It was a bright, sunny day, and the excitement on campus was electric. Cars continued to arrive with families of all shapes and sizes. Some kids were already out playing games – from volleyball to 9-square to Gagaball. Others found a comfortable place on the lawn to catch up with friends and to enjoy the afternoon that was something of a Goldilocks day – not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The mountain air was different than where many of us came from so we had some adjusting to do right off the bat, but it also was the beginning of a time that was hoped to be a week filled with joy, laughter, learning, and of course, the momentous night of carnival night.
The youth at Chapel Rock this week have been learning about the grandeur of the image of God as we find in the fabric of humanity. From our individual identities to the experiences that we share with others (most often without even knowing it!) to seeing how all of us have the opportunity to be swept up into the joy and gladness of the kingdom of God, a portion of the youth of our diocese have been challenged to celebrate God’s goodness not only through their own identities but also through the celebration of the identity of another. Within a single week of camp, we have campers that bring with them different racial identities, sexual identities, gender identities, cultural identities, ethnic identities, and many more that go beyond what is reasonable for me to list here in a short blog post. The differences of the campers have created a new community; the differences within the camp community come together to reflect God’s kingdom from a new angle. From this different angle, each person at Chapel Rock is invited to celebrate the giftedness of the another and to remind one another that we are loved by God just as we are – in the way that God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.
The work the youth have entered into over this week is challenging work. It is work that many of us are challenged by even in our adult lives. The questions being asked of our youth are equally as powerful as reflections for those of us who are adults – whether we are at Chapel Rock or not! And of course, when we begin to wrestle with identity, we run into our own preconceived notions, prejudices, stumbling blocks, and growing edges. We come to a place that begins to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and our initial reaction is to pull away from that place. We do not necessarily want to grow in the way that the Spirit is inviting us to do so. It creates a bit too much uncertainty for us, and it is difficult to see who we might be if we keep pushing through that growth space to get to the other side.
Last night, we had a wonderful evening of fun and frivolity with Carnival Night. During Carnival Night, the campers have the chance to play ring toss, put-put, lawn bowling, and other games to earn tickets. The tickets can be traded for candy and other goodies, but most of the campers find a way to pool their resources for the ultimate prize: a pie in the face of one of their counselors or another staff member. As I am sure you would guess, the chaplains for the week are at the top of the list for getting pied. After all, how often do you have a perfectly good excuse to put a pie in the face of your priest?!
Now, I cannot say that I was super excited about the possibility (well, we all knew it was a certainty) of getting a pie in the face – especially not after a long day of tending to some deep spiritual and pastoral needs around the camp. But…I also knew that this was a moment of fun and frivolity that would lead to strengthened relationship with our youth. As the night waned on, the pastoral responsibilities finally begin to decrease, and of course, I was asked if I was willing to get pied. Needless to say, the teens from Epiphany were simply begging to see a large pie of shaving cream go flying towards my face. In the end, I relented. I did not necessarily want to go there, but I also knew that this space might be what leads to more laughter, more celebration, and more recognition of God’s image in one another. I suppose you could call it a space of a growing edge although I am not certain how much growth comes from a shaving cream pie.
The spaces in which we run into our growing edges are rarely comfortable, and they rarely come along at the precise moment in which we are ready to lean into that growing edge. Instead, it is likely that we most often encounter them at the end of a long day, a long week, a long month, or a long year (as this past one has been!). When we do encounter our own growing edge, we probably want to pull back from it as quickly as we can versus leaning into it and doing our own work. But, sometimes, our growing edge is as simple and as fun as a shaving cream pie in the face.