The following is excerpted from an article published by Episcopal Life Online on June 10, 2009

‘Holy ground’

Horseback riding, archery, arts and crafts remain summer staples at the Sheldon Calvary Camp in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said David Dix, a third-generation camper whose daughters Maddy, 16, and Abby, 14, "are already packing. They can’t wait to go, even though it doesn’t start till next month."

Especially appealing is the camp’s intentional lack of technology, he said. "It helps my kids appreciate what they can do when they get away from Play Stations, Game Boys, TVs, phones and iPods and all the stuff that is so demanding and all the pressures of being a kid," said Dix, 46, in a telephone interview from the East End Cooperative Ministry, where he is development director.

For Dix and, he hopes, also for his daughters, camp becomes a place "to be yourself.

"The friends I’ve had for 30 years are those I met at the camp. I haven’t made any friendships comparable anywhere else in my life."

Sheldon Calvary Camp also added two "mini" programs for just a few days for 7- to 12-year-olds, and also for their parents, in response to another recent trend – parents reluctant to send their children to camp for an entire week.

Calvary, which typically draws about 1,000 summer campers and a total of 2,000 yearly from 25 states, is experiencing increased enrollment, said Executive Director Tim Green, 40, who discovered Christian camping as a boy in 1980 when his father took a job as caretaker at the camp.

Amazed by the community "and being in an environment where people could appreciate you for who you were, I realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, to preserve an environment where young people can be raised and valued and supported in ways you don’t just find anywhere else," he said.

Camps are "a point of access" for the church for young families, he said. "It isn’t just about going out and having a fun time. It’s a place where, when run well, the most integral piece of church we have going happens, where young people can interact with faith, spirituality and religion and make sense of it.

"Camps have a role in growing the church," he said. "It’s why they were established in the first place: People who understood being outdoors had [a] valuable place in terms of growing young people."

Successful camps typically are actively and passionately supported by bishops, camp directors and their boards of directors, as well as by diocesan clergy and laity, "who work to promote the program, to keep it fresh and to help raise money," added Peter Bergstrom, Director of Camp Stevens in Julian, California

"To the extent we’re not promoting Christian summer camps for kids, we’re losing a great opportunity to help young people develop those values we all hold in such high esteem," he said.

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is correspondent for Provinces VII and VIII and the House of Bishops.

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