Last night we welcomed the Episcopalian Diocese of Western Pennsylvania to Camp Nazareth to kickoff the camping season. For those of you who are unaware, Camp Nazareth has had a beautiful relationship with the Episcopalians and continues to maintain a closeness in Christ and in friendship. Over the course of the evening, CN staff had the opportunity to interact with the Episcopalian staff and campers. It called to mind the beautiful phrase from the Psalms "How good and pleasant it is when Gods people live together in unity." Although "we" are Orthodox and "they" are Episcopalian, that's merely a small detail in a rather large picture, because, to put it simply, at the end of the day we are all lovers and followers of Jesus Christ! This is the focal point of the mission of Camp Nazareth, to allow the nurturing of our natural instincts to seek God, to find Him and to love Him. It's evident by the joyousness of the campers and staff that they have a deep love for Christ and appreciation for Camp, just as much as we do.
I had the blessing to pray with the Episcopalians last night. The service was quite lovely and had many familiar elements that one would hear in an Orthodox vespers service. The preachers delivered homilies about serving God and His church, and how serving often means sacrifice. I could not help but consider the variety of ways people serve each other in the world we live in. Consider the military service - it requires serious sacrifice. Consider being a parent and the sacrifice involved in being selfless, so that your children can have everything they need. It's not very often we consider being Christian as an opportunity to serve and to sacrifice. I walked out of service with a mind full of food for thought.
When the service concluded, Father Stephen was asked to speak about the new low ropes course that has just been completed at camp. Due to heavy rain and thunder, we were required to stay indoors all evening and night. So instead of taking all the campers to the ropes course for the course blessing and dedication, we projected pictures of the course onto a projector screen so the group could see the ropes elements at camp. Naturally, everyone was excited!
As Father Stephen explained, the ropes course is designed to build teamwork, trust, discernment, problem solving, critical thinking skills, and the ability to overcome our fears and accomplish what might seem impossible. While the ropes course could be seen as simply an obstacle course, it can also be used as a tool to build our trust in God, our ability to overcome our daily temptations, to help us discern right and wrong, and to overcome our fears and accomplish a relationship with Christ in a deeper and more meaningful way. The bottom line is that the ropes course has an underlying purpose. Yes, it makes for fun, exercise and team building. But the lessons that come out of the ropes experience is one of priceless value.
At the conclusion of Father Stephens presentation of the ropes course, the course was blessed and dedicated in honor of Fr. Dennis, who has been an active member of the Episcopalian Diocese and has been involved with Camp Nazareth since nearly the founding of Camp Nazareth. Below are some pictures of the service.