This is the second part of three on our vision statement. Last week I wrote about wonder. This week we turn our attention to love.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke share a story of an encounter between Jesus and a religious authority asking which is the greatest commandment, and either Jesus answers it or asks the inquisitor what Hebrew Scripture says. In all cases the answer is clear: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:34, Mk 12:28, Lk 10:25).
Throughout the history of the church the people who seek to follow Jesus come face-to-face with these commandments. There are times when we struggle to live up to them and there are times when we live into them as fully as we can.
In our vision of a world filled with wonder, love, and justice, we are engaging with campers and retreatants in at least two ways to bring love into focus. First, simply through the way that out staff members engages with others and carry out their work. Secondly, we do this by emphasizing the development of community, based upon the foundation of God's love in our programming.
It is in these practical ways that campers and guests experience what it means to be loved for who they are already. They are given the freedom to live out that love as part of a supportive community. I believe this is why campers return to our camps at an 80% rate! I am also convinced that this experience of being part of a loving community transforms lives. Drop me a note and let me know what your experience of loving community has meant to you.
On the road to wonder, love, and justice,
Rev. Todd Bartlett
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
*PHOTO: Do you wanna make a snow sheep? At the Suttle Lake winter youth retreat (Jen Stuart).
It may be March, but it's never too late to learn more about Black History.
In the early part of the 20th century, Bishop Robert E. Jones, the first African American episcopal leader of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was inspired to address the southern church's racism and segregation issues after speaking at Lakeside Assembly, a white Methodist campground in Ohio. Bishop Jones was determined to establish a similar destination for Black people in Mississippi along the Gulf Coast. The camp was officially realized on April 16, 1923, as the Gulfside Chautauqua and Methodist Camp Meeting Ground in Waveland, Mississippi. Some of the most prestigious Black leaders in Methodism at the time were involved in the incorporation of Gulfside. Bishop Jones led the effort to restore the historic mansion on the property into a meeting house where black and white Methodists could quietly come together despite Mississippi’s strict racial segregation laws. More important to Blacks in the region when it opened in 1924, Gulfside Assembly was the first facility on the entire Gulf Coast where African Americans could swim and use the beach.
Gulfside Assembly's structures were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its resilient legacy is strong enough to withstand any storm. Read more about Gulfside here.
Please send your blessings to share in future issues of the e-news.
Even if you were not actually at the winter youth retreat at Suttle Lake last month, you can probably create your own narrative about what's happening in this photo. You can imagine the vision of love that prompted the artwork created by these youth, who also ended up creating community. This narrative occurs over and over again in camp and retreat ministry--and obviously not just during the summer! Several of our sites are open year-round, helping campers and retreat-goers create community and find love. And we rely on YOU to help us do this ministry all year long. Please take a moment to support us today.
*PHOTO: Show and Tell at the Suttle Lake winter youth retreat (Jen Stuart).