“Letting go is like releasing a tight spring at the core of yourself, one you’ve spent your whole life winding and maintaining.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd
Going camping together as the church family was one of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences growing up. I did not know about church camps as Christian communities, places of work, or possible ministry outlets as my church did its Christian camping together in family groups of just our own congregation-either group tent sites at the coast or a smaller, more heartier group that went backpacking together once a summer. My family was involved with both.
For approximately 26 years now, 14 of them post-seminary, I have been engaged in positions at both secular and Christian camping facilities, both in volunteer capacities and as a paid professional. I have been in professional Christian camp/retreat ministries for 12 years; during that time my belief in the deeply transformative power of camp and retreat ministries has only grown. It is a unique experience of the Kingdom of God, and a place that touches our lives in profound ways-different than the ways we experience in traditional parish settings. Time and time again I have seen broken children and/or broken or breaking adults come on retreat to find solace, healing, wholeness, and a sacramental presence of God in all we do during a stay at camp or a retreat center.
I deeply believe there is a calling to this particular expression of uncommon ministry, where formational Christian experiences are an intentional, experiential, educational foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. When I reach deeply into myself and touch the core of who I am and who God has made me to be, I find that camp and retreat ministries are like the glowing embers of a campfire; gleaming brightly among the safe harbor of their ring of stones, shining out their light for all to see.
At the same time there came an inner prompting within me to take ministry back down “off the mountaintop” and into the valleys of everyday existence. Listening to that, I followed Christ’s inner prompting. Over the past four years I intentionally increased substitute preaching in local pulpits, sharing the Word of God, leading worship and offering compassionate listening during visits with parishioners after services or occasionally in Bible studies as a guest. I became ordained as a Teaching Elder in November 2014. Since January 2015, I have been a solo pastor of a small country church in an organic farming community nestled at the base of Mt. Adams in Klickitat County, Washington. At the same time, I have continued to serve as the Program Director for Menucha Retreat and Conference Center while living in NE Portland, Oregon.
My work at the church in the mountains fulfills me in ways I did not expect it to. The congregation is mostly made up of retired professionals, with only two historic farming families still represented in this 110 year-old congregation; I bring them a “youthful vitality” and typical pacific northwest pioneering spirit with my service.
Now I find myself entering into a time of discernment as I closely listen for God’s still small voice to speak of the next chapter in my life and vocation. Putting who I have been and who I am into less than 300 words is tricky but a good spiritual exercise. I offer my own reflection as inspiration to you and yours. May God’s still small voice speak to each of us.