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Fostering Community and Connection at Camp
     Ways to Support Camping Ministry
Historically, synods and presby- teries have cared for, governed and financially supported camps. While camps are eligible to apply for support for special projects and ventures from a few denomi- national funds, donations from congregations and contributions from synod and presbytery dues have been a significant source of revenue for camps. Often, camps do not have significant reserve funds and almost none of them could have possibly prepared for the results of having to close most or all of their summer pro- grams as a result of the pandemic restrictions.
Adopting a camp as a minis- try project by mission societies, church schools, congregations, guilds and through planned gifts and special offerings are excellent ways to ensure that camps thrive and continue to nurture the faith of young people in the unique and transformational ways they have.
A special pilgrimage organized in partnership between Camp Douglas and St. An- drew’s Hall, in support of the camp.
camp and summer schools were a place to further Christian education and develop leadership. While these admirable goals still happen, the first campers and directors would be sur- prised at the new role that Presbyte- rian summer camp now plays in the life of the church.
In a world where congregations are growing smaller and Sunday Schools are struggling, Presbyterian camps across the country welcome thou- sands of children each summer. Some of the children are regular attendees of Presbyterian churches, while others have a loose connection (sometimes going back two or three generations), and many have no connection to the church whatsoever. Camp continues to be a place where children sing grace before meals, open their Bibles, learn to pray, sing songs of faith and live in Christian community. The differ- ence is that for many campers, this is the only place where this happens. A joyful, engaged life of faith is modeled and shared at camp.
When our camps were founded, Canada was still an agrarian soci- ety. Today, our campers mostly come from cities and towns. The term, “na- ture-deficit disorder,” has been coined to describe how children are discon- nected from the natural world. Camp is now the place where children see the stars for the first time, jump in the waves, paddle a canoe, walk through a forest, see the tides go in and out, experience darkness and watch the sun rise. Removed from the busy world, camp is where children see the mysteries of God up close.
When children once went to camp, they sent postcards and letters to their counsellors and cabin-mates. Campers today are connected to the world through technology. Summer camp is one of the very few places in today’s world where children put down their technology for a week at a time. Camp is where children (and adults) are encouraged to engage in face-to-face communication, prob-
A Camp Geddie camper taking part in a virtual scavenger hunt.
lem-solving and community living. There are no beeps or notifications— other than the occasional ringing of the camp bell! Time is felt differently, friendships develop and connection is made. Conversations about faith spring up around the campfire, com- mitments are made in chapel and lifelong friendships begin.
For many children, these are new and deeply meaningful experiences. When the pandemic is over, Presby- terian summer camp will be needed more than ever. Children will need to run and play with abandon. They will need time off technology and away from screens to engage in the natural world. Parents will need places that they trust. Children will need to find community and connection. We will need to gather as the body of Christ for worship. All of us will need places for refuge and retreat after these dif- ficult months.
While those first Presbyterians who founded and formed our camps may not have been able to imagine our world, they put aside places for recreation and worship that are a gift for us to cherish and celebrate.
By Theresa McDonald-Lee, Co- Executive Director of Camp Kintail in Goderich, Ont.
When Presbyterians founded camps from coast to coast, they did so hop- ing that the combination of creation,
community and worship would in- spire and instruct children and young adults about the joy of Christian liv- ing. From the 1920s to the 1960s, it was assumed that almost every attendee of a camp would be con- nected to a congregation. Summer
 Camps During COVID-19
Never have PCC camps faced challenges like the ones brought on by COVID-19. By late spring of 2020, it became clear that the camps would not be able to welcome children to sleepaway camp on their grounds.
Refusing to believe that 2020 would be a summer without campfires, afternoon swims in the lake, or early morning Bible study under a pine tree, the camps quickly adapted to shifting conditions. They worked together to come up with creative ideas on how to run programs virtually and how to make program adaptations in light of provincial restrictions. The results were amazing!
Campfire sing-a-longs were hosted on Facebook live, arts and crafts were led through YouTube tutorials, Bible studies were held online, family outdoor challenges were issued on Instagram, even physically distanced, day-long pilgrimages were organized in provinces where regulations permitted small group gatherings.
The camps showed incredible creativity and responsiveness to the pandemic and, thanks to their efforts, many children were able to appreciate some of the best gifts camping ministry has to offer.
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