On Friday, the 26th of August, 47 youth and young adults from across the Diocese of New Westminster met at Horseshoe Bay for a weekend away at Camp Artaban. Camp Artaban is a Christian camp rooted in Anglicanism, it is located on Gambier island, which is about a 40 minute water taxi, and is celebrating its 99th year! The DYM has been intentionally building relationships with Camp Artaban in the last few of years wanting to support the amazing work they do there as well as want to share the beauty of the site with others. This retreat was created in partnership with St. Clements, Lynn Valley, who have a thriving young adult ministry. Through several meetings the DYM, Camp Artaban and St. Clements wanted to create a retreat that would be open for youth to experience Camp Artaban, and promote what they do, but to also have an offering for young adults, who are ages 19+, which meant a wide range of attendees. Finally after lots of planning, we were able to make this idea come to life, making space for all ages to come together in fellowship over a weekend. Our plan was to have separate time with specific activities for each group, as well as joining together for meals, worship and campfire, alongside the various outdoor activities provided by Camp Artaban.
The retreat kicked off with a blustery boat ride over to Gambier Island, the waves were a little rough and anyone in the back got pretty wet, but it meant for an exhilarating ride before heading straight into the dinning hall for dinner. The theme for the weekend varied for the ages, for the youth the theme was "Creation Connection" where we used the elements to explore ways that we can connect to ourselves, each other and God by looking to the world around us. The young adults were focused on rest and renewal and ensuring that the participants had time for intentional self care.
After dinner, the youth got settled in their cabins, which of course to their horror and leaders delight, didn't have electricity, which meant a little bit of a forced technology fast. We then gathered by the ocean at the campfire pit for worship. Lead by Lauren Odile Pinkney (Children, Youth and Family Minister at Christ Church Cathedral and Chair of the Diocesan Youth Movement), and Jason Wood (Youth & Families Ministry Coordinator at St. Laurence, Coquitlam), with liturgy from the Northumbria Community - which takes a whole new meaning with its beautiful imagery when you are literally besides the ocean, mountains and forests. The sun set as we sang "How Great Thou Art" together which became a bit of a theme for our music through the weekend, with one verse in particular that rang true for us:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
Then sings my soul, my Savior-God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
For our first session, on air, the youth took part in a guided meditation with Lauren and Sarah Autio (Youth and Family Ministries Coordinator at St. Marks, Ocean Park), which was based around Air, through an adaptation of Lectio Divina, we got the youth to lie down on the ground. Then with a rock that they had chosen from the beach they placed this rock on their stomach and used it to assist in deep breathing through the session. The passage we used that was also our theme for the weekend was Isaiah 43:2:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
The youth then got a chance to debrief the activity and talk about ways in which meditative prayer practices such as this can help ground you when feeling anxious or stressed but even help you in getting off to sleep. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that to love God and to love each other we have also try to love ourselves too!
After our session, we had some delicious fresh from the oven oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies and of course some hot chocolate before the youth headed off to cabins to finally get some rest.
On Saturday morning we noticed a huge shift in the weather, it had gone from grey and cloudy to glorious sunshine, just in time for a day outside! After breakfast we headed down to the campfire for morning prayer, we watched herons fish, we said our prayers together, before our next session on Earth, led by the Reverend Cameron Gutjahr, Rector of St. John the Divine, Squamish and long term DYM Member. Cameron studied Biology at University and has a passion for all things that grow, so it was fitting that he would lead this session. Together we learned about rocks and about how rocks change and how God changes us. Using the story of Jacob's Ladder, Cameron with some help from the youth retold the story, with an actual ladder, because why not? Through this story we learned about God changing hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.
We then gathered together to take part in archery and rock climbing, we also have a few games of volleyball, and what retreat would be complete without crafts? Cross stitch became a big hit with some of our creative youth, and we were able to sit on the grass and cheer on the rock climbers as we stitched away. Meanwhile young adults, after breakfast went on a hike over to Brigade Bay, and went swimming with time to connect with each other.
After lunch we met down by the campfire for our next session, this time, the theme was water. Kerry Baisley, Missioner for Indigenous Justice, whom we had invited over to be our speaker and share Indigenous wisdom in our last two sessions. For the session on water, Kerry began with an exercise on Blind Spots. On our handout was a dot on the left-hand side of the paper and on the right was a cross. When you close one eye and focus on the cross, the dot fades away and becomes invisible. This became the overarching theme for both sessions as we can so easily focus on one thing that we may, though perhaps not intentionally, completely ignore the other. Kerry used this as an example for how we have lost sight of water protection, and have somehow allowed people to own water and there by huge companies have gone unnoticed in charging millions for water that is essentially free. We also had a wake up call as to how much water in the world is actually drinking water (only 1.2%!). Kerry closed off the session by encouraging the youth to look at the powers that be and question why no one is dealing with this, and empowering the youth to use their voices to advocate for climate justice and issues based around drinking water.
This was the perfect segway into our waterfront time, with bathing suits at the ready we headed down to the dock for swimming and kayaking. Those of us who were kayaking even got a special visit from a grey seal who followed us for a little while. The sun and the water were both warm and welcoming as we had some well-needed fun in the sun with a side helping of vitamin sea.
Mean while our young adults were enjoying some glorious mandala painting on rocks, this consists of using dropping tools, coloured acrylics and rocks, and using small dots to make patterns, waves or various mandalas. Christie Smith, one of the young adult portion facilitators, who creates incredible rock mandala art, led this portion and the results were exquisite!
What would camp be without a game of capture the flag? And that is exactly what we did to dry off, a site-wide game that youth, young adults and leaders competed in, red team vs blue team, to capture each other's flags before we were called in for dinner. Which on Saturday night went down particularly well with the youth as it consisted of pizza and cake, is there anything better?
After dinner, we headed up to the chapel in the woods for our last session of the day and of the weekend with Kerry, the theme for this was fire. Next year we at the DYM are planning to attend CLAY Conference in Waterloo, and their theme is Ashes and Embers, so to introduce the youth a little bit some concepts around fire we had asked Kerry to lead us in sharing some knowledge and wisdom in this area as well. Kerry began the session with small groups, with all of us discussing words that we would associate with fire at different stages in our life when we were very small when were growing up in middle or high school, and then how that has shifted since 2016 and the wildfires in our province. Kerry then began to teach us about Indigenous ways of how to control forest fires and comparing it to national initiatives, it became clear that this is another blindspot, many of us have in ways we think of and perceive fire. Kerry then began to teach us about sacred medicine, sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco. The youth got to interact with these elements and smell sage and sweetgrass as well as some frankincense and myrrh from Jordan. To close the session Kerry led the youth in a teaching session around smudging and gave the youth the opportunity to be smudged if they wanted to, for many of them it was their first time and first experience of this. We then proceeded to go down to the campfire and have our worship, as we gathered around the fire and sang songs. It was a beautiful few hours and there was a sense of community and stillness amongst the youth as we sat in the dark and looked up at the stars.
Meanwhile the young adults, led by Reverend Helen Dunn, Rector of St. Clements, Lynn Valley, lead a session with young adults in the Directors Hut on radical self-care. This work is so important, especially amongst young adults and particularly millennials, who have such high burn out rate, that learning skills, setting boundaries and advocating for these needs have become not just important but vital to young adults who are trying to establish themselves in careers, life or generally adulthood! All these things are sacred acts and ways God calls us to care for others AND our selves.
The youth, after perhaps too many s'mores, shifted gear a little to have a night game. A bit if a tradition at Camp Artaban is to play Lantern, so with lots of help from James and Kia, camp Artaban summer staff, we were able to get the youth competing in stealth mode to reach the lantern (without getting caught) and turn it off. The game took place up a hill through the forest amongst the ferns, making treading quietly very difficult! Leaders were spread through the forest with flash lights and would flash them at places where they heard a noise. If they caught a youth in their light, the youth was sent down the hill to try again. It was a lot of fun, it's rare to see youth that still and that quiet! After the game it was time for quiet hours and lights out.
On our last morning, after breakfast, we held morning prayer in the field, before heading off for another round of archery, climbing wall and craft. Christie Smith was wonderful enough to invite and teach some of the youth who were interested, in the mandala rock painting. After our various activities, we gathered at the chapel for our last guided activity. Lauren and the DYM team wanted the closing Eucharist to include everyone on site, that in the same way as we have groups contribute to Sunday morning worship such as altar guild, readers, and intercessors, we wanted to use that same model but ensure the youth and young adults had full creative reign in making the Eucharist their own. So each DYM leader with help from the Reverend Peggy Trendell-Jensen, (Deacon at St. Clements, Lynn Valley), and Helen, we split the youth by their interest. These groups were music (led by Jason), the sermon (led by Helen), the readings (led by Peggy), and decorating and space set up (led by Melissa Van Uum, DYM member). We had no idea how this portion would go, but were excited to see what the youth and young adults would bring. So after we had finished our prep time, taken a group photo, and eaten out lunch, we gathered back in the chapel for our closing Eucharist. The chapel decorating group went above and beyond, around the fence posts in the chapel were candles and hand picked shells that the youth had beach combed in their prep time. Then the altar was covered in moss, flowers, branches and sea weed to represent creation, the things that were made by God, also present on the altar was things humans had made which were also found in the forest, a KitKat candy bar, and flashlight, these represented our lack of care for creation and the affect human made things have to the planet. With the Reverend Helen Dunn presiding, we sang with the music group who even have dance moves, hand actions, and multiple drummers. We then heard from the readers who not only read the readings but enacted them, including walking with rivers using actual water being splashed over the group and walking through fire, represented by a fluorescent orange vest and fleece which were waved around the group too. To top it all off we watched an amazing skit facilitated by Helen, which acted out the story from our gospel that day, Luke 14, where the host is encouraged to invite the poor to their banquet. The skit included New Testament News interviews with the rich guests, Jesus and the host. It was both hilarious and meaningful. The prayers, led by Sarah consisted of prayers the youth had written as well as the response which was:
God of the Forest
Hear our prayer.
We shared Eucharist together beneath the trees under the huge cross, before we said our goodbyes to camp, and the staff, and headed back to mainland.
The weekend was incredible to be a part of and was credit to so many people's hard work and commitment to jump on board! A huge thank you to Nancy and Jonathan Ferris at Camp Artaban, and all of the summer staff, especially Kia and James! A big thank you to everyone at St. Clements for helping dream the weekend up and make it a reality, Peggy, Helen and Mark. Thank you to Kerry Baisley for his wisdom, humor and passion. Thank you to Rev. Jessica Schaap for her help behind the scenes in the lead up to the weekend. Thank you to all the DYM leaders, Cameron, Jason, Sarah, Melissa and Rev. Jonathan Pinkney. And thank you to the Anglican Foundation and the Diocese of New Westminster for contributions that made this an affordable weekend for the young people and young adults of the Diocese to attend and enjoy. These happy memories will be hard to forget.
Photo credit: Lauren Odile Pinkney, Jonathan Pinkney, Helen Dunn