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Reflections with Camp & Retreat Ministries 

Still Walking in the Dark

Lately, some days I have found myself dragging a little when it comes to my morning walks. On a few days I think that I don’t want to walk because it is cold outside and if I just wait until later in the day it will warm up. And on other days I think that the issue is that I don’t want to walk in the dark. These are relatively recent developments. I’m not sure what it’s all about, but I can tell you this walking habit is ingrained enough that my body knows to get up and move, even when my head is debating the value of doing so.

It’s the walking in the dark that I would like to focus on this week. For me, there is a bit of a parallel between my pre-dawn walks and this journey with COVID that we have been on this past year. On many days, it continues to feel that there is still much darkness for us to get through, in spite of the vaccinations that are slowly increasing.   

And yet, every time we learn something, the darkness fades a little bit. While we may not yet have reached morning, we are starting to be able to make out shapes, albeit not yet clearly identifying exactly what we will know at the end of this journey. We have learned that there are effective non-pharmaceutical interventions: wearing masks, physical distancing, washing/sanitizing hands regularly. We have also learned that we all have different levels of trust in science, different levels of concern related to the virus and possible infection, and different levels of understanding around how policies and procedures are influenced by bias and systemic issues of racism.

Each little bit of information and piece of learning that we acquire provide us with a little light by which to walk. In Camp and Retreat Ministries, we have also learned that we are part of systems that are helping us get through the darkness of this pandemic. Sometimes those systems seem like a single match, providing very little light, yet with the potential to light candles that will offer greater light. (Truth be told, there were times when I felt like these systems were extinguishing some of the candles.) The systems we’re working with include the annual conference structure, the state government, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the ACA (American Camp Association).

While we are still walking in this darkness, we hold on to our faith in God and the mission that we are called to fulfill: creating sacred spaces of Christian hospitality and learning. This faith is our primary beacon, but I’m also aware of the light that comes from those who are walking with me.

I see in the site directors and staff a strong desire to be light for others as we do the challenging work of offering spaces that provide healthy environments in the days of COVID. I see more light from colleagues across denominational and religious lines who are working side-by-side with the state of Oregon to find a way to offer camp for school-aged children this year. I see light in the many people who are volunteering right now in places as diverse as mass vaccination sites and cold weather shelters.

If you are struggling to find your way during this time, I invite you to look for the lights that others are offering you, that you may see the end of this long night and enjoy the sunrise to come. I would love to hear where you go to find the light. Send me an email here.

See you on the adventure ahead,

Rev. Todd Bartlett 
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries

*PHOTO: Sunrise peeks through the darkness of the forest at the Alton L. Collins Retreat Center (Todd Bartlett)

Trauma-Informed Care

At the recent program division meeting we had a long conversation about the needs of campers when they are able to be at our sites.  We are very much aware that we have all suffered trauma through this pandemic, and that it our responsibility to train our staff (paid and volunteer) in what to look out for and how to handle situations that are impacted by the effects of trauma.

Through our Barb Myers Fund for Leadership, we will be providing financial assistance to train at least one volunteer who will be available for training more of our staff as well as communities beyond camp and retreat ministries.

We are also working with a certified trainer to offer a three-hour training on Trauma-Informed Care, which will be open to anyone who would like to gain some expertise in this area.  Once we have the date set, we will provide registration and fee details. If you or someone you know would like more information, please let us know so that we can pass along the registration link when it is available. The event will be in April or May.

*PHOTO: Healing prayers at a Taizé retreat at the Collins Retreat Center (Todd Bartlett)

Blessings Report

  • Finding new community connections to help those in need near Camp Magruder.
  • The opportunity to walk and work in the forest around Camp Latgawa.
  • The incredible support of the Camp and Retreat Ministries staff team working together.

 Please send your blessings to share in future issues of the e-news. 

Faith-Informed Action

We hope that you or someone you know may be interested in participating in the training this spring on Trauma-Informed Care (see the article above). This past year has brought trauma upon trauma, and we need the resources to be able to respond appropriately, especially in our camp & retreat sites. Yet we have also seen action upon action this past year which have been clearly and lovingly informed by faith. Many of those actions have been donations to help support the ministry we do through camps and retreats. We invite you to continue these faith-informed actions: please donate today!

Please donate today! →

Go Camping E-News is a publication of Camp and Retreat Ministries, a collaboration of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

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Portland, OR 97201