As I reflect on a year of “being camp” during COVID-19, I hear Psalm 32: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
We have seen the waters of uncertainty surging. We have experienced fear, loss, disorientation and anger. At moments we have succumbed to despair and anxiety. Often, however, we have persevered and regrouped, adjusted and dug in while charting a new course forward. At Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp, we trust we have been guided by the loving eye of God along a path we never would have chosen ourselves.
Our aim has been to remain faithful to our calling: to be a welcoming, peaceful gathering place where diverse groups of people experience life-giving connections with God, one another and nature.
But we have done so in new ways, adjusting to new circumstances and the limits set by our current reality. We miss what we have lost: school groups, summer campers and summer staff, who usually bring an incomparable energy to this space; familiar faces at retreats in our buildings; meeting folks from new groups; and the annual chicken barbecue fundraiser that allows many of our friends and supporters to reconnect with us and each other.
But without these losses we would not have had the chance to try new ideas:
- We brought camp into homes virtually via live-streamed and pre-recorded social-media events, and through our camp-in-a-bag initiative.
- During the summer we opened our space for individual families to camp and for day use.
- In the fall we offered outdoor events, including two fundraising dinners and two bird walks.
- We also had the opportunity to develop a new Community Life and Skills Program (CLASP) for young adults with special needs.
Through these initiatives we welcomed new people to camp and gave some people a chance to experience camp in a new way. For that we are grateful.
None of us would have chosen this path. We acknowledge with sadness the suffering it has brought to many people. We long for days when the pandemic is a memory, and look forward with hope towards a full summer of camping this year and the eventual return of our retreat groups. But, whatever happens, we believe God will continue to be present here and lead us as we and others experience this sacred space in familiar and unfamiliar ways.
Brent Musser is the facilities and environmental stewardship director at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp.
Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff cabin, pictured from left to right: Chris Pot, Brittany Ratelband, Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, and Sam Bielby, (hanging upside down). (Photo by Chris Pot)
The Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff team at the pond; pictured from left to right: Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, Brittany Ratelband and Sam Bielby. (Photo by Chris Pot)