camps

Can church be more like camp?

Every winter, I hear a radio advertisement for a back-to-the-woods summer children’s camp in Ontario. The ad closes with the tagline, “You send us your child, and we’ll send you back a new one.” It’s a great slogan. It points out that renewal and transformation occur when people are pulled away from their daily routines to spend time in the great outdoors.

Chesley Lake accordion

Photo: David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

An accordionist serenades a literary society meeting at Chesley Lake Camp in Ontario, in 1949. Chesley Lake was the first Mennonite church camp in Ontario and one of the first in Canada. Literary societies were common in Ontario Mennonite churches at the time, as social outlets and avenues for artistic expression.

Journey of a beloved camp treasure

The former Camp Moose Lake picnic shelter is placed in its new home at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Mennonite Church Manitoba)

The former Camp Moose Lake picnic shelter at its new home at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

Moose Lake was one of three camps under the umbrella of Camps with Meaning (CwM), Mennonite Church Manitoba’s camping ministry. It opened in 1957 and closed in September 2017, in order to create a more sustainable model for the regional church’s camping ministry.

Stepping outside the comfort zone

Campers learn to canoe on Lake Laverne at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp. (Photo by Chris Pot)

I had the pleasure of leading the Leaders in Training (LIT) and Advanced Camper Experience (ACE) programs at Hidden Acres last summer. Both programs offer youth a chance to further develop leadership skills, study the Bible, build community, spend time outdoors, and learn the ins and outs of serving at camp.

Witnessing God at Camp Assiniboia

Nadya Langelotz is pictured at a ‘theme meal’ at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

As I prepare to enter my eighth summer as a camp staffer, I have an overwhelming abundance of memories to reflect on. From childhood weeks at Camp Moose Lake and the pubescent discoveries at Camp Koinonia, all the way to last summer, when I fell into awkwardly new territory to direct at Camp Assiniboia.

Fun is a camp by-product

Canoeing across a lake at camp for the first time is not easy. (Fraser Lake Camp photo)

The word “fun” is often used in association with camp but, from my perspective, fun is not the meat and potatoes of what happens at camp. Fun is the byproduct of an accepting community and doing silly, exciting and difficult things together.

This ground is holy ground

This Ground participants harvest potatoes at Camp Assiniboia in the fall. (Photo by Barrette Plett)

After an afternoon of working outside at Camp Assiniboia and eating a potluck together, This Ground participants gather to sing and worship together. (Photo by Barrette Plett)

This Ground is a collective that meets to work, worship and eat together in aid of Camp Assiniboia near Cartier, Man. 

“This ground, this is the place when we come here we are participating in worship just by looking up at these big trees and recognizing God’s greatness,” says Sandy Plett.

No place I’d rather be

Janet Peters, right, the associate program director for MC Manitoba's Camps with Meaning, is pictured with an adult camper. (Camps with Meaning photo)

A young girl pretends she is an expert equestrian. Slightly older, she learns the difference between a J-stroke and a C-stroke. Later, as a counsellor, she races through pouring rain near midnight to the lodge bathroom. Another night, she holds a tiny hand as someone struggles to fall asleep in a strange place.

Summer memories go up in smoke

Chesley Lake Camp, located west of Owen Sound, Ont., lost its main building to fire on Canada Day. The building housed offices, a restaurant, tuck shop and many memories.

The fire has been classified as accidental and no further investigation is being carried out. Fireworks had been displayed near the building on the evening of July 1, 2017, and the fire began several hours later.

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