What Camp Taught Me About Faith

I’ve been sitting at my home desk thinking about all of the “What ifs?” of this time we are living in. I will admit that this thinking has been less productive than I’d like. It’s more of a stressor than anything else.

Yet, all of this extra thinking time has also led to some fruitful self-reflection. Most recently, I began to think through the theological lessons I learned at camp that have stuck with me as an adult, and why I believe every child should experience faith-based camp ministry:

1. imago Dei: Literally the image of God. We at Pyoca name this as “All are welcome,” a core part of our mission statement, but it comes from our deep belief that all people are created in the image of God. And the beautiful thing about camp is that I have felt this deep sense of welcome and acknowledgement that I am a child of God at EVERY. SINGLE. CAMP. I have ever visited (of which, I must admit, have predominantly been Presbyterian).

The importance of this belief is that it is transferred to campers’ lives once they go home. It’s easy to think the people you’re surrounded by at camp have inherent value as children of God, but what does that look like when you are confronted with loving your neighbor back home?

2. Covenant: We are bound by our covenantal promises to God to give all glory to God and care for all of God’s Creation. This means that we are all interconnected and have a responsibility to care for every other aspect of Creation (that includes people). Everything we do, whether we acknowledge it or not, affects the rest of Creation.

At camp we have no choice: we are an intentional community. Everything we do, from making a mess around our bunks to the words we use, affects our cabinmates and the rest of our community. And guess what? Living in intentional community means we can’t run and hide from the messes we create. We have to confront them, and through conflict management, find the beauty of reconciliation on the other side.

3. Creation Care: More specifically, ecological care. At camp, it’s so easy to recognize our need to care for the natural world, we’re surrounded by it! But once we get home, it’s easy to forget about the ecological impact we make upon the world and our covenantal call to care for the rest of Creation. The first two chapters of Genesis and The Lorax are seared into my psyche because of my time spent at camp. And that may sound silly, but because of that experience I now stop and think as an adult about how my actions will affect our created world.

4. The Spirit is Everywhere: As we have all been made even more aware in recent weeks, Christ’s church is not bound by four walls. It’s everywhere! The work of the Spirit cannot be stopped. She’s dynamic.

5. Make a Joyful Noise: At camp nearly every part of the day is infused with worship. We wake up singing and end the day with vespers. Worship is a daily ritual that runs deep within our bones.

6. I am Loved, and Worthy of it: There’s so much theological baggage, particularly in the Presbyterian (Reformed) tradition, about humanity being unworthy of anything and focusing on our depravity.

It’s true, we are made whole from the sin and baggage we carry by the saving grace of Jesus. It’s also true that Jesus always saw us as worthy of being loved, even before we found that grace. And at camp I saw that love lived out. I felt it and learned that I mattered: my voice, my silliness, my presence, my very being.

For the lessons I learned and my faith that continues to be transformed by camp, I give resounding thanks to God.

Rev. Molly DeWitt, Program Director

I have to thank Pyoca alumna Sammie Smith for her beautiful master’s thesis that so eloquently elaborates on many of these theological tenets of camp.

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