Summer Camp — Planting Seeds for a Life of Meaning

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I wouldn’t say that attending summer camp is a pre-requisite for leading a life of meaning. But if I trace my life backward, many, many meaningful experiences have their roots in my days at summer camp.

I actually hated being a camper. Maybe that’s too strong. But I was homesick, I didn’t make friends easily, I rope-burned my hands (and was too ashamed to seek first aid), and the theology was a little intimidating (I didn’t use the word “theology” at the time, in case you’re wondering).

But when my brother phoned me early one summer to inform me of two things: 1. that he had had to fire 4 counsellors for smoking at their cabins and 2. I would taking one of their places, I hadn’t foreseen the new trajectory before me.

Portaging canoes is where I discovered the depth of my strength and endurance — a discovery that would serve me well playing football, running marathons and competing in triathlons…and sometimes enduring board meetings.

The high ropes course is where I learned to confront my fear — I often draw from that experience when venturing into unknowns situations.

Playing the role of camp counsellor is how I discovered my leadership potential — which, of course, is a work in progress.

I shudder to think which of my capacities might have remain covered to this day had I said “no” to my brother on the phone that day. Fortunately, I said a hesitant “yes” and that has brought incredible meaning to my life to date.

And now to plan that next canoe trip…

Greg, Nicole and Eliana (6 weeks) enjoying the canoe

Why the name, “Un-Church”?

Our Young Families Engagement group knew fairly early on that we wanted to launch something similar to what’s called Messy Church, which originated in England and has replicated all over the world. Many United Churches across Canada are doing Messy Church. We wanted to keep food central. We knew we wanted to teach what we saw were the core tenets of Christianity. We knew we wanted a time of singing and celebration.

But the term “Messy Church” didn’t sit quite right.

We also knew that Christianity carries a lot of baggage these days. Despite Canada’s holidays having a dominant Christian influence, Christianity itself is very much counter-cultural. And that’s as it should be: the movement Jesus of Nazareth began (or continued) millennia ago was a counter-cultural movement. And the forces of empire — such as excessive greed, dominance over others, or ecological destruction — are still at play. For many, the baggage of Christianity is too heavy to carry: the baby often gets thrown out with the bath water.

So we wanted to embrace the opportunity for people to unlearn what they assumed we at Castlegar United Church are about. We wanted to strip “church” back to its bare bones by asking what about a church is most important.

We foresaw it as a way to unwind because it meant at least one night without having to cook supper.

We foresaw it as a way to uncover the gems of Christianity that often get buried beneath the dirt.

We foresaw it as a way to understand how to make our own lives more peaceful for a more peace-filled world.

We wanted the word “church” in there somewhere, but we also wanted to communicate our desire to do things differently than we do on Sunday morning, and differently from how most imagine or assume we do things

And thus was born “Un-Church”.

Season of Christmas

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I’ve always had a hard time when exciting experiences come to an end. Even as a child, after a long weekend I’d be overcome with sadness at the prospect of going to school on Tuesday morning. And I liked school! For me, I think it was about not wanting to let go of the moments when all seems right.

Christmas Eve is often about creating a moment when all seems right, or when things are as they ought to be. Maybe it’s the peace and quiet of snow falling gently from the dark sky. Maybe it’s Silent Night sung to candlelight. Maybe it’s the anticipation of Jesus’ birth. (And, if I’m being honest, it’s also about the excitement at opening gifts that was implanted as a child and hasn’t quite left yet.)

So Boxing Day was always tough — the excitement is over, as is the moment when all seemed as it ought to be.

But the disciplined Christian recognizes that Christmas is neither a day, nor a moment. Rather, Christmas is a season lasting 12 full days, ending with Epiphany (on January 6 in our tradition). And that’s good for someone like me who has trouble when fleeting moments have, well, fleeted.

That Christmas is a season and not just a day means we can take the time to soak in the significance of divinity and humanity joining, or the significance of God making God’s self known in a vulnerable baby, or the significance of poor shepherds being the first to know the Good News.

A hangover of Christendom is the holidays in this part of the world aligning with Christian holy days. Let’s treat these holidays as the holy days they ought to be: time to reflect, imagine, and envision God’s kin-dom fulfilled. And let’s enjoy the company of friends and family, maybe over meals and boardgames.

Regardless, Merry (Season of) Christmas!

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