As part of my annual New Year’s routine, I spent three days at the Highland Retreat near Bergton, Virginia. It was a time to listen to God, experience God’s creation, reflect on the past year, and plan for the future.
My times at Highland Retreat have accented many years of positive experiences at Mennonite Christian camps in several states. I look back with fondness of the many events that took place in at one of these camps in close communion with God and God’s creation.
I am pleased that Bob Briscoe, director of the Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center in Virginia, recently gave the following explanation to show how their camp emphasized the seven priorities of the Purposeful Plan for Mennonite Church USA. Following are his words.
“Christian Formation – When people come away for a retreat at one of our camps, they find a quiet place of worship where they can focus on God. When kids come to camp they find a place where they can learn and grow. Some begin a relationship with Jesus for the first time, others discover the next step of faith that God is calling them to make.
Christian Community – One of the best places to experience Christian community is at camp. In the context of a cabin group, a weekend church retreat, or on summer staff at a camp, Christian community is experienced in a concentrated dose at camp. These are all temporary communities, but they give us a chance to experience the blessings and challenges of doing life together.
Holistic Christian Witness – At camp, we are helping young and old alike learn to integrate their faith into all areas of life. We encourage our campers and guests to be salt and light in the world where they live.
Stewardship – Camps are a perfect place to model and teach creation care and good stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted to us. From formal outdoor education programs to a simple hike in the woods, our guests and campers are re-connected with God’s creation and inspired to take care of it.
Leadership Development – Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities that camp ministries have is that of developing the next generation of church and community leaders. Through serving on staff at camp, young people get a chance to discover their gifts and learn leadership skills in a hands-on way.
Undoing racism and advancing intercultural transformation – Though not as central to all camp ministries, camp can be a place where people of different races and cultures come together in a setting that allows for the development of intercultural awareness and relational competence. Some campers may experience for the first time being with someone of a different race for an extended period of time as cabin-mates. This is a place where cross-cultural friendships can be formed and campers can discover that our commonalities far exceed our differences, especially as we learn and grow and worship together!
Church-to-Church Relationships – Our camps are a great place for church to church relationships to begin and grow. Campers get to discover young people from other congregations, retreats can be planned for several churches to attend and begin to develop and cultivate relationships with other congregations.”
Thanks, Bob, for these clear words. It prompts me to thank God and to all of the other camps associated with Mennonite Camping Association for their important ministry.