Reading the Bible at Camp

Reading the Bible at Camp

By the Rev. Anne Clarke, Lifelong Christian Formation Coordinator

When she couldn't hide him any longer, she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it with tar and pitch and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile. The baby's older sister found herself a vantage point a little way off and watched to see what would happen to him.

In a glade of trees about 7000 miles away from the Nile, at Camp Living Waters in Humboldt County, a little girl crouched behind a rock and pretended to look through a pair of binoculars, while another kid laid down nearby, waved his arms and legs in the air, and pretended to float down a river. A suggestion comes from an onlooker to this drama: "You should probably cry. You're a baby floating alone down the river-you would NOT look that happy.

From there, we acted out the rest of the story. Pharaoh's daughter scoops the baby out of the water (with further commentary from the crowd: "Wait, does that make her, like, a princess?" "She might have killed the baby.") and clever Miriam emerges from her hiding place and suggests a solution ("Did she know that the Pharaoh's daughter wasn't mean?" "What happened when the baby grew up?

From here, we all sat down to talk about the drama they had just helped to act out: What do you think Miriam felt when she went up to Pharaoh's daughter? How would you have felt? ("Scared!" "Probably nervous but also excited because she knew exactly what to do." "Smart, like the midwives were when they tricked Pharaoh before, but they were probably scared too.") Why do you think she did it anyway, even though she was scared? ("She loved her brother.

It was a great joy to get to join this mighty community of faith for a few days and get to help lead these reflections on some of the great stories of our faith.  At Camp Living Waters, a week-long summer camp for kids ages 9-15 and their young adult counselors and staff, every day starts with Eucharist, and later in the morning, continues with Christian education time in the shade of the big trees on the beautiful river bank land in Humboldt County where the camp is held every year. There the campers engage with the Bible stories from that day's worship through discussions and activities.

This year, the theme of the camp was "Justice and Courage: Standing up for God's World," and the Scripture stories centered around individuals (including children) and communities that embodied courage and standing up for justice.

The Very Rev. Sara Potter, rector of St. Alban's, Arcata, one of the North Coast Episcopal congregations that plans and runs Camp Living Waters, reflected on what makes Camp Living Waters such an important ministry.

There's a balance between structure and [the kids] just getting to be themselves...it's really a place where people create the community together. For some of the kids who come, it's their first experience of Christian community, and for some of them it's their only experience of Christian community.

Kiana Simmons, a young adult staff member who grew up attending the camp, added, "I was here as a camper and the staff watched me grow, and now I'm watching the campers grow. I feel like it's a big circle. It's such a community feeling and I love that.

The leaders of this camp have done such an amazing job of making these Scripture stories understandable and relevant that even kids who have no other experience of reading the Bible were ready and eager to jump into the discussion and to find meaning in these stories for their own lives. Like Kiana, many of them reflected on how one of the best parts of camp was watching the campers grow as they worked and learned and had fun together during the week.

I also learned and grew from being a part of these campers' experiences of finding themselves and their own struggles in the stories of Miriam speaking to Pharaoh's daughter, the Corinthians forgetting about justice, and in the little boy offering his lunch to feed the 5000.

Camp Living Waters is a ministry for kids, but the entire community, people of all ages, benefit from creating this community together. Spenser Erickson, another young adult staff member, put it well, "Camp Living Waters rejuvenates me for the year. The kids come in with their youthful spirit, and it wakes me up for the rest of the year.

***

In 2017 we are telling stories of how and why we read the Bible in a variety of ways in our diocese, and the ways in which it has changed us. We hope this will be a chance to learn from each other, to share ideas and encouragement, and to tell our Bible stories outside the walls of our churches. More information on this is available here.

See our first stop on the Bible Challenge in 2017, a photo essay on St. Andrew's, Antelope's Bible Study, here. Participate by sharing your own practices around Bible study on social media using #norcalbible, or by emailing me at anne@norcalepiscopal.org.


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