“So rise and shine and give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!”
~ “Rise and Shine,” a traditional children’s song
“…every time the followers of Jesus have changed the world there was always a soundtrack.”
~ The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta
Last week we wrapped another successful summer of Camp EDOW, a two-week gathering of God’s young people in the beautiful pine forests of Southern Maryland. Now in its fourth year, Camp EDOW is a powerful and growing ministry that brings together children throughout the Diocese to have fun and learn our church’s stories and traditions, while living in Christian community. Sixty campers and a gaggle of lay and clergy leaders came to camp this year – from inner-city neighborhoods, suburban and rural communities, representing two dozen parishes and several Episcopal day schools.
Our site is Lions Camp Merrick in Nanjemoy (Charles County), an ideal camp setting – 320 acres of land that includes air-conditioned cabins, a swimming pool, an archery range, a ropes course and climbing wall, hiking trails, canoeing, and a dock stretching into the Potomac River. It is a sacred place, where bald eagles and herons fly overhead, cooling breezes come off the Potomac, and thousands of stars can be seen at night.
There are many stories I could share, but let me simply invite you to drop in for a slice of camp life…
It’s Thursday and Eucharist is being celebrated in the pool. Given all that water, it seems fitting that Noah serves as our exemplar of one stepping out in faith, in response to God’s call. As we gather in and around the shallow end, campers belt out “Rise and Shine,” a traditional children’s song that tells the Noah story with kid-friendly lyrics and an up-tempo beat. Miranda Marks then shares a dramatic (and humorous) reading of the story of Noah in Genesis, which includes God speaking with a Scottish brogue and Noah answering with a distinct Bronx accent.
In his reflection the Rev. Greg Syler shares a long-practiced daily ritual, a prayerful splashing of water that can help us each day to see ourselves as children of God. We share prayers and sing “One Love/People Get Ready” (with a nod to Jamaican Independence Day, also being celebrated this day). Awash in sunshine, we celebrate communion and sing a boisterous “O Mary, Don’t You Weep” to close our worship – then all jump into the cool, clear water amid laughter and shouts of unbridled joy.
The rest of the afternoon and Thursday evening goes by quickly. Lots of life and laughter as campers swim and join impromptu games of basketball, field hockey and Spit (a fast-paced card game). After dinner everyone gathers outside for a fun evening of karaoke and carnival games, which ends with an all-camp dance as fireflies come out and night descends.
Friday morning is a hive of activity as campers finish packing and get ready to leave. The bell rings and everyone goes to the dining hall for the Closing Eucharist. As we gather we first sing “Here I Am To Worship,” a new song introduced by Middle Camper Colleen. We then sing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” – well, joyfully! In his homily the Rev. David Wacaster encourages campers to have courage and to “bring a part of your Camp EDOW experience back home with you.”
All week the central element of our camp soundtrack has been the joyful, Spirit-filled singing of campers and staff. True to form we close with a rousing “Prince of Peace” – everyone sings loudly, the guitar rings out in open chords, the djembe and percussion provide a solid backbeat and rhythmic texture. Then we receive a final blessing and worship is over.
As the campers say goodbye and rejoin their families, the celebration continues reverberating off the walls. Standing there it seems clear that this isn’t simply a closing worship, an end to one summer’s adventures. It is also a liturgy of new beginnings, as we all take with us an essential lesson of the Camp EDOW experience: Know that you are loved for who you are. Be who you are now and grow into who you will become. Be kind, be thankful, keep God in there somewhere, play well with others – and remember to smile and laugh and sing and have fun.
The Rev. Kent Marcoux is Camp EDOW Worship Leader