2015 Family Camp and Family Day at Camp Nazareth
From Friday, June 5 – Sunday, June 7, Camp Nazareth hosted its 3rd Annual Family Camp which culminated with Family Day on that Sunday. For those that made the “pilgrimage” to Camp it was a very peaceful and joyful weekend full of many blessings. While there were not as many families present this year as last, it made for a more intimate weekend among the participants.
The weekend began on Friday evening with check-in and registration of course, and then the families had opportunity to walk around the Camp and simply relax after being in their cars, some for nearly 7 hours. The Camp staff had worked hard (as they always do!) to prepare the Camp and make it ready for the Camp’s guests. And it was ready…trails were raked, the pool was a cool 74 degrees, the cabins were clean, the Church was newly “murphied”; everything was prepared as should be expected.
Following registration and an opportunity to walk around the Camp, the families gathered together in the pavilion for introductions, games and ice-breakers. Each of the Family Campers had an opportunity to introduce themselves. Games were played including one that involved a gigantic puzzle of our solar system. Simply putting together the puzzle was not the game. Learning that each family was going to be a part of a beautiful weekend and that they would contribute to that beautiful weekend was the point of putting a puzzle together with one another.
After the intros and ice-breakers, the families were invited to a Campfire at which the CN Staff was present to lead the group in some classic CN Campfire songs. It was a relaxing campfire during which families had the opportunity to enjoy time together singing, talking and simply taking pleasure in God’s beautiful creation. How often can families, do families, sit together like that late in the evening and enjoy each other’s company in the middle of the quiet and soothing hum of our Lord’s creation?
It was bedtime following the campfire. Families each had a cabin to themselves.
In the morning, the weekend participants were woken up “camp style” with a knock on their door and the greeting “Glory be to Jesus Christ!” After a time, the families gathered together in the Church for Morning Prayers. We sang the morning prayers together with the CN Staff helping lead the singing and then headed to breakfast. Again, it really is a blessing to wake up together as a family and pray with one another. How often does that happen?
Breakfast followed and then the parents and children were directed to their individual areas for some Faith Enrichment. The theme of the weekend was “Being free in Christ as a Family and yet living as His servants.” The children present were taught by Subdeacon William Bennett and Ileana Righetti Bennett. The adults were together with Fr. Stephen Loposky, the Administrator of Camp Nazareth. After a period of time the adults and children came back together for an opportunity to share what each had learned.
The families had an opportunity to rest and relax before lunch. The CN Staff were encouraged to sit with different families each meal to get to know them and also allow the families to get to know them. It was a way for the Camp to practice hospitality, for the Staff to gain new friends, and for our families to know they were welcome at Camp.
Following lunch, a series of games called the Family Challenge had been prepared for the families. These were a lot of fun, very creative and also had teaching aspects associated with them. In one game, parents had to direct their children (who were blindfolded and on all “sixes”) to rings placed on the ground using only verbal commands that began with “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” as a way to both teach the commandments, learn how to listen and give specific direction, and not rely on showing our children what to do, but helping them to learn for themselves. In another game, a slight modification of the first, children or the parents directed the other (who again were blindfolded and on all “sixes”) to strings on the ground that were connected to rings (virtues) using only commands that began with “Blessed are they who…” as a way to teach the Beatitudes as well as to “capture” the virtues and obtain them. The families also had challenges that involved balloons, and then others which involved toothpicks, marshmallows and what were hopefully excellent listening skills. The Family Challenge was great fun and helped get families working together, learning and having fun together.
There was an afternoon workshop for the parents and one for the children followed by a discussion and then some free-time during which families could enjoy the pool, go hiking, cruise on a slip-and-slide, play in the Rec Room, or just relax together. This was an opportunity for all the participants to choose what they wanted to do either together or separately.
After free-time, the families got ready for Great Vespers in the Church. It was wonderful to celebrate together the beginning of the Lord’s Day. After the Great Vespers, all sat together to enjoy dinner, and then it was getting ready for the second evening’s campfire which was fully stocked with smores!! There was a little less singing at this campfire. It was a little more subdued than the previous night’s one, but still very enjoyable especially because each was able to make their own smore!
Lights out came a while later that evening.
In the morning, the Family Camp participants joined together with those attending Family Day for the Family Day Divine Liturgy. Over 150 people gathered at the Camp Church for the Liturgy. Very Rev. Protopresbyter Kenneth Bachofsky, the Camp Overseer and Dean of the Youngstown Deanery celebrated the Divine Liturgy, with Fr. Matthew Stagon and Fr. Stephen Loposky con-celebrating. The liturgical responses were sung by the choir of St. Nicholas Church from Homestead, PA. Following the Divine Liturgy candles which were made by the children who participated in Family Camp were blessed. Also blessed was a new icon for the Camp Church. It was an icon of the Nativity of our Lord which was painted by Philip Zimmerman. The icon will be placed at the Table of Oblation. It was donated anonymously in loving memory of Metropolitan Nicholas and his godmother Rose Keretes.
The Family Day meal followed the Divine Liturgy. It included city chicken, roast beef, missy potatoes, salads, rolls, desserts and all the fixin’s of a delicious meal. (A note about the dessert which was called a Firecracker Bite. The CN Kitchen Staff had a “Bake-off” during the week and the winner of the Bake-off was able to make their dessert for the Family Day meal. The Kitchen Crew divided into 3 teams of 2 and came up with some super delicious desserts (all different kinds of cupcakes). But the Firecracker Bite won the day being a bite-size dessert consisting of cold chocolate mousse sandwiched between Nilla Wafers and topped with whip cream and a strawberry slice. Mmmmm. Sound good to you? Then I recommend that next time you come to Family Day!!
Following the meal the swimming pool was open for business. So was the Rec Room and Gift Shop. The Raffle took place and the Family Day attendees were able to walk the grounds and simply enjoy each other’s company. A few brave souls even tried the Slip N Slide which was set up heading down the hill toward Cabins 7 & 8. The Slip N Slide has really caught on the past couple years and now seems to be a permanent fixture of the Camp’s programs.
It was a beautiful day at Camp. It was a beautiful weekend for our families too. We tell the campers sometimes that Camp is our little part of paradise. It’s just a metaphor of course but with some truth in there. When we get to celebrate the Divine Liturgy together and be away from the hurry and hustle, and are able to breathe a little deeper at Camp, and then when we are able to linger long in a place dedicated to a holy purpose, consecrated, where for nearly 4 decades faithful have come to pray and pilgrimage, work and offer themselves to God, it makes us wonder what it must have been like in Paradise, in the Garden of Eden, where God walked among His people. And then it makes us long for the time to come when we will be able to be and stay in His Kingdom, where the Liturgy never ceases, and there is no other place to be or go because we are now walking with Him again in the “cool of the day”, in the place that does not see corruption, and from which all sickness, sighing and sorrow have simply fled away.
But Family Camp and Family Day are really just a couple days, ordinary and repetitious. But every day is a gift from God, and every day we celebrate the Divine Liturgy together is a special gift from God. And then every day we are able to truly fellowship and linger in that fellowship one with the other is a day to celebrate and for which to be truly grateful. Camp is not paradise, but there are moments in its life that make us long for Paradise, for the one needful thing. Family Camp and Family Day are just one of the moments.