Love is the Energy

The following sermon was preached at Christ Church in Philadelphia, PA in August by a Visiting Staff person and ECC alumni. It is shared with you with her permission!

 

Good morning. My name is Julia DeJoseph.

I’ve had the pleasure of coming to Christ Church with my husband, Dan, for the last 4 years, during which time, this community has given us the great pleasure of welcoming our two young children, Jamie and Carolina, with open arms. I was humbled by the opportunity to speak to you today and a bit terrified when I read our first lesson. I don’t know about you, but my knowledge of Biblical battles is quite limited. The description of poor Absolam’s head caught fast in the oak, as he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on, feels something out of a graphic novel. This passage reminds me that the authors of the Bible were definitely not boring but did not help me know what I should or could say to you today.

Fortunately, our second reading resonated deeply for me. “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. … be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.”

In the last year or so, I have felt that we live in a more bitter, wrathful, and angry world. I am sure that there have been times like these before and times worse than these, but this is my present and I have found it unsettling.

I am a woman.

I am the daughter of an immigrant.

I am a mother with young children.

I am a family doctor who provides health care for primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants in a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia. My health center was one of many in Philadelphia specifically targeted to offer care to those displaced by the hurricane last year in Puerto Rico.

As such, in the last year or so, I have struggled to make sense of the world and I have looked for ways to find solace and reason and hope.

I am a lifelong Episcopalian. As a child and teenager, I was fortunate to attend and later work at an Episcopal summer camp in Rhode Island. For the past three summers, Dan, Jamie, Carolina and I were able to spend a week at that same camp as visiting staff. The camp property is an old 188-acre farmstead bequeathed to the diocese 70 years ago. It is wooded and beautiful. It has an old wood barn which serves as our church. It has a Liberty Bell sized bell that marks time for camp activities throughout the day. It has trails, streams, a murky frog pond, and a stunning lakefront. The current caretakers have brought their llamas, ox, and bull to pastures built into the current landscape of the property. There is a ballfield that serves as an amphitheater to many nights of stargazing.  The property is rustic and welcoming. As one makes the final turn onto the property there is a large rock, just as you enter the parking lot, upon which is painted “He Who Enters Here is a Stranger but Once”.

As such, two weeks ago, my family entered that familiar place and reunited with a church family I’ve known since I was a child.  I reunited with four women who I’d met at camp when we were in our early teens. Twenty plus year of memories, laughter, and the familiar comfort offered by long friendships is the ultimate medicine. Two of these women are now Episcopal priests. All of us have children who also reunited and laughed and played during this brief reprieve from the outside world. Together we served as the adult staff for the week. We embraced and were embraced by the community of enthusiastic and energetic young campers, teen counselors, and twenty-something young adult staff. Many of these campers and counselors were the children of our fellow generations of camp alumni. This interweaving of generations was profound. The expansion of this community as they welcomed new campers and first-generation counselors was uplifting. I wondered what was it that kept this spirit of community going for so long? How had it been so consistently maintained?

Across the main beam of one of the barn’s walls reads, “Love is the energy of a steadfast will bent on creating fellowship”.  I believe this is the answer.

Love is the energy of a steadfast will bent on creating fellowship.

As a child, camp taught me about an all-loving God who preached acceptance, inclusion, tenderness, kindness, and (because we are ultimately a family), forgiveness. These are real and powerful things that can maintain and persevere over generations. Camp’s theme this summer echoes today’s reading.

From 1 Peter 3:8

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

My family returned from this amazing week and we were reminded of the good in the world. The Bible teaches us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving … to be imitators of God, … and live in love. And as I renewed my faith in these teachings, I find that I receive the kindness, tenderness, love, and even forgiveness that offers me my much-needed solace, reason, and hope.

I pray that each of you are able to find such renewal when you need it, whether here at the community at of Christ Church or in your community in the larger world.

In closing, I’d like to share the closing benediction of the final Eucharist at our week of camp:

Life is short,

and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us.

So…

be swift to love,

and make haste to be kind.

And the blessing of God,

who made us,

who loves us,

and who travels with us

be with you now and forever.

Amen.

 

The author (left) and her camp friends.

The more things change…

This is a guest post by Becky Clarke – lovingly known to the ECC community as the Beckster!

 

The more things change…the more they stay the same

It’s been 20 years since I have participated in summer camp at ECC. I’ve gone back for reunions, softball games, open houses, and my sister’s wedding. But never the summer program. I didn’t have a great end to my last summer at camp (1998). We won’t get into specifics but it was a tough summer.

Some of my closest friends now are the friends I made at camp. I can’t imagine my life without some of these people. And if it wasn’t for ECC I wouldn’t have them. But it still wasn’t enough to bring me back.

Meaghan has been asking me for 7 years to come back for visiting staff. And each year I said no…until this year. Something was pulling me back to that place I had so many memories.

As we all know, Life can be complicated. I needed to recharge my battery and get back to basics…and what better place to do that than camp.

I was visiting staff for summers end. I was very nervous and not my usual outgoing self for the first couple days. I felt like a bit of an outsider. But then it was time for the Rockin round robin campfire on Tuesday night. Meaghan needed some assistance at her station…singing songs from the song book that we haven’t sung in a while. And everything started feeling like camp again…we sang Precious Friend, The cat came back…and the song of the week: The Papaya song. No one really knew how the tune went, but we figured it out and Meaghan lead us through it like Carol used to do back in the day. We were laughing, yelling, dancing. Just like we used to do.

We did compline at the frog pond. I’ve always found compline very comforting…and having the whole camp surrounding the frog pond with candles is an amazing sight. Just like it used to be.

I had a disco ball in my cabin back in 1996…Dorm 1. Meaghan was in Dorm 2 that summer and our theme song was copa cabana by Barry Manilow. Every time the light shined on that disco ball, you could hear Copa Cabana echoing through the Dorm.

The disco ball ended up following me for my head counselor summers after that. But it hasn’t seen much action since then. Until the summers end dance 2018. It added just enough to the dance and it brought back so many memories! I couldn’t stop staring at it. And we of course played Copa Cabana! Just like we used to do.

The dance took place in the pavilion…..a place that didn’t exsist in 1996. There are a good number of structures at camp that weren’t around 20 years ago. I don’t like change…and I remember being sad when I heard about all the changes at camp. But here’s the thing…the meaning of camp hasn’t changed. Just because they eat dinner differently, or have dances in a different place doesn’t mean it’s a bad change.

You can sit in the green chairs and hear all the sounds you heard all those years ago. The crunching of the rocks, the sound of guitars, the voices of the campers singing…the sound of the bell…it’s all still there. It just looks different on the outside…but the inside is the same. This is still a place where people can go and be themselves…have a safe place.
The counselors are still larger than life…and there is still that person you always look forward to seeing each day.

Yes things have changed…but it’s still the same. And if I can go back after 20 years…then YOU can go back to camp. I highly recommend getting involved…whether it’s a softball game, music camp madness or visiting staff. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries and get back to basics…and I can’t think of a better place to do that than 872 reservoir rd. I was told I looked refreshed after I got back. And I couldn’t stop talking about my week at camp…just like I used to do.

Come back! Get involved…go to a fundraiser…visit the open house in the spring…come play softball (the alumni needs some assistance!) Camp has changed on the outside…but when you take a step in you will realize it’s the place you loved…just like you used to.

Oh! And not having AC…it’s totally manageable. Seriously…if I can do it, anyone can.

hug eachother

It’s Older Children’s Camp, and we are tired.

My staff has been here for six weeks, and we’ve been working hard. It has been a terrific summer, and everyone has brought their best game… but we’re feeling it. The long, hot days are catching up. Our clothes have that dank, musty smell and feel from living at camp all summer – and so do we.  We’re starting to feel the yearly crunch of longing for home and free time while also mourning that we only have 2 and a half weeks of camp left. It’s all the feels. And evidently Mercury is in retrograde, so there’s that.

We have 80 campers here this week, including over 20 campers that we have absorbed from another camp that suspended enrollment for a summer. They still wanted their campers to have the camp experience, so they sent them to us. The start of the week was a little rocky as we adjusted to having them and they adjusted to a completely new camp environment but as is so often the case here, after the first 24 hours we were more focused on the friendships we were forming than the differences,. We have LOVED having them here.

One of these campers in particular is a snuggle bug. He gives hugs freely and without reservation to whomever he approaches. As the director I find this particularly refreshing – I’m not often on campers’ radars except for when I make announcements and lead church. But I’ve gotten lots of hugs this week, and it’s pretty great.

This morning my head counselor and I were standing together waiting for everyone to arrive at church when this boy came up to us. Looping one arm around me and the other around her he pulled us together announcing, “group hug!” Kaitlyn and I obliged and squeezed his shoulders affectionately.  While we were hugging him he looked up and noticed that while we were both hugging him, she and I had not closed the loop to hug each other. He swung his eyes up to us and simply said,

“Can you guys hug each other?”

We laughed, and shook our heads, and pulled in for a proper group hug per his instruction.

But oh man. He got me.

I work with my head counselor all day every day, and I adore her. We talk and we laugh and we problem solve and we brainstorm. We do all kinds of things together – but we do not spontaneously hug.  And it’s not because I’m not happy to hug her – of course I am! It’s just that we are so busy doing other things that it doesn’t even occur to us.  If I’m being honest I’m pretty bad about remembering to hug in general. I get so caught up in my to-do list that there’s no time for hugging.

But that group hug was gold for me today. It gave me a moment to connect with one of our campers, but also to connect with one of my staff in a way that was different from all of the other connections we have all day.

So I’m sharing this story with you, just in case you’re too busy today and you forget to connect. Since you might not have a sweet-faced camper to tell you what to do, I figured I could share his instruction:

“Can you guys hug each other?”

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Help, Thanks, Wow

 

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Help. Thanks. Wow. Writer Anne Lamott wrote one of her books on what she calls her three essential prayers. These are the words that came to my mind when I sat down to write you this final report about what turned into a truly inspirational Teen Camp.

Help.  This was my first plea to you all, and certainly a form of prayer as is any request I make of the ECC community.

Thanks.  This was my second blog, after we were totally overwhelmed by your generosity and response to my initial plea.

And today, WOW. 

When this program took off earlier in the week and it became clear that we would be able to make significant donations to the three organizations our campers and counselors had decided to support I reached out to the three agencies to see if someone might be able to come and talk about what they do. All three sent a representative, who gave moving testimony about the incredible work they are doing.  After we heard them speak we presented them with their checks.

$2300 to Loaves & Fishes RI.

$2300 to the Interfaith Counseling Center.

And, as promised, a little extra to the agency supported by the winning team from our Game Shows throughout the week. $2500 to Adoption RI.

Math has never been my strong suit, but that’s $7100 total.

Unbelievable.

It was so, so special for the Teen Camp staff and campers to be part of this week, and this morning was magical.  We took pictures of each group and their representative:

IMG_2647The Food Truckers Team with Dennis Lafreniere of Loaves & Fishes RI.

IMG_2649The Incredibly Cool Crowd with Christine King of the Interfaith Counseling Center.

IMG_2645The Storks with Donna Silvia from Adoption RI.

The picture at the top of this post is all our groups and agency representatives together, with our Thank You sign. We can’t possibly reflect our level of gratitude in a picture or a sign – but we tried.

Thank you for following and being a part of this amazing week.

WOW.

 

Whose Dime Is It Anyway?

IMG_3440.JPGThis is us in the office today.

Yesterday morning at 11am I posted this blog post, and asked you to help us get our Teen Camp program off the ground. Our campers had split into teams to compete in campy TV Game Shows for the week, and we had them name their teams after a non-profit of their choosing. I told the campers that we would make a donation to the non-profit represented by the winning team at the end of the week.

I was hoping to find someone willing to throw us $100 so that we could make said donation.

But when the camper and counselor teams told us about the agencies they wanted to compete for I was pretty inspired. I wanted to include you all in the process. So that’s when I asked you for help.

And did you help us?  Survey says….. hell yeah you did!

I’m writing this post a mere 27 hours after we posted asking for help, and we have raised over $4000 to go towards these three non-profits.

FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS.

People, this is ridiculous. Ridiculously good. Amazing, even.

I was going to wait until the end of the week to tell the kids about the money, but then when it was over $2500 this morning I had to tell them. I’m no good at keeping secrets anyway. Then I let them break the camp rule and go get their cell phones (gasp! I know. But I had to let them phone a friend.) They were allowed to turn them on for five whole minutes to text their friends and family and share the blog on their social media accounts. I wanted them to be part of the fun, and feel some ownership over the experience of raising funds for these non-profits.  We brought in an additional $1000 in the hours after they had a chance to spread the word. (We’ll take generous friends and family for a thousand, Alex)

So we’re going to keep this going, because y’all – THIS IS SO FUN. We love how generous and supportive and loving you are to this community and to our campers and to the non-profits doing such good work in Rhode Island. We are overwhelmed at how quickly you would respond to a call to help. We are so, so thrilled that what started as a fun idea to help make this week more meaningful has instantly turned into one of our favorite stories ever.

We’ll keep our donation link live until Friday when we’ll total up our teams points and allocate your generous funds to help Adoption RI, the Interfaith Counseling Center, and Loaves & Fishes Rhode Island.  Stay tuned.

Thanks a million!

 

 

Help us help others!

We need your help!

It’s Teen Camp Week at ECC! This year we’re running a TV Game Show week, and every activity we participate in is a game show. At this very moment we’re doing Hollywood Squares with the Visiting Staff. It looks like this:

IMG_2439Cute, right?

We didn’t want to just play game shows though. We wanted to incorporate our theme for the summer – about having a tender heart and a humble mind. So in order to make our friendly game-show competition more exciting and meaningful for everyone, we asked our three teams to get together this morning and think of a non-profit in Rhode Island who had a mission they felt strongly about. The idea is that each will compete for their non-profit. Each team is named with their non-profit in mind.

In an attempt to make this project better still, we wanted to be able to make a donation to these non-profits at the end of the week – á la Celebrity Jeopardy. Whichever team wins the most fake competition money during the week will have the largest donation made to their non-profit of choice. We’ll make a donation to each of the three non-profits, but obviously we aren’t telling the kids that. We want to them to put in their all towards winning while we are here together!

There’s only one small issue in this master plan we have: our Teen Campers and staff aren’t celebrities, nor to they have celebrity incomes. So the only part we’re missing is the actual money that we could donate.

So that’s where we need your help! We’d love for you to make a small (or large) donation towards our Teen Camp program this week. We’ll then take that money at the end of the week and distribute it to the three non-profits being supported by our teams. The donations will slightly vary depending on which team “wins” but only minimally.

Will you help? We’d love to be able to tell the Teen Campers that while they have been here having fun all week and participating in our program, that our wider community has contributed to make this a more meaningful experience for everyone.

Your help would mean the world to us. Thanks in advance!

Here are our teams, and the non-profits they are supporting:

The Storks

The Storks

The Storks are competing this week in honor of Adoption RI, who helps provide foster and permanent homes for children in DCYF care in Rhode Island. They chose “The Storks” as their team name because of the story we use in our culture around storks delivering babies. They want to help deliver children to families.

 

The Incredibly Cool Crowd

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This group felt strongly about suicide prevention, and getting help to people who feel that their lives are not worth living. They are competing in honor of the Interfaith Counseling Center, a non-profit devoted to making mental health counseling available to anyone, whether or not they can afford it or have insurance. They chose “The Incredibly Cool Crowd” as their name to share the acronym ICC with their non-profit!

 

Food Truckers

The Food Truckers

This group chose Loaves and Fishes RI as their non-profit, which is an interfaith organization that brings trucks full of toiletries, clothing, and food to homeless people and people in poverty all over Rhode Island. People in need find essentials through this ministry, and friendship with the volunteers. They chose “Food Truckers” as their name for obvious reasons!

 

Aren’t these kids the best? Help them have an extra special week at camp and give here!

 

 

Home

Well, the Bridge Camp Talent Show was enough to pull me from my blogging slumber.

This talent show tends to be the one you truly don’t want to miss in a summer at ECC.  There’s something about watching our campers with special needs positively shine on stage with dance routines, singing, ball spinning, drumming and more. In many acts their helper campers are by their sides, singing and waving and holding lyrics so they don’t miss a moment. It’s always so, so good. But tonight was particularly magical.

It would be hard to pick just one moment that made it so very special.  It might have been the one camper who played corn hole as his talent. It took 6 throws for him to land the bean bag in the hole, and each time the crowd got more and more excited, cheering him on. With his last toss he landed it, and the other campers and counseling staff went crazy.

It might have been when a camper who has joined us for years –  but has never even come close to the Little Theater for a talent show – jumped up on stage to listen to the sweet sound of her helper campers and counselors singing Amazing Grace. She swayed back in forth with a radiant smile on her face, and we stared in wonder that her friends had discovered that their singing brings her so much joy.

It might have been when everyone jumped up to create an aisle on either side of one camper who walked up and down the aisle while everyone danced and cheered as she sang her song.

There was no shortage of magic.

But what sealed the deal for me was the very last number of the Talent Show. As is often the case, the helper campers moved up to the stage to sing a song for their Bridge Campers.  When the music started I heard the opening notes of the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips.

Solid choice.

Here they are singing part of the song:

I admit to getting a little emotional.

I was sitting next to one of our Bridge Campers, and I noticed her getting a little emotional as well. She had been homesick here and there throughout camp, so I worried that maybe this particular song was making her revisit those feelings. I leaned over and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Sort of,” she answered.

(uh-oh)

And then she continued:

“I’ve just never had real friends like this before.”

 

I had to turn my head away from her for a moment to collect myself, and after taking a breath I turned back to tell her that I was glad she came to camp. I jumped up from the blanket so that when her helper camper returned they could embrace, and I moved away so that I could weep.

Lord this world we live in can be so very hard.

But this camp? It is so, so good.

 

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind – 1 Peter 3:8

ECC Summer Theme 2018

 

Love is my shepherd

Faith Bessette graciously accepted my offer to preach and lead evening prayer while I was in Colorado last week – thank you Faith!! Below is her beautiful sermon – I hope you’ll have a listen!