I have this recurring dream that I am at church camp. I can feel something bad is coming. Sometimes it is a hurricane, or giant robotic man-eating insects, or just a dark shadow. It is coming and I need to get out. I try and rescue my kids,my family and my friends. Finally I know I have to leave without some of them. Usually then dramatic heroics happen and I get to do car stunts I’ve never even seen on movies. Is this about me having a saviour complex? Maybe. But strangely I still miss church camp.
Last week was our church’s biggest annual family camp. About 700 people spend their vacations travelling to a semi-rural campground that was once an aircraft training compound. People come from India, South America, all corners of the US and Canada too. This was our yearly vacation, as it was for many families. A few times we went to a smaller camp in the US.
After breakfast, there was church until lunch. After lunch there was Children’s Church and Young People’s. Then there was supper. Then church until almost curfew. In between was some time to play sports or visit, unless you were working since all the meals were done by volunteers. In order to get more out of church and ‘fellowship’ we weren’t supposed to use cell phones, computers, watch TV or even listen to the radio. If it was a youth camp we were supposed to get permission from the elders to leave the grounds. I know I wasn’t the only girl to have to ask a crotchety old man who loved to preach on the sins of female flesh permission to go buy extra pads or tampons. I also wasn’t the only one to run away without permission.
Church was long. Hours long. Sometimes 4 hours long. The preachers weren’t trained orators and one of my favourites mumbled so much I could only understand every 3rd word. Not exaggerating. Some had accents so strong we weren’t sure what language they were actually speaking. The music dragged, with the front third of the church always a word or two ahead of the back half.
And I miss it.
I miss it because it was a familiar tradition. We never missed July church camp. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents would be there. People were there who cared about us. Sleep deprivation made everything seem louder and more important. We were a small, tight-knit community pulled together by how few there was of us. Prophesies about how we were a First Fruits company helped unite us too. But I do miss the community. I am the third generation of my family to be involved. As a third generation Canadian, that is a lot of my history.
There was a feeling of safety on the grounds. This may have been rooted in naivety. After all, a friend has the same feeling when in small towns, never mind that his wife was raped as a child in a small town. But regardless of reality, the camp felt sacred. I used to want to get married there. Of course, my wedding plans included a weiner roast and blob tag. (I’m not a stereotypical romantic.)
Now that the illusion has been shattered, I wonder what it is that I miss.
I miss the illusion
and superiority : that I belonged to a special group that had a special revelation from the Divine which would change the universe.
I miss the illusion that I belonged.
Its still a wonderful group of people. But when I think of bringing my daughters there, I get a sick feeling in my gut. Once upon a time I didn’t think I could live without camp. Now I don’t think I could live with it.