Church camps: a chance for inclusion

Cross Cultural Mission and Ministry (CCMM) Second Gen Youth Leadership Camp

Cross Cultural Mission and Ministry (CCMM) Second Gen Youth Leadership Camp

The Uniting Church has a long and proud history of holding annual camps to bring members together in a spirit of community with the vision of the church as a family.

This photo was taken at the Cross Cultural Mission and Ministry (CCMM) Second Gen Youth Leadership Camp last year when attendees dressed up for ‘Second Gen’s Got Talent’.  The theme for the camp – ‘Creating space to wait, listen, trust: hope comes’ – was explored by guest speaker Rev Bruce Reyes Chow, minister of the Presbyterian Church in USA.

This year the Second Gen Youth Leadership camp will run from 4 to 7 July in Grantville, with a theme of identity: ‘Who do you say I am?’  The guest speaker will be Rosemary Hudson Miller, social justice consultant for the WA synod.

Second Gen young people in ethnic-specific congregations and faith communities are invited to register by contacting KOH Swee-Ann, Director of CCMM at koh.sweeann@victas.uca.org.au or on 0424 260 222. Kimmy Fam from Ballarat writes about the experience of a recent Uniting Church camp held at Hall’s Gap in April.

The camp embraced a spirit of inclusiveness and the cultural diversity of the UCA: As a new Christian, I attended church camp for the first time in April.

When the camp organiser told guests not to lock their doors on their way out, it was a practical rule – a locked door would deny access to others sharing the room. But it was also an exercise in trust and communal living. There’s something in the shared camaraderie of church camps that makes people open up and share a bit of themselves with others.

The 105 attendees, mostly from Ballarat Central and Brown Hill congregations, lodged four to six to a room – many sharing with virtual strangers they have seen before in church but knew little about. Besides sleeping arrangements, communal dining was a great equaliser too.

Duties were rostered. Every man, woman and child who was old enough helped with things like cooking and washing up. There was no room for prima donnas – church camp means working, walking, sharing and boarding together. This is perhaps the blueprint for the ideal Christian community which is “of one heart and one soul… they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32)

This particular camp had a small but distinct multi-cultural element to it. Guests comprised people from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Not all were church-goers; not all were Christians. There were no biases because of differences in race, colour or creed. Therein lies the true inclusive spirit of Christ and the opportunity for others to witness and feel it.

It was the perfect time and place to break down barriers and remove prejudices. Within that few days, nameless faces morph into real people and become your friends. Maybe it’s the tree-change or the gorgeous Grampians vista or the friendly wildlife or the invigorating mountain air. Or it could be the congregation just wanting to get to know one another that bit better. People suddenly recognise and talk to each other beyond the perfunctory “How are you doing?” at Sunday service.

If church camps were supposed to be a place where divides are bridged, old slights forgiven and old misunderstandings forgotten then this one ticked all the boxes. So what if the chicken kebabs were so popular they ran out mid-service? (The steak was plentiful.)

Or that things can get a bit noisy with so many children around? No one expected things to go without a small hitch or two.
Perfection wasn’t demanded – after all, we are family.

For more information on Mission and Service funding please visit: www.victas.uca.org.au/givingisliving

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