With this issue we begin Round Six of our series related to the camping curriculum, Creation Speaks, which we have been using for our programming in 2022. We take our time with these stories and listen to many camp and retreat perspectives so that we can hear anew what God is saying to the people. Today we explore again the image of Light and theses texts: Genesis 1:1-5 and John 8:12.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5, English Standard Version)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
The autumnal equinox is quickly approaching and I have been appreciating the change in seasons. Shadows are lengthening and there is a welcome crispness to the air. As day and night become nearly equal, it’s possible to see the night sky and watch stars without being up quite as late or to greet the dawn without rising so early.
As fall arrives, with a new school year, it also means I’m driving more and have a different opportunity to listen to music and podcasts. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of U2, especially their 1987 album, Joshua Tree. Many of U2’s songs feel like modern gospel music full of spiritual yearning, hunger for God’s healing in a broken world, and occasionally even Biblical references. Many of their song lyrics draw on imagery of light and darkness. Lyrics like, “I want to reach out and touch the flame”, “From the firefly, a red orange glow. See the face of fear running scared in the valley below”, and “If there is a light, we can't always see, and there is a world, we can't always be, if there is a dark, now we shouldn't doubt, and there is a light, don't let it go out”.
For me, these lyrics intertwine the imagery of light and dark together, into a dance that is reminiscent of the natural world and life. They are hard to separate, and often we appreciate both light and darkness more in experiencing the fullness of the seasons, or the movement of the sun through day and night. Music can remind us that life, too, is more complete when lived with a richness that allows a range of experiences and feelings.
I’m thankful that Christ, Light of the World, longs to be our dance partner through all seasons of life. As disciples, we are not protected from the complexities of the human world, but reassured that God accompanies us and guides us. Somehow God is present in both tears and laughter, and certainly when they are mingled. As author Annie Dillard says, "If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”
I’m hopeful that our campers gain understanding of their faith and a depth of relationship with God when living in Christian community at camp. While experiencing the joy of the night sky, sunrise hikes, watching bats at dusk, and playing in the sun, it is certainly possible to experience the natural world and our Creator in a new way. Reflecting on camp’s adventures, our shared journey, and individual experiences, camp offers the gift of spiritual connections. Exploring our faith together reminds each of us that through God’s grace we are loved as whole people and God’s Spirit will be with us always (no matter what music we might be listening to).
What music has helped you hear God in a new way? How have you experienced the gift of light and darkness? Please drop a note to Todd.
Jane Petke, co-director
Suttle Lake Camp
*PHOTO: "Woven as One" at Suttle Lake Camp (Daniel Petke). For more information about this sculpture, see below.
During the course of the year our six sites offer Christian ministry on behalf of the Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Church to thousands of people and numerous groups. Some of the groups are religiously oriented, some are educational groups, others are government agencies, and still others work with various art media: wool, paints, music, fabric, gourd art, writing, and stone, to name a few.
One of those artist groups is the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association. This group has now found a “home” at Suttle Lake after six years of holding events there. The members are grateful to be able to hold an annual event that attracts people from around the Northwest as well as from outside the United States. As an expression of their gratitude, they are working on a sculpture that will be placed at Suttle Lake permanently.
One of the things that we do believe fervently about those who make the journey to our sites is that they are looking for change in their lives. It might be to improve their craft with whichever medium they choose. It might also be to become a better person. Whatever their reason for making the trip, we in Camp and Retreat Ministries are committed to supporting the change they are seeking in their lives.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place.” This can, of course, happen anywhere--not just in camp and retreat ministry! How are you creating space for others that they may see change in their lives?
“Woven As One'' was one of the many sculptures shown at the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association’s Art Show at Suttle Lake as part of their August Symposium. It caught the light of the Central Oregon sun and drew people to it throughout the day, stirring conversation. The sculpture is made of calcite that came from the mountains 125 miles east of Salt Lake City.
Sculptor Carl Nelson posted a note next to his art, “What I really appreciate about this stone’s translucency is that it reminds us that like the rules of how our societies run, they should also be transparent.” Carl has been concerned with making art that raises awareness of how to measure a Better Future For All (BFFA), and in particular the use of social progress indicators to make visible how well a community provides for its members’ well-being.
The mobius form of this sculpture was chosen to represent the social fabric, woven as one surface, a community that provides the structure and systems upon which we all rely.
Did you know that the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association loves going to camp at Suttle Lake? Are you aware that about 45 chamber musicians spend a week playing music at the Collins Retreat Center every summer? Sawtooth hosted a gourd art camp this summer and Wallowa has provided space for an annual brass camp for many years. We often think of kids’ crafts at camp, but there are also artists who experience the hospitality of our sites as a sacred gift of support for their creativity.
Your financial gifts make a difference to groups that you may not have even known about! The support we receive from our donors helps us in our ability to offer musicians and artists a safe, beautiful, and welcoming space. The next time you see a work of art or listen to music, think about whether the artist might have been nurtured by an experience at one of our sites—and pat yourself on the back for being part of that support!
*PHOTO: Stone carvers at work on a sculpture to be permanently displayed at Suttle Lake--a gift of gratitude for the hospitality the artists have encountered at the site (Daniel Petke).