The Special Magic of Camp

| July 14th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

As a young person, a week away at church camp has the power to transform. And when that week is spent at Passport, anything is possible!

I’m convinced there is a special kind of magic that seems to hang in the air at youth camp. Away from the familiar rhythms of their everyday lives, campers experience God, each other, and themselves anew. New friendships are formed. Passions are uncovered. Seeds long planted in their lives about the living God are tended with care. And unlike many of the cultural rhythms of their everyday life, one meaningful change that ushers in this sacred space comes as children and youth turn in their phones or electronic devices at the start of the week for a ‘digital sabbath.’ Passport co-founder Colleen Burroughs told me a few years ago that despite a few moments of grumbling, campers are actually grateful for the invitation to disconnect. As phones are laid down, so too is their phone-fueled anxiety and worry about where they fit into the landscape of things. (Would that we all follow their lead from time to time!)

What rhythms inform camp instead are ones of worship and fellowship, of deep engagement and leadership, of taking seriously the lives of children and teenagers as those who carry the witness of Christ in the world. Away from daily life and pressures and screens, campers begin to soften into God. They lean into one another. They play with exhilarating abandon. They worship honestly. They laugh and run and annoy each other like siblings and trust what God is doing in their midst. They awaken to the sacred invitation that beckons them persistently to live and love in an “upside down” way to the ways of this world. ’

I grew up as a Passport camper in its earliest days. It’s where my girlfriends and I cemented our love of singing harmonies alongside the Indigo Girls in our Walkmans on the humid and sticky church vans en route to camp. It’s where I first understood that there were churches like mine, that God was bigger and bolder than what I heard among certain Christian circles in my high school, that God might have a dream for my life I couldn’t yet imagine. Passport youth camp is where I heard a woman preach for the first time. (Thanks Colleen!) And years later, Passport youth camp is where I first started wondering about a call to ministry. (I wasn’t quite ready to receive that word, but it was there nonetheless. 

It was such a delight to see this youth camp magic up close last week for a few days with our remarkable group. And all reports from kids camp point to an equally-wondrous week! (Liam and Annabelle sure loved it!) The 22 campers, pastors, and guides who spent a week at Passport Kids and Passport Youth Camps will be leading our worship this Sunday, extending to all of us a glimpse of that very magic and letting us join them in the holy wonder that spills forth all the way back home.

Clear and present, we might even rename that magic Holy Spirit, who summons each of us into the upside down living we know as the Way of Life.

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily