I am on the road this week, making a site visit to Camp Latgawa and working on a project related to my certification in Camp and Retreat Ministries. The certification process requires that I visit a site that is not one of ours, with an eye toward evaluating both the ministry that I am visiting as well as our own. The project site is Zephyr Point Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center.
Zephyr Point sits on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and as I type this I am looking out toward the beautiful blue waters of the lake from a cabin on the hillside. I grew up in Minnesota, which gained its name from the Dakota words meaning “clear blue water,” and there is plenty of that in the state of my childhood. I grew up appreciating the beauty that nature offers when we take the time to pay attention. And being at any one of our camp sites (or other sites, for that matter!) always brings that beauty into my life.
I had an overnight stop at Camp Latgawa, where I witnessed the work done by volunteers over the past weekend to get camp ready for guests this coming summer. I also had a chance to see how the Damascus cabin has been elevated in preparation for the new foundation that will be placed under the building. All this work is done so that we can offer a beautiful, welcoming, and sacred space where campers of all ages can encounter the gift of God's love.
Two other experiences on this trip have forced me to slow down and put aside my agenda for a few moments. The first was walking through Camp Latgawa in the evening and smelling something sweet that was in bloom. There was not enough light left in the day for me to identify the source, but it made me stop and pay attention to what was around me, and to appreciate the gifts that Camp Latgawa offers to those who come.
The second thing that touched me was the beauty of the flora that I had not encountered at Latgawa before. Several flowers caught my eye while I was out walking, and I decided to share two photos with you. One I can tentatively identify as a Mariposa Lily (I was pointed in this direction by Cindy McDonald, via Kate Vaden). If you look it up you will find many flowers that fall under this name, including the Sego Lily, which grows around Sawtooth Camp. After a little more scrutiny I decided this one more closely resembles the Tolmies Mariposa Lily. I do not know the name of the second flower. What I appreciate is that both flowers are blooming at the same time, and share similar color schemes. The other thing that I will let you know about this second one is that when I first glanced over from a short distance away, I assumed these flowers were past their prime. But when I took a second, closer look I discovered that many of the blossoms were in their prime and surprised me with their beauty. I hope that you enjoy them. If you have more information about either of these flowers, I would love to learn from you about the local flora around one of our sites.
In fact, I would love to see some of your favorite photos from our sites. Please share them with me and let me know if you would be willing to let us feature your photo in this newsletter.
See you on the adventure ahead,
Rev. Todd Bartlett
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
*PHOTOS: Lilies at Camp Latgawa, 2021 (Todd Bartlett).
Why do we feel comforted, healed, and enlivened in nature? Beth Norcross explains it is because God is so present there. In this podcast from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Dr. Norcross discusses how nature is our first way of knowing God, and how individuals and churches can connect with this deep wellspring of spiritual meaning. She also mentions that church camp was part of her own formation! Listen to the podcast or read the transcript here.
Beth Norcross is the founder and executive director of the Center for Spirituality in Nature and an adjunct faculty member at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, where she has developed and taught courses on eco-spirituality and eco-theology.
What is it about receiving the gift of flowers that always feels so special? A May Day basket left on the front porch by caring neighbors, a Mother's Day bouquet of dandelions from an enthusiastic toddler, a single red rose from a lover, a florist's beautiful arrangement sent by friends to mark the passing of a family member. These all offer a huge dose of caring wrapped up in the unmatchable beauty of God's creation. When we're in nature, the beauty of wildflowers reminds us again and again of how much God cares about us. In camp & retreat ministry, we work hard to offer tangible evidence of that care to all our campers and guests--so that each person feels special (whether or not they receive flowers at camp!). Your financial support helps make it happen--THANK YOU.