More than 3,000 campers share a summer of spirt and truth

More than 3,000 campers share a summer of spirt and truth


From the September print edition of The Call

Early morning light filters green through the forest canopy. Ramsey Creek splashes softly behind the cross and altar. Sleepy-eyed counselors begin the first song of the day at morning watch. The minister-in-residence reads a Psalm. A community prayer starts with counselors and children adding their own needs and praises in single sentences. Another day at Buffalo Mountain begins …

Miles away a cross creates a dramatic silhouette as the light of the sunset bathes the ridges across the New River from Camp Dickenson. Children gather beside the river. Songs of praise float downstream with the waters. The Word is spoken, prayers are lifted, songs are sung …

Far to the south a lake mirrors the flickering luminaries in the half-light of dusk. Fireflies blink as celestial lights flicker into view in the gathering dark. At first, a few lights move along the side of the lake. Then more stream toward the campfire at the worship area as campers carry candles. Guitar music mingles with voices drifting across the lake. Another evening of summer worship begins at Camp Lookout

In the shadow of the Smokies, guitars, drums, and a mandolin call campers to worship at Wesley Woods for another evening of praise. Crickets, cicadas, and barred owl hoots join with the songs of children to fill the woods with holy sound glorifying God.  Another day comes to a close with worship …

Jesus said, “… an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

This summer I was struck again and again with spirit and truth, the authenticity, the sheer joy of worship at camp. Some worship occurs during scheduled services – morning watch, evening worship, vespers. Other worship erupts in a burst of laughter on the trail, a loudly sung (maybe shouted) before-meal blessing, a cheer from a group as one of their own reaches the top of the climbing tower. All of the worship rings true, is spirit-filled.

This past summer more than 3,000 children and youth attended camp at Buffalo Mountain, Dickenson, Lookout, and Wesley Woods. Many made commitments of faith but all experienced God’s love, all responded in worship. At various times, I was the celebrant in communion at all four camp sites this summer. The word “celebrant” was wonderfully appropriate as counselors and children joined to commune with one another in the Eucharist, the thanksgiving meal.

Children seem to have an innate capacity for worship, for living worshipfully. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he admonished the disciples (us) to become as children to be able to enter the Kingdom. Sometimes at camp I’m not entirely sure who is teacher and who is student. Sometimes, the Kingdom can be glimpsed at camp during worship – a worship in spirit and truth. 

The Rev. Charles Maynard is development officer for Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries.

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