We are back from one of our mad dashes to a Lutheran camp and back again: 12 hours in the car, 36 hours at camp, 12 hours back in the car. When I put it that way, it does seem insane. I return home both tired and refreshed.
Why do we do this to ourselves, you ask? My spouse is on the board of trustees which oversees several church camps; we travel for his meetings.
But we also travel because it's good to get away, even if only for a short time. We have time to talk in a way that we don't when we're immersed in regular life.
It's good to see a different landscape. Beautiful as my South Florida surroundings are, I'm happy to see mountains and autumn leaves and apple orchards.
But most of all, it's good to get away to church camps and to remind ourselves of all the ways that church camps have nourished generations of believers. It's good to give back by serving on the board.
Of course, it's also good to allow ourselves to be sustained by our return to camp. I spent time walking and enjoying the sacred spots that have been planted there: the cross by the lake, the chapel on the top of the hill, the labyrinth where once there was a tennis court. The fact that these spots are in the middle of more nature than I usually see in a given day/week/month makes them even sweeter.
I also had time to read, a spiritual discipline that I miss the most. I am still deep in Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. How wonderful to spend the week-end with Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy. I had gotten to the point in the book where each writer has become somewhat (or very, in Merton's case) successful and has to wrestle with how to live the best writer's life, while staying true to their Catholic calling and their vision of their best lives. They also must wrestle with the physical limitations imposed by a body (O'Connor's lupus, Percy's TB).
It was great to read this book at Lutheridge. I'd read a bit, go walk the labyrinth, read some more, walk up to the chapel--it's a delightful way to meander through a book.
Like other church institutions, church camps face a very different landscape than they once did. They, too, wrestle with decisions that may lead them to a brighter future, but through very uncertain steps. On our way back, my spouse and I had many a conversation about this, and I'm working on a more developed blog post for later.
I still dream of my own retreat center, even as I know it's a folly of an idea. These organized camps are facing uncertain futures, even with so many resources behind them and years of tradition that have led to so many devoted supporters. Who am I to think that I could do better?
I do think that in the years to come, retreat centers and camps will be increasingly important to an increasingly frazzled population. I know they are to me. I'm hoping we find ways to let more people know about what a great resource they are.