It all just seemed to go by in a blink of an eye, didn't it? I feel like it was just yesterday I was writing the first ever blog post introducing all the staff, just last night I was posting about the first evening of the summer with St. George's Session 1. So much has happened this summer. Hundreds of campers came through and had their lives changed as love was showered upon them by all who work to bring them an amazing summer. From the Program Lead coordinating all camp Kingball to Cabin Counselors creating their cabin count off to Chaplains planning for what reading or Bible passage to focus on for worship or for Chaplain's time, so much love and energy was pushed into every second of camp.
Most everyone has left the mountain as of today, August 7th 2023, leaving only ~ 7 of us in Vienna to clean up the last of camp and prepare for next year. Last night to take a load off before digging deep into cleaning today, we shared with one another stories and feedback we have received from parents and kids who have left the mountain. James shared with us about a few parent emails he received who thanked him from the bottom of their hearts, about their campers who went home and experienced Missing Camp for the first time, as I like to call it; that moment when they're happy to be home, but wishing they were also back on the mountain. How they are already wishing they could come back, already asking to go next year, already preparing their packing lists for when the time comess.
Missing Camp is not quite like Missing Home - which happens to all of us here on the mountain at least once or twice - where we are yearning for our own beds, a less extreme wake-up time, our families. But Missing Camp is a feeling we all experience when we go home, letting our bodies hit our bedroom pillows in relief but then finding the inexplicably hollow point in our chests that we won't be singing the Goodnight song together before we go to sleep, that we won't be having feeling checks with our cabins and we won't be playing any evening games or participating in any electives tomorrow. That we won't see our cabin mates, our friends, our counselors, tomorrow or even the day after. It doesn't help to know that next year won't be the same; there will be different people on the mountain, different cabin counselors, different leadership, maybe even different camp structures. Camp as we know it is over.
But there's a beauty in that. That makes the memories made all the more precious, something to share when we return next June. Memories of what we loved and what went well to influence how we want camp to be this year, guided by our hearts to create new memories. Yes, camp is over, no, we'll never have the exact same moments like it again... but there is one thing that will always stay the same, and that is the sense of belonging. That everyone has a place here, regardless of where we are coming from because we all want to get to the same place, a place of unity, a place of total commitment to community.
It's nice to reflect on the summer, though I find that many times my reflection turns into yearning turns into Missing Camp, so I'll only go a little further. I remember earlier this year when I was just starting to write the blog that a camper asked me what the blog is for. "Why bother with that when there's like, Instagram and stuff?" they'd said specifically. I remember because it had gotten me thinking; what is my purpose with the blog? What am I accomplishing that's different than the awesome hard workers on the Shrine Mont Camp social media?
And I finally decided what does make it different is that ultimately, the social media people are trying to keep their own voices hidden in their posts. They are posting about the organic camp experience and showing people what is going on at camp, but not from their specific perspective.
So I think what makes the blog so special, what I tried to capture and cultivate this summer, was using my voice with intention. Showing you my perspective, my experience, to be a voice for the campers and their camp experience. I was a camper since I was 8 years old, and as soon as I was old enough (and actually a little before then, too) I jumped at the chance to work make the magic of my childhood a reality for other kids. I intimately remember being a camper, how chaotic and insane and fun and whole I felt while there, and watching those same feelings bloom in the campers' hearts while they are with us.
I hope it was effective. I hope that came across, that in reading this you felt a bit like a camper, seeing everything they were doing, what they were feeling, to capture what camp really means.
So until next time, dear reader. As we say at camp, this is not goodbye, but see you later. Our circle is only getting bigger.
Shrine Mont Camp is an inspiring place for all of us, not just our campers or even those who visit the mountain for a day. There's just something so special about camp that transcends just the programming experience that touches us all throughout our lives. Some of us choose to express ourselves and our stories in creative ways, such as poems, short stories, sermans, even running lists and pictures. I wanted to share with you those stories I heard from those who have been touched by this place.
Holy Me - Finn
an awesome camper who performed at St. George's Session IV Talent Show
I plant my feet in the newly dewed grasses of the land,
I want to go back to summer camp - by John Henry
assistant director of camper care
I want to go back to summer camp
Here I Am - Jasmine
ooc for St. George's
Thoughts on Camp - Sarah
elective lead in St. George's Session IV
I was working at shrine mont camps in the summer of 2019 when my uncle died unexpectedly. It was the middle of staff training week, and I was hiking up the hill to St. George’s when my mom called me. One of my childhood friends saw me burst into tears and came running down the hill, enveloping me in a hug. He stayed with me through the call, reassured my mom that I would be okay, and then walked with me down to the camp office.
unrealistic expectations - by me!
i tick in a slow clock that quickens with tiny heartbeats hiking up that hill
What am I supposed to do while I'm here? - Jordan
Infirmary Counselor and Cabin Counselor for SHYC
On the Mountaintop - anonymous
Magical and free
In each of our St. George’s and All Saints sessions, we each had fun electives where kids could explore interests they've never tried, or dig deeper into a pre-existing passion. At the beginning of the week, the campers would get a signup sheet for one of a handful of electives that they would go to every morning after breakfast until just before lunch when they’d have either cabin clean up or camper free time, or some mix of both.
The St. George’s Session 1 Elective Leaders were Stephen (he/him), Hollis (he/him), and Alexis (she/her). Stephen taught a super fun martial arts elective where he taught campers the basics of karate. Alexis, also our Communications Assistant Director, taught a theater elective for the older kids at St. G’s, playing all kinds of fun improvization and theater games and honing in on their creative instincts. Hollis was heading a rather interesting elective that he called “Career Counseling,” where he showed the campers all about life in business; he taught the kids about traffic and commuting (in games of red light - green light), how to talk at the water cooler with their co-workers, dressing professionally by making paper ties to wear, and avoiding tasks from the manager (by playing ghosts in the graveyard, except the ghosts are your co-workers). All 3 electives were fun and hilarious for all who took them, I'd say all thanks to the talented people who led them!
The St. George’s Session 2 Elective Leaders were Hadley (she/her), Caroline G. (she/her), and Kathryn (she/her). Hadley taught an outdoorsy exploration elective where they practiced survival skills such as building lean-tos and fire-making. Caroline G. ran the Olympics elective where the kids competed in several sports to represent countries of their own making, earning medals of honor by the end of the week. Kathryn, not only being a knowledgeable and talented artist but also a former director of Art Camp, ran the art elective where they sketched and learned about colors and color theory - neat!
The St. George’s Session 3 Elective Leaders were Jacob (he/him) and Nora (she/her), Amasa (they/he), and me (Liam, he/him)! Jacob and Nora headed the games-games-games elective where they played all kinds of games-games-games! Amasa ran a geocaching exploration elective where they hiked and explored all different areas and found different “geocaches,” which are little spots in geographically neat areas where you can take or leave something in the cache for others to find later, kind of like treasure hunting. I led the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) elective where they learned about stories, collaborative storytelling, character creation, and the D&D system so that they could tell a story together, being their own main characters!
During the same week, All Saints' Elective Leaders were Clara (she/her) with MATS (Music, Art, Theatre) and Frannie (she/they) with an exciting sports and exploration elective, where they played games and hiked all over the mountain! Clara’s elective performed the song Rise and Shine (which is about the bible story of Noah) with fun movements and props, including a 2 person horse costume, a big blue tarp, cutouts of animals, the sun, and rain clouds.
The St. George’s Session 4 Elective Leaders were split into two parts, one half for the older half of campers 11-14 and the other half for the younger half of campers 8-11: Sarah (she/her), Rosa (she/her), Olivia (she/her), Emme (she/her), and I led electives in this session! Olivia and I led the older kids and Emme, Sarah, and Rosa led electives for the younger kids. Emme ran a really fun art elective where her campers made fairy houses, friendship bracelets, and all sorts of really cool stuff! Sarah led an outdoor elective where they learned how to build fires and lean-to's. Rosa led the “Questing” elective where the kids would go on quests to accomplish different fun activities, exploring the Orkney Spring, exploring themselves at the Labyrinth, and more! And again I ran the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) elective, though with a bit more time for playing the game and the system and less time digging into what is and how to do story-telling.
These humans would work along with the counselors who hung out with the kids doing regular ole camp things to support and better the wellfare of the kids in their care. They were an absolutely awesome group of fantastic and loving individuals; we could not have done camp without their guidance and support, for the campers and for the counselor staff alike.
St. Elizabeth's Session II is now in full swing, and our campers, volunteers, and staff are having an absolute blast. Some of our campers liked coming to camp so much that they did it twice! So far they've had a fun two days of games and art, playing what we like to call Counselor Bowling where the counselors are the pins. Haha! They've been getting to know one another, their volunteer buddies, and their staff and are having a blast. So far pool time has been the highlight of their daily schedule; the campers really enjoy spending time together by jumping in, playing games, splashing each other, and relaxing in the shade. The campers have also enjoyed outdoor camp activities like a campfire, canoeing, and fishing - and not from flipping the canoe. Always a win!
Last night, St. Elizabeth's evening program was Shark Tank, but with a twist; the 'investors' were aliens from far away world. Fleep Floop is out of this world in their black space suit, the other alien's name is unpronounceable in English but roughly translates to Jimothy, and they came prepared knowing that "business casual" was the least threatening attire humans wear. These aliens wanted to learn about camp, and so the campers pitched to them different ways and technologies they could invest in to learn about camp life. Shark Tank - or as I'm starting to call it, Alien Tank - ended with a dance, uniting campers, volunteers, staff, and aliens as one body!
This is because St. Elizabeth's theme this year is outer space, emphasizing how each camper and staff are stars with unique gifts. The cabin names for this session, for example, are the Crab Nebula (aka the Crabin), Tat2ine, and Cabin Saturn. The director's cabin is even been dubbed "the Mothership"! So far they've done all kind sof space themed activities such as Alien tank including making and decorating astronaut helmets and filling galaxy themed glitter bottles! Of course, like all of Shrine Mont Camp, St. Elizabeth's also teaches the Body Passage, which I've talked about in another post, and the campers get to explore this passage during Chaplain's Time, where they took pictures of their different body parts (arms, legs, heads) and pieced them together to show how they are all parts of one body!
We still have another half of camp left to go, and it's already going so great that we know it will pass by in a blink of an eye.
Special thanks to Ad Lester, Assistant Director at St. E's, for co-writing this post!
After a week filled of fun, of laughter, of tears of joy and plenty of sweat, Shrine Mont Camp has closed the largest session on the mountain of the summer. We laughed together, we played together, we grew in connection with one another to continue growing the Body of Camp, and the Body of Christ. Our last evening program we had a talent show where our kids did funny skits, told jokes, read poems, and danced, where afterward we sang the goodnight song and about half the camp left with wet eyes from the realization that camp was over. From camping either at Seven Springs, or glamping on the Upper Ballfield, to Kingball and cozy movie nights, the campers grew together and grew to realize that they are capable of anything. That is the beauty of what camp instills in their hearts; nothing is impossible when they have support and friends alongside them to do the hard things - and the fun and easy things - with them!
Closing itself was a beautiful service; after marching in to the Shrine singing When the Saints Come Marching in, the parents got to meet everyone involved in Camp on the mountain this week. The campers read the Body Passage, we sang our favorite camp songs, and then concluded with Will The Circle Be Unbroken while we tied the pieces of the Body String to each of our campers to take with them into the valley of the world. There are always two open ends on the string - as Adam, the Space and Spirit Lead for St. G's IV so eloquently said - because our circle is always open for more people to join our community and the Body of Christ. We sent them "into the world in peace to love and serve the Lord," as we usually say before we give the Peace, and after tearful farewells, St. George's has left the mountain for the summer.
However, it's not goodbye. We always say at camp that it's not goodbye, it's see you later, because we are all together in the Body that we can't stay apart for too long. So to St. George's campers - and staff that have left the mountain as of today - I say, "See you later! Hopefully next summer!"
After a fun couple of days together, St. Elizabeth's Session I has closed. It was a blast of new experiences in the outdoors, from a movie night, cookout, campfire, and talent show! The campers meshed well with their volunteer buddies, and had a great time together doing all things camp! They sang, they played in the pool, they canoed, they fished, they hiked, they made art, they danced, we ate good food, and we laughed.
Marie, Ad, and Ruth, our leadership, led a fantastic group of staff and volunteers through a fun filled week, stepping outside of comfort zones and social circles to interact with all new sorts of kinds of people. Laughter and joyful noise radiated from the Happy Pavilion during the St. E's talent show, where the campers, volunteers, and staff showed their stuff with songs, music, dancing, and more!
It was a wonderful week, thanks to the awesome work from our volunteers, without whom none of this could have been possible.
Are you a camper that is too old to go to our All Saints Camp or St. George's?
Then you should come be a Volunteer at St. Elizabeth's!
Volunteering for St. E’s is a great opportunity for people age 15+ to participate in camp by spending time with campers and assisting them with daily activities! It’s a lot of fun and a great stepping stone between being a camper and a counselor.
Applications generally open up in December or January, so keep an eye on the Shrine Mont Camp website to apply!
This week on the mountain is going to be our busiest one yet! We opened 4 - FOUR! - camps yesterday. St. Elizabeth's Session 1, St. George's Session 4, SHYC (Senior High Youth Conference), and The Great: our older exploration camp. With St. George's session also filled with almost 100 kids, it's our biggest camp of the summer as well, so it's going to be a mountain full of love - and children! WOO!
St. George's has a fun filled night after camp opened. They had their first all camp worship, evening games and then their first night's evening program: OLYMPICS! They competed in community in fun Olympic-style challenges: a 2 legged race, passing-the-hullahoop, and some light tossing. A great start to a great summer!
SHYC also participated in their own version of camp Olympics as well, which I hear was a definite blast. The Great participated in a fun scavenger hunt in preparation for an excursion off the mountain over the next 4 days. I hope to hang out with SHYC and the Great later this week to get insight on what they're up to, though right now I am leading an elective with the older kids at St. G's - it'll be a blast, and more on electives later! But SHYC I know did have a fantastic time at worship; many kids brought their instruments to camp, bringing a gloriously joyful noise!
St. Elizabeth's had a nice time getting to know one another over the past 24 hours, bonding with our leadership and volunteer staff buddies who accompany them throughout their time on the mountain. Gabi had on a very space warrior outfit for some of our fun activities which I thought was very funky and fun. Great vibes up at St. E's!
There's more to come later on, so stay tuned for the next post!
Pumpkin is one of the few of our resident beloved cats on the mountain. One who has gone to camp here may know her as she is orange, soft, and extremely friendly, oftentimes trotting up to people while meowing and greeting them with a headbutt or a rub against a leg. She is what I like to call the Assistant Director of Cuteness at Shrine Mont Camps and she bears the title well.
She is not all boops and pets though, those teeth are not just for show; she is as fierce as they come. She's been known to be a bit of a menace to the local fauna, making herself well known across the mountain. She's usually found around the Moomaw's house, seeing as that is her usual home, but has been known to wander as far as up to St. George's.
If you happen to see a fluffy, orange friend throughout your travels, be sure to give Pumpkin the Honorific Greeting of Cat with a little pspspsps and let her know how much you appreciate her hard work around the mountain, uplifting and nuzzling the hearts of all who encounter her.
Edit: additional picture
This passage from the Bible might be familiar to many camp returners, as it is a very popular with Shrine Monters and St. George's folks especially, but I thought to share the passage that is essentially the guiding force of all of Shrine Mont Camps. What the Body of Christ can mean is different from person to person, from camper to camper, from counselor to counselor, from parent to parent, and I thought to share the thoughts about the passage from those of us here on the mountain.
"There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts."
I asked some of the members of the Camps body what the body passage means to them, and shared their answers down below.
"The part that's like 'to the members with less honor get greatest honor' is the best part. It's like, so therefore to the people who don't have anything should have more because we are all one. We're all in this together, even if we aren't all religious, or aren't all the same religion, or aren't all under the same flag. At the end of the day we are all people." - Raphael
The body strings is a way that we bring the body passage to life at camp. Body strings are cut from one massive string of paracord and then knotted into bracelets that we give to every person who is a part of our Camp Body. It shows that while all the pieces are separate, together they form one paracord - one body - and that we embody all of its pieces. It's been a St. George's tradition for many many years, and over the past 5 years we've been introducing it to all of our camps because it so embodies our culture and mission.
I asked a couple other people about what the body strings mean to them, and here are some of their answers.
"For me its a visual reminder and physical touchstone of the community where I feel I truly belong, so even when I'm not there, its with me." - Paige
Every camper leaves the mountain with a piece of the Body with them. It all started several years ago with St. George's Camp, but has since then been expanded to all Shrine Mont Camps. We have a tradition that on the first night of camp we cut the body string, burn the ends, and tie them onto campers wrists to wear with them all week. Then it takes in the camp experience; all the joy, all the excitement, all the sweat, all the pool chlorine, everything about being at camp. Then, on the last day of camp, we recollect all the Body strings and make it into a Body Necklace, an incomplete circle that everyone in the camp takes turns wearing it throughout the course of the day so that by the Closing Ceremony the following day, the necklace will be taken off and split apart once more, one string given to a new owner to take with them off the mountain. And usually, odds are that the camper is taking the body string that someone else was wearing throughout camp, bringing us as a whole closer together.
As St. George's Session 3, Family Camp, and All Saints have opened this week, I wanted to bring about this reminder of the Camp Body; it extends outside of just the camp each camper goes to, as ultimately we all are bound in Shrine Mont Camps together. It's a beautiful thing to create such an iron clad community, and it showcases what I think is the most important part about the body string: it doesn't have an end. In theory, the Body can expand ever more, always striving to include others in our community and show them the grace and beauty of being a part of a place that totally accepts you, no matter what.
Great news from the mountain! The beloved St. Cecilia's, the little chapel in the woods that lies between Woodward and Bear Wallow campsites, has been struggling a bit from the wear and tear of the elements that have battered it over the years. Legs and bench bodies rotted out, shattered tree trunks lying in the center, alter top completely gone, it was an utter shame.
But fortunately, with the hard work and help from the staff of All Saints Camp (as well as the Infirmary Counselors!) opening later this week, we were able to give this facet of camp the refreshed support she needed! We worked all throughout this Sunday, devoting our sweat into fashioning new supports, ripping out the rotting wood from the alter and benches, and driving stakes into the ground to make sure the benches will no longer topple on the uncertain terrain!
Even though a brief thunderstorm nearly rained us out (and thoroughly drenched us), we had a nice lunch of hotel fried chicken to refuel us to get back into the groove after the storm had passed. Now, St. Cecelia's is open for use once more, and later this week once things have dried out a bit we will be able to slap on a coat of stain/paint to make it look as beautiful as its surroundings. Cheers to Matt Smith, an off the mountain member of our camp family, for spearheading the project and providing the power tools to get the job done, and for Jennifer Smith for helping to coordinate, and also for taking the pictures! (Thanks, Mom! <3)