After dinner yesterday evening, campers and staff covered themselves in bug spray and gathered, once again, near the flag pole in front of the dining hall. Camp Director Rita Yoe from Christ Church, Georgetown, told them we were going to start our evening activity. A short hike into the woods brought us to a lovely and intimate fire pit area near the ropes course. The Rev’d Kent Marcoux from St. George’s, DC led songs, several boys from one of the cabins offered prayers and there was, for a profound moment, genuine stillness in that space, real reflective quiet in that gathering.
“This is God’s cathedral,” the Rev’d Greg Syler from St. George’s, Valley Lee said, “so pray with your eyes open or pray with your eyes closed.” And they genuinely did, they genuinely sat and soaked themselves in prayer, this wonderful and diverse and occasionally fidgety and truly real community called Camp EDOW. Once again, as scripture tells us has happened in the past, there opened one of those “be still” moments: “…take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”
Technically, we were at the point on the daily schedule that said “Worship/Holy Eucharist/Campfire,” but at Camp EDOW it’s hard to tell where church, proper, begins and another activity ends: scripture stories are opened up at the poolside just as much the cabin just as much as on a porch overlooking the Potomac River; prayer is offered on a walk through the woods just as much as when we gather for Evening Prayer at the setting of the sun; concepts like grace and reconciliation aren’t just talked about as much as they are put in practice, helping campers learn how to live in community with one another; free swim, archery, ropes course elements, canoeing, and arts and crafts are led by staff who have their hearts set on the safety and well-being of these campers and God is truly reflected in the careful practices of love which are the hallmark of all great camping programs.
Back in the woods, another camper stood and read the story of Ananias from Acts of the Apostles, a story about God telling God’s people to welcome the outsider, even one whom they fear and, possibly, greatly dislike. These kids this first week at camp are 8 years old, some of them 11 at the oldest, and they know, firsthand, what anger and violence and fear and rejection feel like. They know this, sadly; some of them all too well. They also know and have experienced that range of things here at Camp EDOW, but they also know, and are experiencing once again here at camp another story: the story of Jesus and those who follow him, the only story we have the audacity to call good news. They know there’s something special about Camp EDOW; there’s something special, but not really unique to camp. They also experience this gift in their families when they hold hands around their dinner table and give God thanks. They experience it in their parish churches and, for some, their schools, those special places in which faith and life are brought that much closer together.
A sermon followed the scripture reading and we took another, longer hike through the woods, during which they were asked whether there is another way beyond anger and violence and what, if there is, this other way to live is. That hike brought us to the archery range, where there was an altar table set and at which the Rev’d Kristen Hawley from Christ Church, Georgetown, greeted the campers. “What is this other way?” they were asked. “Listen to one another,” was a response, or “hope” or “faith” or “love.” Following which, Kristen and this special community called camp celebrate what the earliest followers of Jesus called a love feast¸taking bread and wine, just as they did, and proclaiming that those substances, indeed like us, become through God’s grace and our presence the literal and living Real Presence of Christ.
Your camp kids will also tell you we took another short hike to the fire pit where everyone got s’mores and the staff led the most fun, loud, and festive camp songs you’ve ever heard, the kids joining in with smiles and voices, too. To be honest, that’s probably the first thing they’ll tell you about: the s’mores and the songs and the fireflies and the love they’re feeling and the ways in which they’ve learned to stretch and grow and live in this varied and, sometimes, strange and always holy gift called community grounded in Jesus.
The Rev. Greg Syler is Rector of St. George’s, Valley Lee, Maryland.
More information about Camp EDOW is available here.
Atonement Episcopal Church in Southeast Washington, D.C. is working to build up young men in their community through empowerment and job training through a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), for young men ranging in ages 17-24, to prepare them for the workforce.
The 14 young men enrolled will receive two weeks of training before being sent out to work in restaurants.
The church has worked diligently in efforts of community outreach, emphasized by the rector of Atonement, Reverend Jocelyn Irving.
“Hopefully they’ll get a sense of the kinds of improvements that can be made in the community by entering the workforce.”
Obie Pinckney, the director of the Atonement SYEP, who served as senior warden for three years and chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, from which the outreach for young men in the community was built, said that many of these young men are coming from backgrounds where there was no strong male authority figure. Over half of the participants live in Ward 7, where Atonement is located, while a few of the men are from Wards 6 and 8.
“Hopefully they’ll get a sense of the kinds of improvements that can be made in the community by entering the workforce,” said Pinckney.
Pinckney said the Atonement Men’s Club and Brotherhood of St. Andrew’s created the program for young men in the community to learn how to function in a work environment.
In the first week of training the men will have four-hour sessions at the church, where they will do workshops, hear from speakers who have had success in the restaurant industry, visit a restaurant kitchen, and meet with the manager.
The second week of the program will be at Training Source, Inc., where they will train for five days in order to work on the job the following Monday.
The church is paying for the young men to take an eight-hour food certification training followed by a test to ensure they are ready to work in a restaurant.
Each young man will be paid for participating in the program and receive metro passes to ensure they can afford transportation to and from work.
What makes this program different is that it is built on a Christian foundation and although the mentors won’t be preaching their theology to the young men, Pinckney said the church hopes participants will see their religious values reflected through attitude and principles of right and wrong.
“We feel that the mentoring aspect is critical”, said Pinckney, who has set up the program so that there will be one mentor to every two SYEP participants. The men of Atonement will serve as examples and motivation for the young men, as they have found success in doing what the program members are venturing out to do.
There are about fifteen church members certified to handle food, one of whom will also be teaching the course to the young men as part of the program.
Pinckney joked that the mentors will hopefully create some friendly competition with the participants since all the “old guys” were able to pass the certification test the first time.
The program is created to be “used for more than temporary employment,” said Pinckney.
The restaurants have agreed to keep the men after the SYEP is over as long as they perform up to par in the restaurant.
July 6, 2015
Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington,
The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church has adjourned, and on behalf of our entire diocesan deputation, Episcopal Church Women delegates, and volunteers who joined us in Salt Lake City, I express our deep gratitude for the privilege of representing the Diocese of Washington at this momentous gathering. Our overarching experience was one of renewed faith in God, hope for the future of the Episcopal Church, and energy for the work ahead. I confess to nearly bursting with pride as I watched our diocesan members in action! Please join me in thanking them.
We are now in the process of gathering materials and organizing ourselves to bring back all that this General Convention sets before us. Some of the decisions made will have immediate implications; others will be more long term. Some resolutions passed affirm and strengthen the work we have undertaken as a diocese; others will challenge us in new directions.
The EDOW deputation and I plan to hold special meetings with diocesan leadership bodies in August, to which all will be welcome. And we will carry the decisions of General Convention forward in our work as a diocese in the months ahead.
We also have the honor of hosting the installation of Presiding-bishop elect Michael Curry at Washington National Cathedral on November 1. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Bishop Curry preach, take the time to watch his sermon at General Convention or any other event available to you online. As the Bishop of Rhode Island, Nick Knisely (@wnknisely), tweeted, “It’s impossible to listen to Michael Curry preach without smiling through your tears.” Bishop Curry has also written two books, Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus (2013), and Songs My Grandma Sang (2015) Great summer reading for us all!
There is ample information about General Convention on a variety of websites, includingThe Episcopal News Service, Episcopal Cafe and Deputy News.
I will be on vacation until August 2nd. Know that I hold you in my heart and prayers always, and give thanks to God every day for the privilege of serving as your bishop.
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, D.Min.
Bishop of Washington
EDOW General Convention page
I celebrate our church’s decision to name the sacred, life-long commitment of gay and lesbian couples for what we experience it to be – a marriage, not only according to the laws of the state but also in Christian community. Christian gay and lesbian couples are as blessed when they stand before God to make their courageous vows as straight couples. Now we as a church can unequivocally stand alongside them, offering our blessing and gratitude for their love and commitment.
The Episcopal Church also recognizes that not all of our members agree with this decision, and in no way are clergy forced to preside at any marriage. But neither are gay and lesbian couples to be denied this sacramental blessing, for which I give thanks to God. We have walked a long road to arrive at this place and today is a joyful day.