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Summer Camps of Faith Communities - By Emma Maple

Camp Cross sessions invite campers to a 'Sacred Journey'

By Emma Maple

Camp Cross, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, is focusing on inclusion and identity through its 2022 theme of "Sacred Journey."

It's a theme the diocese has been exploring since November 2021, said Sara Gunter, director of Camp Cross.

"At camp, we will explore: 'What makes something sacred? How do we know when we've experienced the sacred? What importance does community have in our experience and understanding of the sacred?" she said.

"The world is changing rapidly," Sara said. "So how do we navigate that together in community? How do we make decisions about colleges, relationships, or family, personal or community identity?"

Camp Cross will also offer a creation care camp. Along with installing labyrinths and a pollinator support garden, camps will discuss how to care for the earth by recycling, eating less meat and discovering local flora and fauna.

"This is the first time it's been incorporated into our youth season," said Sara. "I hope that attention to and care for our environment become a regular part of life at Camp Cross."

This year represents a different approach to COVID than previously. In 2020, they hired a full crew of staff before deciding not to have campers because of COVID.  The question then was, what to do with the young adults they hired, Sara said.

Camp administrators decided to bring the staff to the camp and have them live there in community. While there, they offered virtual programs and worked on the facilities—repainting buildings, repairing decks and doing other updates.

"In some ways, COVID was totally transformational and profoundly important for the facilities," Sara said.

In 2021, the camp reopened to campers with restrictions. They had a team dedicated to preparing protocols like keeping windows open 24/7, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, spending time outside and using hand sanitizer.

This year, the camp requires everyone to have vaccinations and booster shots as appropriate.

"It's a hard decision," Sara said. "It feels exclusive, but because vaccines are available to all our campers, and many in our community are at high risk, our model for inclusion is to prioritize the most vulnerable."

They will also have rapid tests available for campers with symptoms, but other than that, "this year will look a bit more like our camps in 2019," she said.

This year she has had challenges finding enough staff, but she feels Camp Cross has had an easier time hiring staff than other camps, because their model is to have a small staff—about 16 full-time individuals—and rely on volunteers for the rest of the work.

"Week in and week out, volunteers are the backbone of Camp Cross," she said.

Sara predicts they will have about the same number of campers as last year, but fewer than in the past. She knows, however, there is much unpredictability, and said, "We are embracing that."

This will be Sara's first year as director, but she's been involved with other camps previously.

"This camp is transformational for those who come," she said. "That's true of any place where people live in community in nature. What is particular to Camp Cross is our mission to create compelling and creative witnesses to Jesus in the Inland Northwest."

"That is hard work, but good work. This is a place to explore through the lens of the Episcopal Church, which takes Jesus, the gospel and Scripture seriously but is open to new and contemporary expressions," she said.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2022