We’ve been spoiled to have our friend Bill Harper here for the first half as Chaplin in Residence and Hike Hut Guru. This note below is straight from him to his congregation at home. Thank you Bill for your insights, and your contributions this summer. We sure will miss having you with us.
Sunday nights here at Camp Dudley are rather remarkable. After Sunday morning Chapel there’s lots of time to play and hang out and do those seemingly simple things that boys do at camp. And then after dinner kids swim and get ready for Hymn Sing. It is, for most every boy here, the high point of the week. I wish I could explain it. I’ve tried before and fail. But 400 voices blending, boosting and belting is quite a thing to experience. Tonight, as I sang and clapped and cheered, I also found some tears forming. Because hymn sings here are so unique, it’s not unusual for us to sing a Christmas carol or two, even in July, and tonight, when we sang forth on “O Come All Ye Faithful” I was in two places at once–firmly planted in Witherbee Hall at Camp Dudley on July 10th, and singing out on a Christmas Eve at Grace. It was a lovely and hard feeling for me. As I write this boys are gathering in the dark on the main campus lawn, wrapped in sleeping bags and listening to the Brass Quartet reprise the hymn melodies and then play taps. It is quite a Sabbath experience.
And so, I’ll now admit that this “sabbath” idea has been something of a challenge for me. Sabbath–and sabbatical–are meant to be disruptions of routine and routine maintenance. And certainly these last 4 weeks have been just that. While I feel right at home at Camp Dudley, this is hardly my “regular life.” The routine of a Summer camp for boys is so remarkable. Games, theater, hikes, sports, conversations leading to friendships and evident transformations–well, it’s something to witness all this. And I am far more than a witness–I’m a willing participant. The work is really non-stop, and I have experienced the challenge (and fun) of taking two groups of boys on 3 day climbing trips in the Adirondack Mountains. But for me the challenge of this time in my life is the harder, deeper work of self-examination and renewal. I feel too often that I am compelled to turn my life into a refined and renewed product–that I should return from sabbatical with something more than stories to tell.
Of course there will be stories, and I’ll undoubtedly enjoy telling them. But more deeply than that, there will be change. Frankly, I want to change. I want some disruption, and I want more than maintaining my routines. That’s a lot to ask for, and indeed something of a risk. But here at Camp I see the way change can happen–the way change becomes growth. After another Sabbath Day, and another Hymn Sing, I will be heading West again, and home for some days with Carolyn–who I miss–and for some days of grounding on Bainbridge before I send myself away again, for disruption and the hope of transformation. What comes of all this truly remains something of a mystery to me. Tonight I find myself grateful for that. And I find myself missing you all.