Our nation is one week into protesting the unlawful killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor and David McAtee in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in South Georgia. My heart is heavy and my anxiety has been through the roof, all while we prepare this new Camp to You program.
So far, putting together these camper and alumni outreach programs this summer has been life-giving for Mike and I. After losing the camp experience this summer, we were grateful to be able to connect with you in some way to show you our love.
The pandemic reshaped all of our lives so drastically and as a church we were able to shift to serving our communities and congregations in new ways with energy, imagination, intelligence, and love. Nothing from our lives four months ago looks the same. We have found a new rhythm and new normal since COVID-19 made its way across the U.S.
As I write today, I pray that our nation is still working hard to find a new normal, one where the lives of our Black brothers and sisters are valued by all. One where justice is equal and equitable. One where racism and white supremacy is deemed a sin that white folks and our country need to confess and repent.
While I say these things, we cannot deny that Pyoca has historically been primarily accessible to white folks. The assumption for many outdoor spaces like camps and national parks is that they are primarily white spaces. For many of us, it’s an unconscious thought. When we think of hiking or outdoor recreation in general, we think of white folks because that is what we see in marketing and media. We also don’t recognize the history of horror and brutality often associated with outdoor spaces, not to mention the segregation that would not allow people of color to go to church, camp, or enjoy outdoor recreation with white people.
Camp for many people is a privilege. While we do everything we can to make camp economically accessible to our campers, we recognize that we still have more work to do lifting up the voices of people of color and honoring them in this community. To our campers and families of color, we do not take for granted the level of trust that you put in us to care for your children each summer. I recognize that trust is not necessarily inherent and is something we continuously seek to build as a camp and as faith leaders.
I believe that nature, community, and faith are forces for healing. We have plenty of each at camp. It is our job to raise children of faith who know that every person is loved, valued, and seen as our neighbor because they are a child of God.
Even though camp was cancelled this summer, our mission was not. We firmly believe in our mission that Pyoca is a space where all are welcome in God’s love to explore, grow, rest, and play. We see Pyoca as a place that is a bridge and our work here is to be bridge-builders and educators. We are called to do better and be better as a camping community in order to live out this mission.
While we firmly believe that we will never go back to “normal,” we are continually working toward a more just and equitable normal for camp and our world.
Rev. Molly DeWitt, Program Director
If you have struggled at all in this time having conversations about racism with your children, please see the resources we have listed below.
Anti-Racism Books for Kids: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/parenting/kids-books-racism-protest.html