Camp Chanco is alive with the good news of Jesus' love
The summer camping sessions are in full swing at Camp Chanco. As some of you may know, I have made Chanco my residence this summer. This decision has given me the opportunity to greet, meet, and make friends with the permanent staff, the seasonal staff, the volunteer counselors and with all of the children who attend the camp sessions.
When I was about 10 years old and attended my first summer camp session at Kanuga Conferences in Western North Carolina, I had my initial introduction to the positive effects of our Episcopal Church camping programs. Though I did not know it at the time, I was being given an in-depth immersion to my formation as a baptized follower of Jesus.
This summer I have been thinking a great deal about the opportunities we have at Chanco to form girls and boys as followers of Jesus. The pervasive theme we are using this year with each session of campers is “The Way of Love.” Though our theme was inspired by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, I believe that through the diligent work of our planners we have taken it a step further to enable the campers to live out actual loving behavior with the other staff and campers. The idea, and we have to be explicit about this, is that such behavior connects them with with the love of Jesus, a love that culminated in his sacrifice upon a cross, resurrection and ascension.
Forthrightly, this is evangelism. Recently the British Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu said, “I’ve got a particular motto: ‘evangelize or die.’’ In and through our work with our campers we are encouraging them to have a living relationship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is a good thing, a very good thing! Whether they know it or not, our camp staff members are fulfilling the roles of evangelists. On the website for the Church of England Diocese of Leicester, the following reflection upon the Archbishop Sentamu quote: “Without evangelists a church could easily become a fossil...” (1)
I believe that God is in the business of calling many of us to be evangelists, followers of Jesus who engage others in conversation about the love of Jesus. Theologian Walter Brueggemann captured this theme when he wrote, “…God calls ‘men and women of all ages, tongues, and races into his church.’ The call is not to join an institution or to sign a pledge card; it is rather to sign on for a different narrative account of reality, one that is in profound contrast to the dominant account of reality into which we are all summarily inducted.” (2)
On July 27th we are sponsoring a Diocese of Southern Virginia visioning day at St. Andrew’s, Newport News. The theme for the day is “Deep Roots, Wild Branches: Re-missioning the Church from the Outside In.” One focus for the day will be to explore how we can partner with one another and with persons of other Christian faith communities to communicate the Good News of Jesus. This is particularly relevant as we think about persons for whom our Christian faith is new information about a new way of being. Indeed, we are eagerly excited about the possibilities. More than a few of you in the diocese have asked me what this will mean and what it looks like to be a Good News communicator (AKA “evangelist”). My response to them has been that I do not know. However, I do know that our baptismal calling is to make ourselves available to the guidance of God in and through the Holy Spirit to be transformed into the Christ followers we are called to be. Perhaps some of us, as stated in the Epistle of Timothy, are to “…do the work of an evangelist…” (II Timothy 4:5, NSRV)
1. https://www.leicester.anglican.org/book-highlights-the-church-of-englands-need-for-a-fresh-approach-to-evangelists/?utm_source=Diomail&utm_campaign=ebca977b43-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_03_25_10_27_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3b79945ade-ebca977b43-87829021. Accessed 8 July 2019.
2. W. Brueggemann, ‘’Evangelism and Discipleship: The God who calls, the God who sends’’ in P. W. Chilcote and L. C. Warner (eds), The Study of Evangelism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008), p. 222.