I have about a dozen blog posts in my head that I am SO hoping to actually write in the coming days. But for now I’m sharing someone else’s words here.
We were blessed to have Peter and Veronica Tierney at ECC last week as our visiting clergy. Early Sunday morning Veronica sent me the text of her sermon for the day. It was their first time at camp, and we loved having them. It’s wonderful to know that they loved being with us. Veronica has beautiful words to describe her experience, and our ministry here. Thanks Veronica!Veronica M. Tierney Proper 9, Year C, July 7, 2013 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 Grace Church, Providence, RI
Jesus said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
This past week, my husband, Peter, and I served as visiting chaplains for Teen Camp at the Episcopal Conference Center. It was hot and sticky, with no air conditioning, obviously! It was a week full of about 65 campers who had just finished 6th-8th grade, plus about 35 counselors ranging from about 16 to 21 years old, plus about a dozen adult staff and their children. I am an introvert, so being in the midst of so many people I didn’t know, many of whom with energy levels that went through the roof, was a little overwhelming at first.
ECC has a saying, “Those who enter here are strangers but once.” It’s really true. But the time we reached the closing Eucharist on Friday afternoon, that host of strangers I was meeting for the first time had become a group of friends. Even the people I hadn’t had the chance to spend much time with.
Camp is a place that changes lives. Not just the young people who attend as campers, but also those who serve as counselors and visiting staff. Camp is a place where young people experience, concretely, the love of God in Christ and in Christian community. That love transforms them.
One counselor told me that when she first went to camp as a camper, she was in a really low place in her life. She didn’t go into detail; just that things were bad. At camp, she felt loved and appreciated. Because of camp, whatever was bad for her became better. She kept coming back to camp, gradually working her way to becoming a senior counselor. One of her favorite things was the opportunity to give what she had received, and to watch the campers flourish in that same love that had given her new life.
He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Our communities are full of young people who are hungering for the love of God in Christ, kids who are thirsty for the opportunity to discover the best of who they are, rather than listening to the garbage the world tells them. They are so ready for the Good News of the Gospel. The harvest is plentiful. Some of these kids are in our congregations, but some of them aren’t. Some of them have never been to church. Some of them come to camp because there isn’t anything else available to them during the summer. But every one of these kids takes camp home with them, into their communities. They may not talk about their experiences in the same ways, but they become ambassadors of the Holy Spirit, living testimony to the transformative power of God.
Just like those campers, I have become an ambassador for ECC and the truly wonderful work that goes on there. One session as a visiting chaplain allowed me to push myself and my own ministry in new directions, allowed me to take risks in the midst of a community that loved me and let me be myself. It was such a blessing to be a laborer in that harvest, a harvest that is not just plentiful but teeming. And it was a blessing to feel my own exhaustion in the experience, and to look around and imagine all that could be done at ECC if there were more laborers to share the work.
ECC is a tremendous ministry with and for the young people in our midst. It deserves our attention and support. It needs laborers to go into that harvest.
As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “you reap whatever you sow.” ECC is a place where seeds are sown, seeds of faith, seeds of love and affection, seeds of respect, seeds of joy, seeds of leadership. But as every gardener knows, those seeds need careful cultivation in order to grow and blossom and flourish. Some kids attend one session of camp in the summer, some kids more; how do we cultivate them upon their return home? How do we continually water them? How do we feed them as they grow? How do we ensure that what is sown can grow up in fullness and be reaped in joy?
St. Paul continues, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”
There are so many opportunities to work for the good of the young people in the Diocese and across our many communities. The ministry of ECC is powerful but it has limped along for many years. Now is a season of renewal. Now is a time for cultivation. Now is the opportunity to act. Harvest-time is coming, and the harvest is plentiful indeed.
If you are a young person, or the parent of a young person, take a look at camping opportunities for the summer; several of the sessions have openings. If you’re curious about camp, take a drive out to Pascoag (it’s only about 35 minutes from here), sign in at the office, and take a walk. See what is happening there with your own eyes. If you are handy, volunteer to be a work project leader. If a hands-on camp experience really isn’t your thing, make a donation to the Camper Scholarship fund, or sponsor a child for a week. There are so many ways to get involved, to offer support, to add to the number of laborers in the harvest.
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”