Mountain of a Living God

Each Sunday our Beloved musicians, Elizabeth Silvia and Emily Harrison, drive up to the empty church to record our church music. This past weekend, after they recorded, I got a text from Emily. They had lost the video for one song and only had the audio.

I told Emily it was no problem, and I could put a stock photo of the church or the barn or something for that last song. But then I started thinking it would be more engaging if we had other video to put music too.

I didn’t have a lot of videos on my computer, but quickly found some footage from one of my favorite afternoons of camp life ever. Conveniently, the footage was from the same week of camp that would have started this week: Bridge Camp.

At Bridge Camp, campers with special needs are paired with high school students and they enjoy and incredible week of camp together. It is a truly magical week of camp. You can read some of my other Bridge Camp stories here and here.

Last year, on the last day of camp, while I was shuttling some of our Bridge Campers back from the waterfront, Jimmy caught my ear about how we had to have a dance competition. He had lots of ideas. He had chosen the judges already, and the prizes (coloring books). There was a structure in place for the dancing and judging. I laughed and agreed a dance competition would be a good idea.

Jimmy approached me at lunch a couple of hours later and it became very clear to me that he believed that the dance competition was a sure deal. After he walked away from the table I looked at the other staff I was sitting with. “Well,” I told them, “looks like we need to schedule a dance competition.”

The Bishop was on his way up to visit so I called him to be sure he could be a celebrity judge. We rearranged the afternoon schedule to accommodate for the competition. We signed up campers who wanted to take part. We set up the pavilion for the event. And when the time came, we gathered everyone together.

What followed was one of the most incredible hours of camp life I’ve experienced to date. The dancing was carefree and beautiful. Laughter and tears flowed from the group gathered to watch. The cheering was enthusiastic and steady. At the end, we gave crayons to everyone who had participated – I could see Jimmy becoming agitated (that was not the plan). Then we announced that we had a special prize for the event organizer, and we presented Jimmy with three new coloring books. The Bishop presented him with his prize, and he grabbed the microphone to make a speech. He offered a long list of people and circumstances that he would like the Bishop to pray for and thanked the crowd. When he finished, as you can see in the video below, he handed the mic back to the Bishop and turned to high-five the judges.

The footage we took on video wasn’t perfect – our angles were weird and those of us with cameras were so busy taking in the moment we didn’t get all the right shots. But you can catch a glimpse of the joy.

I started pulling the clips and dragging them into the video of the music Emily and Elizabeth had sent me.

We have come to the mountain of the Living God…

It was perfect. Because that dance competition was, undoubtedly, a moment of encounter with the Living God. A mountaintop experience.

I admit that watching the video also brought sadness. Not only because of the obvious reason, that Bridge Camp is not starting this week, but more because it highlighted what I think has been missing throughout this pandemic. We humans have found ways of celebrating, laughing, and finding joy in the last few months. We are resilient, after all. But even in the most beautiful moments we’ve had recently there is a cloud that hovers in the distance. We can’t un-know everything that’s happening in the world around us, and it lurks there, even when we are are trying to put all our focus on joy and love.

While painful to realize that, it was helpful. I keep wondering if this whole thing is as bad as it seems. Like maybe I’m just being overdramatic. But watching our freedom in this video exposed the truth – that these are unprecedented times, and that our communal experience of grief has been, and will continue for a time, to lurk in the corners. As grief is prone to do.

This video also served as a promise. We will not be in this place forever. Joy will come again, and sometime in the future – who knows when – we’ll throw our arms up to dance with reckless abandon and suddenly realize, “Oh look – we’re back.”