July 27, 2016

On Starting New Things

I’m writing this post from Lion’s Camp Merrick, a beautiful camp set along the picturesque shores of the Potomac River – looking west about a mile to the Virginia shore – in far western Charles County, Maryland. This is where our diocesan summer camp, Camp EDOW – the acronym stands for Episcopal Diocese of Washington – is kicking off its fifth year. (Truth be told, I’ve just stepped in to write this blog in a lovely air conditioned cabin, an added blessing given that the thermometer’s 91 degrees actually only feels like 100 right now in southern Maryland!) This is a beautiful place to begin with, and made even more special by the happy sounds of children and counselors, ropes course elements, and the daily challenge of archery, swimming in the pool and canoeing on the river, Eucharist celebrated atop an overturned canoe, and bible study late at night by candlelight in the cabins.

But I’m also humbled and thrilled that, for one, we have this camp opportunity in our diocese and, two, this ministry continues to catch hold of kids, families, adults, and staff who feel drawn to this amazing experience and come back to Camp EDOW, year after year.

Which is to say, in short, I am reminded every summer at Camp EDOW that we can create new, vibrant ministries in our church. More, doing so doesn’t require hugely innovative ideas (sleep away camp, for instance, has been around for a long while) and it doesn’t take too much effort (there’s consistent work, don’t get me wrong, but we started with one week, five or six adults who formed a committee, and the hopes that families might send their children).

What Camp EDOW, in particular, did require was a hope, a desire, and a commitment to do something well, even if it wasn’t big or splashy; just well. I think this lesson applies to many of us who love Jesus and, to boot, love His Church.

Our diocese is the newest of Maryland’s three Episcopal judicatories. The Diocese of Washington was created after some Episcopalians came up with the idea to build in the District of Columbia a ‘National Cathedral.’ If you have a cathedral then, obviously, you need a diocese. (Of course, pretty much everywhere else that happened the other way around.) Nine years ago, when I arrived, this diocese didn’t have a tradition of sponsoring a church camp, not to mention all the necessary energy that went along with robust camp ministries, although congregations and families have long had ties to other established camping programs, including among them the camps in the dioceses of Delaware, Maryland, and Easton, just to name a few.

And yet we have lots of camps within the geographic boundaries of our diocese, the largest single portion of which includes what we call ‘southern Maryland’ – these counties running south along the Potomac River to the west, and the Patuxent River and, further south, the Chesapeake Bay to the east. It’s this part of the diocese to which I accepted a call as rector of St. George’s Church in St. Mary’s County – where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake. While I love being a part of a diocesan community that includes a major city, expansive suburbs, and truly rural segments, I also wanted to celebrate the ministry of place, especially this place to which God called me. St. George’s Church and St. Mary’s County and southern Maryland are not, by any stretch, akin to the grandeur of the Washington National Cathedral, but our expansive beauty is the water, the land, the trees, and the space to get away and re-create. Why couldn’t we celebrate what God has given us, with the people God has sent, in the spaces to which God has called us? I asked that question years ago and raised the possibility of a diocesan summer camp. Camp, specifically Camp EDOW became our answer, but not because I proposed it but because the Spirit moved through our diocesan community, raising up leaders, established and new. The Holy Spirit continues to do that marvelous work through us and through this camp ministry, continuing this summer, too.

I guess I should say that not every church needs a camp, and not every kid should go to camp, but as a former camper and, I hope, lifetime camp counselor I’m simply compelled to make the pitch for the importance of camp ministry, especially in the Episcopal Church.

But whatever that call is, and wherever your place in God’s kingdom, let this post be a simple inspiration to start something new, kick off something fresh. It doesn’t have to be new or radical or especially innovative. It doesn’t have to be a program, or even a summer camp. It doesn’t even have to have a ten-year strategic plan, for that matter. All it needs, that is, all the Body of Christ needs is for those who follow Jesus to start something new, and do it well in the Spirit! 

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