before the ending of the day

I’m still refusing to believe it completely, but it appears that summer is here.

Our counseling staff arrived today lugging their belongings for the summer, excitedly hugging one another and meeting our new summer staff.  They moved into their cabins and it appears that they plan to stay for a little while.

I keep thinking they are actually going home in a couple of days.  I spent so much time waiting for the summer to arrive, and then about a few weeks back I started mentally slamming on the breaks – wondering how I could squeeze just a little more time in to get things done before everything started up.  I still haven’t figured out how to stop time, so here we are.  Family Camp starts Wednesday and until that my staff will be getting the property ready and taking part in some training.

We dove right into the staff manual tonight, and they were good sports about listening to me while I reminded them of our policies and procedures.  It took a while to get through it all, and when we were finished it was pushing 10:30pm.  We took a quick break to go outside and look at the super moon, and then gathered back in the barn for our service of Compline.

I joked with the counselors and staff all through the evening that this would be a summer of change.  We’ve made some big changes and the adjustment will take some time for all of us.  But one of the things that will never change about our time together is that we end every day with the service of Compline.  Those prayers are our anchor, and without them I think we’d feel adrift as we moved through our day here.

As always the words were music to my ears.  Ten months is a long time to wait for your “worshipping community” (so to speak, for priest types) to return.  I have missed them.  So the sound of their voices washed over me.

When it came time for us to sing the Te Lucis, something shifted in the air.  We Rhode Islanders tend to speed through the service.  We know it so well and we’re fast talkers, so the result is sometimes that the whole thing is over and done with in what seems like moments.  But tonight we started the song and there was this beautiful solemnity to it.  We were slow and intentional, allowing our breath to suspend in the space, savoring the words and sounds.  No rushing.  No thinking about the next thing.  Just total presence in that moment with that beautiful chanting.

Before the ending of the day,

Creator of the world we pray

That with thy wonted favor thou

Wouldst be our guard and keeper now

From all ill dreams defend our sight

From fears and terrors of the night

Withhold from us our ghostly foe

That spot of sin we may not know

Oh Father that we ask be done

Through Jesus Christ thine only Son

Who with the Holy Ghost and thee

Doth live and reign eternally. Amen.

I haven’t been able to savor much lately.  I’ve been too busy getting ready for camp.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.  We’re all pretty good at convincing ourselves that we’re too busy to pray, to worship, to walk, to breathe: whatever we might need to connect with God.

In fact, I felt too busy tonight.  So I’m grateful to my staff for showing up, for lifting their beautiful voices in song, and for loving and appreciating our evening worship together.  I can only hope that this was the first of many magical moments we will share together this summer.

Take a breath friends. It’s good for you.

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put your hand in the water woman!

Much to my great joy, my sister is in town visiting this month with her two beautiful daughters.  The little one, Zee, is seven months and has those perfect kissable chubby cheeks.  The older one is coming up on her third birthday in August.  She’s at that point where she is able to string words together in sentences and we are getting a glimpse of what goes on inside her head.  It is incredibly entertaining.

She has gotten good at identifying gender, and she is friendly.  The result of this combination is that wherever we go she is waving to the people who pass by her.  The other day we went to a Panera where we could only find a seat by the door.  When each person would enter, M would look up at them and say “Hi, Woman!” or “Goodbye, Man!”  I won’t lie, I’m worried about her getting confused and shouting out the wrong thing, but so far she has a perfect record.  And I’d like to think that she’s cute enough that people would be forgiving.

After we’d been together for a couple of days my whole family was able to take a walk to downtown Newport last Saturday afternoon.  We wanted to check out the Strawberry Festival at Trinity Church (very cool) and tour the newly designed Queen Anne’s Square.  Part of the new park includes a large rock with a water feature.  It’s low to the ground, just like the rest of the stone benches that mark the foundations where colonial homes once stood.  Water bubbles up from the top spilling over the sides.  It is simple and lovely and perfect toddler height.

M was drenched in moments, which she kept announcing to us joyfully: “I’m soaking wet!” She was especially taken by the spouts that the water came up from, and would slap her little palms over the top of the bubbles to watch the water squirt to each side.  After playing with the water by herself for some time she was suddenly moved to include others.  Believe me when I tell you she started to approach EVERY stranger who walked anywhere near the seating area where our family was resting.  Running up to them she would grab their hand and pull them toward the fountain, loudly exclaiming “C’mon – put your hand in the water Woman!”  “Hey Man! Put your hand in the water!”

Countless visitors to the park detoured when they were grabbed by the hand and willingly let themselves be led to the water.  Women with beautiful manicures and lovely dresses came precariously close to being drenched themselves with all the splashing.  Grown men let go of their date’s hands to bend down and plug one of the bubbles, sending M into a fit of laughter.  People allowed themselves to be ripped from conversation with their friends or totally rerouted from their path to Starbucks.

I was both horrified and thrilled for the duration of the event.  It’s hard to love this child and not be at least a little concerned about her total lack of stranger danger.  At the same time, it was just glorious to watch her interact with all of these people, and to see their eager response.  They were happy to stop what they were doing to play in the water.

I’ve been thinking a lot about camp lately.  Our summer program starts really soon.  As excited as I am for the start I always spend some time thinking about the people who will be at camp for the first time.  I remember well how afraid I was the first time I set foot on the property.  Frankly, I’m not sure I ever would have come back had it not been for one person in my cabin who welcomed me as warmly as if I had been a long-time family friend.  She was so excited about her own camp experience that she bubbled over with it. (see what I did there??)  She wanted to share camp with me so that I could love it the way that she did.

My first friend from camp is still at it.  She’ll be visiting staff this summer, and when the group for her week met to plan the program she introduced herself to the folks that will spend their very first week at ECC as adults.  “This is your first time at camp?!,” she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh I’m so excited that I’ll be there for it! You are going to LOVE it!”

Put your hand in the water, woman!

You know we all have this deep desire to be seen and known and invited in.  Even the introverts among us want to know that they are noticed and that the rest of the world yearns for their participation (I’m convinced of it!).  It’s one of the reasons camp has been such a wonderful experience for so many – because the people that are already there have rushed up to them and grabbed their hand to pull them towards the fun.

It’s lovely to be an observer of this process – to stand and watch my niece pull strangers to the fountain, or to watch one of my oldest friends burst with excitement at making new camp friends all these years later.  But more than just watching and appreciating this process, I want to remember to be part of it.  I think we’re all so afraid that if we rush towards someone to invite them in that we’ll be rejected.  I know I kept worrying that would happen to my niece – that someone would pull their hand away and shake off her enthusiasm.

And I guess there’s no promise that won’t happen sometimes.  But how sad would our world be if we held back from rushing forward with that invitation because we were afraid of rejection? How many people would we accidentally ignore that really yearned to be a part of our fountain, our camp, our church, our community?

There’s risk in reaching our hand out to invite others into relationship. That’s part of life.  But more often than not, the person you have reached out to will grab your hand and head towards the bubbling waters.  And you just never know when the person you reach out to will have their whole lives changed because of that one invitation.

We can’t risk missing that opportunity.  We have to overcome our fear of rejection and – each in our own way – extend an invitation to the people around us.  That’s how we create community that changes lives.

So come on Man – put your hand in the water!

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Harry “the Hammer” Gordon

We had a truly glorious Night on the Water last night.

For awhile there it looked like torrential rain was going to threaten our annual ECC fundraiser, held at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, and I can promise you that would have been an issue.  It takes two solid minutes to walk the long dock out to the building that was housing the event, so even the best umbrella wouldn’t have been able to keep our guests dry.  We were lucky, though, and the skies cleared Saturday morning.  The sun came out an a wonderful wind swept through Newport harbor.  Inside we were warm and comfortable, taking in the sights and enjoying one another’s fine company.

Our honoree for this year’s fundraiser was the Rev. Harrington Gordon.  Just about anyone who has spent time at ECC knows Father Gordon, as he has been a part of camp since its beginning.  I wrote the following piece to read at the event, so I thought I would share it with all of you.  Honoring Harry Gordon is certainly something we can all take part in, whether or not we were at Ida Lewis last night.

Thanks so much to all of you who came out last night to support ECC.  We had a wonderful night, and the love and energy in the room was palpable. I feel so blessed to be a part of ministry with all of you!

In thanks for the ministry of The Rev. Harrington Gordon

In a world of non-stop change there are some things about ECC that are constant.  Church and worship and music changes, but at ECC we gather each night in the barn for the quiet service of Compline, always finding comfort in the words “guide us waking O Lord and guard us sleeping”.  While friends and schools and home lives change, at ECC people old and young alike come and find a second home and a community of friends that help them to see a greater glimpse of God.  While food and menus change, at camp we gather in the dining room to talk and laugh and raise our voices in a chorus of ridiculous songs.  While buildings and structures change, at ECC we pick up a hammer and a shovel and an axe and work to better the property around us, making a mark that will last for years on the property and forever in our hearts.

We’ve come here tonight to protect those constants about ECC.  The ministry, the love, the community we share at ECC absolutely should be protected and cared for by all of us as we continue to change the lives of young people and bring them closer to God.

While we gather here tonight to protect and care for this place we love so dearly, it seems fitting that we would stop for a moment to honor a person – one of very few persons – who is also a constant at ECC.  A person who has in large part devoted his life and work to the care and protection of the Episcopal Conference Center.

Harry “the Hammer” Gordon has been a part of ECC since its beginning.  Where other folks have phased in and out of the ministry of that place, the fine Father Gordon has remained.  I remember him well from my own days as a camper.  Walking around, hammer in hand, tending to old and tired buildings, finishing odd jobs when the rest of us were lounging about during free time long after daily work projects had ended.  I remember him celebrating the Eucharist in the barn – he was always a camp favorite thanks to the speed with which he could bless the bread and wine and move us along to breakfast.  I remember his bright smile, his strong work ethic, his undying devotion to the camp.   But mostly, I just remember his presence.  Harry Gordon is as much a part of ECC as the barn, the bell, and the sprawling yellow farmhouse that sits on Reservoir Rd.

Not only has Father Gordon devoted countless hours of his life to the improvement and care of ECC, he has helped us remember our reason for being there.  Rarely would you spend a work project with Father Gordon without being reminded that we were working for the “Boss on the Cross” – He is why we are here, He is why we work, and He is why we love.  A devoted priest and follower of Christ, Father Gordon for has kept us focused on the “why” when the rest of us are tempted to get caught up in the “how”.

So Father Gordon – in thanks for all you do and have done, in thanks for your constant devotion to ECC and in thanks for being one of our constants, in thanks for your witness to love and life of Christ at ECC, we present you with this bench – painted by Jeanine Dionne.  The words that hang on the barn are inscribed on the top.  “My Yoke Fits Well”.  I can hardly think of more appropriate words to honor the man who has worn the yoke and without rest or reservation shared the work of Christ at the Episcopal Conference Center.

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