I'm not quite a full week back from church camp and here and I am preparing to leave tomorrow on our mission trip to the gulf coast. I did want to share with you a few quick reactions to our week at camp and our attempts to ease the "programming" and focus more on spirituality, contemplation, and silence.
In a change from previous years, we chose to get the youth up later in the morning, not eating breakfast until 9:00 AM which made a big difference in every one's attitude and willingness to face a new day (including the adults!). After breakfast each day, everyone participated in "Morning Watch" -- a time spent alone in prayer, journaling, and silence. This was followed by an all-camp morning worship.
In the afternoon, we had a full 90 minutes of what we call F.O.B (Flat on Back time -- basically rest time, in the cabins, with the lights out). During our evening Vespers service each day, we spent time in silence, and in singing of contemplative Taize-style songs. Additionally, we had a prayer tent (see left) set up the whole week, complete with comfy pillows, where youth were free to go to be alone and pray. Our first two evening all-church activities included a relaxing swim night and a movie night, both low-key and restful for all involved, especially after busy days of creekwalking, arts and crafts, sports, etc.
All of this silence and contemplation led up to the Night of Silence. This was our first year trying this evening of creative prayer and no talking, and it was great. The youth were very thoughtful in putting together prayer stations for others to experience and no one seemed to have any trouble with the "no talking" part. This year it lasted for an hour and a half. I suspect we'll extend it even longer next year.
But what did the youth think of all this? Well, our senior high teens remarked that they noticed that camp was more restful and relaxing this summer and that they thought it was pretty cool. The adults, too, noticed a more peaceful feeling to the entire experience and I think we left camp more centered and ready for ministry than in past years. We discovered that silence, contemplation, and a focus on spirituality are indeed something that teens may not know they need, but when offered the chance they are eager to experience a deeper faith. How are your camp experiences going this summer?