I dropped off daughter #2 for church camp this morning. This will be her ninth year. Over each of the past eight years, she has spent many days anticipating and planning for this one week. To say she loves it is an oversimplification. She would tell you, it’s exactly where she belongs for that one week. That clear sense of belonging is one of the things I love most about her church camp experience.
Each year, the priests and counselors gather the kids in the church for a few short prayers and instructions before loading the buses. The message is always similar: have fun, be safe, enjoy all that God has to offer, and learn a little bit about our faith (Greek Orthodoxy, if you’re curious).
This year, one of the priests made note that when we are in the church building, we, the congregants, are the church. He asked the kids what happens when they leave the building, board the buses, travel far, and arrive at their serene campground where there is a sparkling river and woods, but no roof or structured walls? Of course, they knew the answer: We’re still the Church, meaning we are the embodiment of Christ.
Then the priest said: When we go out into the world, it can be harder to be the Church. It’s easier when we’re in this building, but harder out in the world to behave as we do when we are sitting through our Liturgy. So, he asked, “How can we practice being the Church this week?”
A hush fell over all the kids. They may have anxiously thought he was looking for some theological answer, something with depth, something scriptural maybe.
Finally, a young child (maybe a first-timer) raised his hand: “Be nice.”
And then another young child added: “Be kind.”
“Yes!” Father smiled. “Be nice. Be kind.”
Out of the mouths of babes. It’s really not that complicated.
The buses roared off, parents waved, and then I got in my car to drive home. I thought about the simplicity of that message — and then I thought about how difficult it can be. When we are scared — or when we are threatened — or when we are lost, it can be much harder to approach the world, and each other, with kindness. Maybe, though, that’s when it is most important. It’s been said that it’s not the sitting in the pews that makes us holy, but the way in which we walk out in the world. That’s a true thing, no matter what name you use for God or if you even believe in a God. We’re all on this blue planet together. Be nice. Be kind. Maybe now more than ever.