Camp Fun While School’s Out!

Siblings at SOWI!

When I was a kid in school, days off were always a blast. I would get to hang out with my four siblings on our (then) Christmas tree farm, spending the day exploring the woods, playing tag in the yard, and—depending on the season—either splashing about in or cracking the ice that had formed on the creek that ran past our house. I got to spend time with my sisters and brothers, gained an appreciation for the outside world, and learned that a little dirt won’t hurt!

These days, days off from school are often a hassle; finding a place for the kids to go during the work day or figuring out how to keep them occupied can present a real challenge! Last January, Pecometh began offering a new day camp program called “School’s Out… We’re In!” which runs on days when Queen Anne’s County elementary schools have Professional Days and a few other select holidays. Affectionately called “SOWI,” the program is for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, and is a great option for parents as well as a treat for kids. Just think: it’s the fun of camp, year-round!

Last Thursday and Friday, we had our largest group of kids yet. Twenty rambunctious, energy-filled elementary-schoolers invaded the Talley House for two days of arts & crafts, field games, hayrides, a scavenger hunt, and exploring on Pecometh’s wooded trails. We pretended to be animals during rounds of “Park Ranger,” created an igloo with our parachute, and enjoyed a few rounds of Uno.

We hiked the Woodside Trail to the Grove Chapel, listening to the birds and crunching leaves while searching for the world’s best marshmallow roasting sticks to use at Friday’s campfire. We also explored Old Splashdown Beach and did a little writing in the sand.  We even learned a little about the osage-orange, or hedge-apple, an inedible tree fruit more commonly called a monkey brain!

And just like when I was their age, several of our campers got to spend the day with their siblings, while others either came with friends or made new ones.

The next sessions of School’s Out… We’re In! are being offered between Christmas and the New Year, on December 27th and 28th. Kids, be ready for some Christmas carol sing-downs, a roaring campfire to keep warm, and tons of fun!

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October Blues

It’s October.  The leaves are changing, fall is definitely here, Halloween is approaching… and if you worked on summer staff this year you might be going through a little bit of camp withdrawal.  My friend Loretta and I observed a general pattern for summer staff emotions throughout the year, and over our 10ish summers working at Pecometh we were able to hone our theory.  At Julia Menei’s request, I am sharing with you all.  After all, recognizing the problem is the first step.

August.  It’s staff dinner.  Everyone is clean and dressed like real people.  Emotions are running high, memories are being shared, and food is being served that isn’t in nugget form.  There are at least a couple people who will burst into tears throughout the night, and even the people who had a rough summer and just want to go home to a real bed start to think “Aw… I do love camp!” as we join arms to sing Friends.  Then our beloved community is ripped asunder and we are all shoved back into the “real world.”  We keep in touch with our camp friends, but then things get busy as everyone settles back into what veteran staffers call “the other 9 months.”

October.  Then one day you wake up in October and realize it’s been two months since camp ended.  And it seems like so much longer than two months, except that it also seems like you were just there.  Maybe a camp photo comes up on your screensaver, or you find a warm fuzzy from someone.  Maybe something makes you think “I just lost the game” (see what I did there… yeah, some of you are mad at me now), or you think of one of the running jokes of the summer that just doesn’t translate for your normal-life friends.  You start feeling… homesick.  For Pecometh.  Thanks to Facebook I get to see the “Hey it’s been a few weeks since we talked but I miss you and I can’t wait to see you” messages between camp friends, and it warms my heart.  We’ve been apart just long enough that the constant need to be together has faded but we just really start missing each other.

December.  As the Camp Staff Christmas Gathering draws closer, and invitations to return to camp staff go out, even the people who SWORE they weren’t coming back to camp start to feel their resolve weakening.  Maybe getting a job can wait until September… Maybe Camp wasn’t quite as exhausting as we thought at the time… Maybe I’m not too old to work at camp yet…  Those staffers (and campers) who knew all along that they were coming back realize that camp is still 6 months away and they don’t know how they’ll stand it!

February.  Is there a worse month than February?  Even though it’s a short month it feels long.  It’s cold and dreary, and unless you are really into Valentine’s Day the most exciting thing that happens is Ash Wednesday (or ok maybe Mardi Gras).  And it’s still 4 months until Camp starts.

Spring.  One day it’s warm enough out that your car gets really hot inside and when you get in it feels like summer.  You sit there a few extra seconds and imagine it’s time for Camp.  Or is that just me?  As the weather turns warm and nature turns green again, we start getting excited about Camp starting soonish.  Expect to see another outbreak of “Hey, how’s it going” messages between camp friends, and at least one of your camp friends will go through and like/comment on everyone’s pictures from last summer.

June.  If you’re coming back to Camp you’re basically a crazy person at this point, because you’re excited.  Or alternatively you might be really busy and don’t have time to get excited about Camp, but then when you are reunited with Camp people you’ll realize you ARE really excited about Camp.  Lots of screaming and (borderline inapprop) hugging and even some crying ensues when everyone returns for Staff Training Week.  This probably weirds out some of the new staff.

For the rest of your life, even decades after you worked at camp, you’ll get a little twinge of homesickness during June and wish you could go back.  I know this is true, because every June I get messages from my friends who worked here years ago.  They tell me how they miss Pecometh and wish they could come back for the summer (or maybe just to visit).  Those messages always remind me that we are involved in something really special here at Pecometh.  It’s always “deep down in our hearts.”

The Christmas Gathering is Friday, December 21 from 4-7 (time tentative). See you there?

And a bonus, just to make you cry…..

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Auction Dinner Update – and Autumn Recipes!

We had a great time at our Auction Dinner on Sunday! We were blessed with a beautiful fall day, a fantastic turnout, and we raised over $12,000 to support our ministries.  The Riverview Retreat Center was filled with many of our faithful supporters… gathering by the fireplace… getting competitive over the Silent and Live Auctions… and enjoying the food! In fact, so many people raved over Chef Chris’ autumnal menu that we had to share a couple recipes.  Who knew that a spinach salad could be so inspired?  And while more than a few people raised their eyebrows at the sight of brussel sprouts with dinner, once people tried Chef Chris’ grilled brussel sprouts with bacon we saw more clean plates than raised eyebrows.  Whether or not you were here to enjoy the food this weekend, we hope you’ll enjoy these yummy fall recipes! (And save the date for next year’s Auction Dinner – October 6, 2013!)

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Amazing Grapes!

I teach Confirmation at Chesapeake City UMC, and this week we were talking about Grace – definitely an important topic!  I remembered a science project* I had come across in the past, and adapted it as an object lesson to illustrate the effects of Grace.  It’s always nice to have something visual to go along with the lesson, and the floating grapes could also possibly be used as the focal point for a more contemplative exercise at some point.  Since it worked out pretty well, I thought I’d pass it along for others.

Theme: Grace and Salvation

Focus Question: What is Grace?

Need:   Sprite, Grapes, Glass Vase (or Bowl, Pitcher, etc) Continue reading

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All things work together

Tables set for a simple lunch together

We had a beautiful Monastic Day Apart on Monday – fantastic fall weather and everything just fell right into place!  I was a little nervous, since it was the first one since I took over as Retreat Program Coordinator, but we had a great team!  The retreat leader, Rev. Karen Moore gave me an idea of what I should do logistically.  The maintenance crew knew from memory how things should be set up, and Chef Chris set up the beverage station.  We had linens and candles for the tables, and I brought down a mum and pumpkin to decorate the registration table.  Still, I was nervous about all the details, and started to feel that maybe the tables looked a little too simple – even for Monastic Day. Continue reading

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Changing lives with Camp New Dawn

by Courtney Williams

Courtney then (as a counselor in 2003) and now.

Anyone who has spent time at Pecometh knows that it is a holy place. For many, it becomes a second home, a comforting space that holds great memories and where so cherished friendships were born.  It is hard to explain to a person who hasn’t spent time walking God’s Quiet Lane or listening to frogs in the dark at Riverside what this place means to so many. A fortunate few are able to wrap their careers around the world that goes on at Bookers Wharf Lane, and I am lucky to consider myself one of those people! Continue reading

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Monasticism in Miniature

There’s something fascinating about the idea of monastic life – for many of us, the idea of drawing apart from the world for the sake of spiritual growth is both intriguing and intimidating.  The root of the word monastic is mono, from the Greek for single or alone.  Monasticism, simply put, is about spending time alone with God.  The idea is appealing in some ways – we imagine ourselves escaping life’s stress and distractions through silent meditation – but putting it into practice is, like, really hard.  That’s why monastic communities developed to provide a rhythm and structure for people who desired to grow closer to God through daily practices.

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