Church camping is the true test of community, here is where the divines and the devilish reveal themselves. Group camping is my true test of spirituality. Showing love to someone else's screaming children the morning after a long, restless night camping is the real fruit of enlightenment in my book.
I'm not too interested in hearing sanctimonious pontifications about communing with God among the water brooks and high sierra vistas of some pristine mountain retreat if one can't discover God among the pissy toddler, frayed to the edges exhausted parent, hungry stomachs, bone chilling shower type of faith. It's easy to touch the divine alone on your walkabout among old growth trees, flitting butterflies and bathed in moonbeams but the true seer is the one who can behold God among morning face, pre-coffee crankies and dirty camp clothes.
Each year our church reenacts our own version of the Feast of Booths but with a modern Coleman camp gear twist. We head off to group camp in the beautiful outdoors of this region.
"You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt," Lev. 23:42-43.
I find that among the tents of the faithful, one can encounter the gift of community rarely experienced in city sanctuaries. Out in nature's cathedral swimming, cooking, playing, singing, praying and laughing, one is invited to rediscover the truth of the incarnation. God in a body again, hidden, strangely un-godlike yet profoundly present. We are like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we need our "eyes opened" to truly behold the resurrected Christ among us, and church camping is always an eye opening experience!
For our church "Family Camp" is not only a recreational pause in the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's a purposeful practice of hospitality. Retreating is a spiritual discipline rooted in the art of contemplation and love. We learn to be together in places outside of our normal routine and we invite growth to happen among our purposeful interrupted life rhythms. The gospel community is meant to embody day to day commonness not just weekend appointments of sacred proclamation and worship but down to earth godliness with boots on and corn in the teeth.
Camping creates a kind of togetherness that allows time to bond and experience to deepen our shared lives. Church is a community that isn't built on similarities or common interests, it's a unity of diversity. Church life is a testimony that only God could build. The fact that so many odd people choose to gather together every week is evidence that God is a peacemaker. We are witnesses to a fellowship that humanity is unable to create. The triune mystery is reflected in our strange gathered life, yes, among us, love loves the unlovely...especially while camping.
"Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us," 1 Thessalonians 2:8.
Sleeping bags, roasted marshmallows, sunburns and barking dogs bind us to one another in additional ways that hymnals, lessons, choirs and sermons can't. These types of events humanize our faith relationships and fumigate our religiousness of stuffy pretense. You just can't act 'holier than thou' asking your stall neighbor for a roll of toilet paper!
I hope everyone has the opportunity to cultivate this type of community and spirituality, I think it produces a truer truth among us.