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Summer Camp for Church Nerds

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The Grace Memorial team at the College for Congregation Development.

From Jessica Skinner, member of Grace Memorial, Portland.

As summer slips away, it seems appropriate to reflect on how it began. For me, the beginning of all this sunshine was marked by a trip up to the Dumas Bay Centre in Federal Way for the College for Congregational Development. The CCD is a gathering of folks – lay and clergy – that spend a week learning how to better serve, grow and lead their congregations. It is a week of rejoicing and exploring the beautiful messiness within others, within ourselves and within our churches.

I overheard one member who I think captured the College best – “this is summer camp for church nerds!” And indeed, the beautiful campus, the energetic leaders, the frenzy of new friendships and the shared meal and song all harken back to the good ol’ camp days. Just like summer camp, folks come alone or in a group, from near or from far. Many of those who go to the College come from parishes within the Diocese of Olympia itself, but there were others who came from all over the country this year.

Our particular team of four road-tripped up to Dumas Bay from Grace Memorial in Portland. For the majority of the week, we moved throughout the College in our own little team unit – we began our days with morning prayer and ended them with compline, we explored the campus together, we encouraged and challenged each other, we shared stories and meals (delicious), we studied, learned, laughed  and dreamed.

There is beauty in being part of a team, being part of the otherwise-randomness.

Suddenly, here is a group of people that may never have been in the same room if not for this one unique shared thing – we see this in sports, in music, in literature, in theatre, in church. A team is a group of otherwise-random-individuals that are not just united by shared interest but united by shared motivation. There is always some sort of end goal. It is in the moving towards some-not-yet, in the doing, that transforms a gathering of people into a team.

I suppose that this shared life, this movement towards some-not-yet is one thing that drew me towards the Episcopal Church. Enchanted by tradition, by liturgy, by sacrament – by all the things that have, and are, and will continue enchanting others before and after me. And indeed, the Christian life can take no other form than a common one. We read from a Book of Common Prayer, after all!

The four of us from Grace experienced all of the loveliness and laughter and learning-learning-learning that the College has to offer as a team. And I think too, we witnessed a bit of a metaphor for the body of Christ. For the Christian life is a common one and it is an enacted one. The body of Christ is God’s strategy – it is both identity and goal, beginning and end. Richard Rohr calls the spiritual family both God’s “medium and message.”

May we all be swept up in this motion, this medium, this message. And may we all bring a bit of summer camp back home to our parishes.

2 Responses to "Summer Camp for Church Nerds"
  1. Ann Fontaine says:

    Thanks for this — gives me so much hope for the church.

  2. Jack Mandeville says:

    I am not sure I would ever make this work with my schedule but as a self-professed “church nerd” I think it sounds awesome! So glad you had the experience!

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