Getting Away

Well, I’ve finally done it.

After three years of hearing about our regional Covenant Camps, I’ve at long last been to both of them: Covenant Harbor, and – just this week – Covenant Point.

Not having grown up in a church that valued camp as much as WCC, I wasn’t sure what to expect – or, if I’m honest, what the fuss was all about.

I like getting away and into nature as much as the next person, a desire that’s only been amplified in the last year and a half as I felt safest outdoors and away from crowds, and as I moved deeper into the city – but the message I got from so many members of our church family was that this place was SO much more than just a getaway. More than merely a spot to see the stars and hear crickets instead of car horns at night. That it was a holy place, a place of healing and connection and refreshment.

And you all were right.

I showed up skeptical, tired from the drive, nervous about being the camp speaker (even though I had Pastor Joel, a veteran and talented pro at the camp speaking circuit, with me splitting the work), and missing my dog. It had been a year and a half since I’d been away from her, surrounded by strangers, far from home and doing something new like this. And I went to bed that first night very tired, not just in my body but in my spirit too.

I asked God more than once why I was there to begin with.

But then a funny thing happened.

I started to unclench my jaw for the first time in months, and try new things that stretched me (scared me) and helped me to grow. I spoke without a manuscript, and even stopped looking at my notes. I talked with lots of strangers, spent time eating with them, praying with them, singing silly camp songs with them, and playing in the water with their kids. I slept hard and well, ate good and nourishing food, and lived without cell signal.

I felt some of the grief and loss of this past year, intensely, because there were fewer distractions to numb me to those sensations – but I also felt hope. Because as much as groups of people have stressed me out this past year, whether because they handled COVID differently than I did, or because I didn’t know what germs they could be carrying – there is something innately good about being together. Something we are wired for, created for. Something life-giving and healing about being in community. Something I’ve been longing for without even knowing it.

By the last day, I was sad to come home, too. Happy to come to my own bed, and my dog Zoe, but sad all the same. And eager to go back to camp, when the time is right. To sit under the big open sky again, and hear the wind move through the trees, and feel close to other people and close to God because there’s much less between us up there in the woods, on the edge of the lake.

Thank you all, for telling me over and over again that I was missing out. Thank you, for encouraging me to try, and to experience something new.

I’m so glad I did.

-Pastor Jen

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