Spirit of God

  • Posted on May 6, 2009

The Spirit of Nakanawa is with you always. From far away cities to distant shores. But nobody else can find it for you. You have to find it for yourself.

The above text is from a song from my summer camp. For eight summers, I attended Camp Nakanawa, a camp for girls on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. This past weekend, I attended a reunion weekend at camp. As part of the reunion, of course, we sang camp songs. I find it amazing that these songs are blazoned on my heart–I remember ALL the words. As part of the weekend, we ate in the dining hall with all the southern delicacies (grits, biscuits, bacon, sausage). We helped the directors get ready for camp in a few weeks. I weeded gardens and woodburned pine medallions for awards. We hiked on the trail around the lake. In between the rain, I canoed on the lake. There were women in attendance from their early twenties to the late eighties. It was a blast.

As part of the weekend, I was asked to helped plan the church service (so I was still working after a fashion on Sunday morning!). We sang from the old Methodist hymnals that remain all year long in the Wigwam (the gathering hall). Those hymnals still had that familiar musty camp smell. We read Psalm 139–the psalm that is read at Rite 13 service to mark teenagers entering into adulthood. We prayed for all our daughters, the young women who would be coming to camp in a few weeks–biological or not. (We also prayed for the men-husbands and sons as well!) The most moving part of the service was the reflection period. Five former campers from the very eldest to one of the youngest spoke about what camp had meant to them and what they carried from camp into their later lives.

What I realized from the reflections (including my own) is that more than any other community, I learned at this camp what God’s love looks and feels like in community. Coming from a family that was not good at expressing emotions or giving loving touches, camp was a whole new ballgame for me from the age of 12. This weekend, I remembered that I had to learn what it was to sit close to another person, to link arms, to hug, laugh and cry together. This weekend, I was amazed at how quickly we all fell back into our camp pattern. I noticed that unlike our usual worlds at home, we sat so closely together at meetings that our shoulders touched. We linked arms to sing songs. We held hands to pray. By Sunday, I realized that much of what I do in my vocation as an Episcopal priest flows directly from the community life of my summer camp. My call is to help to make the love of God present in a community day in and day out. I use what I was given and learned at camp to give back that Spirit of God’s love to those I meet in my life as a priest. I came to camp a sad and lonely young girl whose mother had died. A young girl that did not know how to express her loss–or even what that loss really was all about. I left a young women who was given the healing and life-giving love of God who could then give and show that love to others. The Spirit of Nakanawa is the Spirit of God for me.

Where do you find the Spirit of God in community? Is it beyond your church community?

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