Camps are cool. My youngest kids went to Christian camps last week. TJ (9) went to El Rancho and Hannah (14) went to Lakeview Bible Camp with some Gospel Chapel people from Foxton. They had a great time. They came home with huge smiles and heads full of memories.
I also have very fond memories of New Zealand camps when I was younger.
Camps are where you can hang out late at night, dress badly, discover yourself, fight the giggles at 2 in the morning, watch the uninhibited speaker embarrass himself publicly, eat poorly cooked food, get up surprisingly early to pray, create and perform silly skits, pee in a freezing cold cement toilet block, and share your life-changing decision with your new friends as bonfire flames lick your eyelashes.
Why can't church be like more like camp?
Well, actually, it can be! As you know we arrived at Ngatiawa Camp a month ago and are still here. This is an old Presbyterian camp that was purchased 8 years ago by a network of Christian communities called Urban Vision and turned into a contemporary monastery that has been embraced by the Anglican church.
Founders Justin and Jenny Duckworth tell the story in their book Against the Tide. Justin is working on his Ph.D on contemporary monasticism and I expect he will have some great contributions to make once he is finished.
In a way, its like a camp that goes on forever, a perennial camp, a camp where no body has to go home because this is their home. They have fixed up the buildings, added gardens, a milking shed for the cows, art spaces for creativity, extra accommodation, a chapel for their 3 daily services, and a wifi signal. But its still a camp. Except the food is better.
We cooked pizza for 50 people last Friday. Every day new people seem to turn up. Lots of young people. Lots of Anglicans, especially since last month's big profile [read article]. Anglican Youth Network Facilitator John Hebenton has been here all week, hiding himself away in the prayer hut. Yesterday, Bishop Richard Ellena dropped in for a cuppa.
Last week a young guy named Tim flew up from Christchurch and hitched his way to Ngatiawa Camp, just to stay one day before flying back south. People are looking for a better way to do church and models like this are giving hope to a new generation.
A lot of young people around the world are starting intentional communities that begin with the template of a monastery and then reduce the weird elements to make it fit the context. But another option is to START WITH A CAMP and add what needs to be added. Seems to be working for Urban Vision.
Want to check it out? Come for PassionFest in Feb right here at Ngatiawa and bring your tent.