“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” – John 14:20
For nearly 70 years, the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield has participated in providing a camping ministry for youth throughout Illinois to experience God in His creation. Each year, the church camp family invites dozens of children to gather in the woods at East Bay Camp in Hudson, Illinois, as they embark on a journey to better know who they are, and whose they are. And each year, staff and campers alike utter the same phrase: “Life is so much better when this camp family is together”.
It is that heartfelt expression of unity that led to the 2018 church camp theme, “Better Together: God in Us, Us in God, Together in Community”. From July 1st-7th, 78 individuals gathered at East Bay Camp in Hudson, Illinois for a time of deepening relationships with one another and with the Father, as they uncovered what it truly meant to be better together.
Church camp is a “thin place”, a place where the presence of God moves so tangibly among the community that is gathered there that it becomes a noticeably different place from the “real world”. As campers and counselors meet for a week of worshipping together, praying, playing games, fishing, boating, hiking and so much more, the presence of God in the lives of those gathered cannot go unnoticed. This was true again this year, as God moved powerfully in the annual camping ministry.
The week brought lovely weather, perfect for exploring the woods and learning more about God in the midst of His creation. From sunrise fishing trips to sunset hikes at Inspiration Point— a lookout over the lake that is marked with a cross— and everything in between, our church camp family had an incredibly fun and faith-filled week together.
Camp is not only a time for boating, swimming, climbing icebergs (in giant, inflatable form on the lake), crafts, s’mores, campfires, skit nights, Dutch auctions (a classic camp game), dance parties in the rain, slip-and-slides, water ballon fights and 9-square tournaments, although plenty of those activities filled each day. Rather, church camp is designed to be a time away from the daily routines, stress and difficulties of life, and a time to step into the identity and destiny given to all by Christ.
The Episcopal Church Camp of Illinois is a family that is better together as a result of the times spent in worship, prayer, communion, small group Bible studies and deep conversations about the presence of God in the world. Church ca
mp is an annual reminder that the youth in each congregation are not just the future of the Church, but the present movement of the Church. The empowering of each child to invite God to live fully in them and to live a life in unity with God and the body of Christ is why this ministry of nearly 70 years continues to gather together each summer.
In the midst of the laughter, inside jokes, canoeing, fishing, 9-square games, crafts, hayrack rides and silly moments around
the campfire, each camper walks away better knowing their identity in Christ and the unique purpose placed on their lives. And while our camp family could tell you countless stories from this summer alone, the classic phrase remains true: “You just have to be there to understand”.
The Episcopal Church Camp of Illinois invites all those interested in learning more about our camping ministry to visit us online at facebook.com/eccillinois, go to eccillinois.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We are always welcoming new campers, counselors and community supporters to join our camp family. And don’t forget to mark your calendar now for Church Camp 2019 from June 30th – July 6th at East Bay Camp in Hudson, Illinois.