (or sing new songs). Dance, and jump and play. It’s like a time-out from life and a chance to live on the edge….but in a safe place.
I found time that I almost never find to play a little guitar, sing a few songs and pretend for a minute that I am a musician. Any my fellow campers were gracious enough to let me go there.
Church camps are fun. Every church should have one. Even if it takes a while to build momentum. Its worth the hard work in the end. And the main reasons people don’t or won’t? The messy stuff of real community. Living in close quarters. Being a little uncomfortable. Even more reasons to love church camp.
Those are my top 5…..what are yours?