Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Camp taught me about Rules, the Great Commandment, and Priorities

There are few universal rules, especially at Camp. A person is running. Running can lead to falling—especially in a world of unpaved paths, gravel, roots, large rocks, and done in an often ungainly body. So we don’t run. Except when we do (some games and activities, and in the case of emergencies). So we can’t have the rule: “Don’t run.”

At Camp Marshall, where I have worked for most of the last 11 summers, we have four rules. Four. No lengthy index to sort through. No list of things appropriate at this time but not that time. No collection of waiting infractions.

Four rules:

Be prepared
Be on time
Respect yourself and others

As with many good things in my life, I didn’t create it. It was given to me, part of the great inheritance my predecessor and mentor bequeathed to me over a 15 year relationship. Now we have both boldly borrowed it from Barbara Coloroso’s work.*

It works in a Camp environment where there are kids and staff from different backgrounds, different parts of the state and the country. It works in a place replete with hazards (water, small cliffs, wildlife, kids**). It works with the youngest campers and the most experienced staff.

I have found a whole new appreciation for this philosophy. What we do, these four rules, isn’t about rules. It’s not a list of infractions waiting to happen. It’s a list of priorities for this community. We are most concerned about people’s desire to be here (be prepared), presence with others (be on time), engagement with others (participate), and care for themselves and others (respect). Everything we do rests on this ground.

And it works…when we use it.

All behavior has to be viewed through those four principles. Simple but not easy.

Running: a lack of self-respect much of the time, but not always.
Yelling: a lack of respect in a group, or a part of participation during an activity.
Hitting someone: a lack of respect for the other person.
Wearing tennis shoes: part of being prepared for some activities and lack of preparation for the waterfront.
Teasing each other: group bonding or a lack of respect for the subject of the ‘jokes?’
A staff miscommunication: simple—if problematic—error, a lack of preparation, or a lack of respect?

It is hard. There’s always the kid who insists that she feels respected when others talk (gossip) about her. The one who knows running isn’t a problem because he doesn’t mind scrapping his knee.

Working from the ground up takes longer and requires greater discernment. We can’t universally label things. We have to think. We have to take motives and perspectives into account. We have to listen. We have to talk. We have to be relational.

This listening, this talking, this discernment? This way of shaping community?
Makes all the difference.

– – – –

Jesus has three priorities.***

Love God.
Love yourself and your neighbor.
Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Three priorities all behavior and thought ought to spring from and be viewed through. Living in that truth requires discernment, listening, talking, considering motives and perspectives. Jesus’ three priorities, like most of Jesus’ ministry, are relational.

We are continuing this central work of Christianity. I know Christians who live the knowledge that sacrificing to love their neighbors is essential. I know Churches who work to devote most of their resources to loving their members and neighbors. I know Dioceses where every meeting includes a question like: How will what we do here benefit the poor? And I hear stories of how this has changed the whole culture.

At this last General Convention there was a proposal to require that very question of the entire Episcopal Church. I confess to voting against it. I was wrong. I have a new appreciation for how our communal life, its glories and mundanities, is understood differently through the lens of our greater purpose: to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, while leaving room for the work of the Spirit.

It will never be easy.

We will continue to interpret even three priorities differently.
The brusque person who speaks to the soft-hearted neighbor. The visitor who sees genuine busyness as dismissal. The person who knows that individual, local efforts are better tailored to their neighbor’s needs and the person who is convinced that a larger social safety net is the best way to love their neighbors. The person who knows their abortion was necessary for their (and often their family’s) health and safety and the one who knows it was a sin against loving the unborn child.

This is more than not vilifying people who disagree. This is crawling inside their view and learning that it stems from the same priorities as our own.

Sometimes this solves problems. Most often when we reach for listening grounded in Jesus’ priorities we find ourselves at the table, breaking bread and drinking wine, with our brothers and sisters, regardless of our disagreements and agreements. Much like a Lord who dined with those called outcast and those considered prominent in society.

*I cannot recommend Ms. Coloroso’s book Kids are Worth It! strongly enough. Ms Coloroso’s approach to discipline is designed to leave everyone’s dignity intact. If you interact with people, this is something you must read. Her website [address and link] is a treasure trove (better phrase) of great resources.
**Only slightly joking. Any group of peers can be it’s own worst enemy. Fighting, rumors, scapegoating, cliques. There are so many ways for people to injure each other.
***Mark 12:29-31 and Mark 3:29
Categories: Church, Episcopal, Priest's Life, Theology | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

SR: Proper 10 YrC 2013 (and a bit of Camp)

Unfinished Thoughts:
Some combination of these ideas:
Plumb lines, surveying and the challenge of being human( ie getting things wrong)
A bit of Paul
(Rope climbing bit/-use the rope, stay close to the wall, belay partner)
Don’t forget the stories (people)–this is where I would have tied in the Gospel and, given the week, brought the Zimmerman verdict in

I did wind up preaching on Monday’s Daily Eucharistic lessons–for Family Camp. Exodus 1:8-14,22 (Phaoroh’s edict about killing male Hebrew children) and Matthew 10:34-11:1 (Jesus coming to set family member against family member). This is about what I said:
I did not pick the readings. I mention this because they were probably not what you want to hear at the start of a week at Camp with your family.
Jesus is not anti-family. What he is saying is how nothing can be more important than God. And I know you are practicing that. Because you came here, to Camp. A place you have all experienced to be holy ground. To share that experience with your family. Amen.
I was just hat short. Under 2 minutes my staff tells me.

Sermons I liked:

Priest Richardson brings it back to, “In this social game of divide and conquer we are all the victim and we are all the accused. We all lose.”

Priest Baum reminds us of those things we confess, that we cannot do.

Priest Pankey ponder ‘love Eruvs.’

Priest Arnold reminds us that the Good Samaritan is truly about human struggles.

(Here’s the list of people I usually listen to. Am I missing someone?)

Categories: Sermon Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

SR: Family Camp and Proper 9, 2013

Link: Souvenirs

Summary of what I was saying and why:
We read Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:10-22) and the Tranfiguration (Mark 9:2-8). Saturday is the last day of Camp, our theme is Be Imitators of God. I often hear how Camp is the place people best experience God (good) or how Camp is really their only Church (eeeeh). I wanted to bring together the joy Camp, the challenge to be Imitators of God, and the joy what they have experienced here. And then remind and challenge people to be imitators of both in the rest of their lives.

Theology: Incarnation
Jesus Count: low
Good News: We carry our best experiences forward with us.

What did I change on my feet?
Not a lot. Things went about as I expected, although with less interaction than I was hoping for. That is the risk of interactive preaching.

What didn’t work/what did I miss?
In my head I had a line or two about how we are the souvenirs God sends out into the world. Which would have tied things up a bit. Just didn’t get there mentally.

What did work?
I really liked the concept. I wish my execution had been a little better.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Young on the importance of remaining.

Priest Arnold tells people that “the kingdom needs to be proclaimed out there, where we spend our days.”

Priest Richardson uses one of my favorite quotes from St Teresa of Avila.

Dean Richards preaches on mantles and their weight.

(Here’s the list of people I usually listen to. Am I missing someone?)

Categories: Sermon Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Souvenirs, a sermon from Family Camp 7-6-13

The priest for this week had to leave a day early due to commitments at his parish.  So I preached and celebrated this morning.

We read Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28), Psalm 48, and Jesus’ Transfiguration (Mark 9).

Seeing God and building souvenirs.

Listen: Family Camp 1, Saturday 7-6-13

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

SR: Shaky Foundations, Proper 8 YrC 6-30-13

I’m not reviewing last week’s sermons because they are part of a larger whole. I preached half of the week, Mike preached half. I don’t believe that our preaching can be unentangled but only half of it is mine to comment on.

Unfinished Thoughts:

“Stand Firm”
“Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”
I am reminded of how shaky and uncertain this firm foundation of faith can seem.
Those apostles and prophets? I’ve read my Bible–this is not the way I want my foundation to look.
We become part of the foundation–through the grace and to the glory of God.
Stand firm, despite the shakes, our deep uncertainty about this, because, so long as we build, others will stand on our shoulders.

Sermons I liked:

Priest Castellan points out that “when you rely too heavily on just the outward stuff, you can run into trouble.”

Bishop Rickel said “…we use water and oil and hands and history…” and went on to remind us how much of life is about choice.

Priest Sinclair remembers that The Church has not always behaved well and calls for the fulfillment of the ministry we have been called to.

Priest Arnold with “We want to live good and holy lives, but there’s just so much to do first.”

Priest Linman quotes FDR and preaches about the Fruits of the Spirit in relationships.

Categories: Sermon Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: