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Our First Season of Summer Camp

Bellwether Farm held its first season of summer camp this year! More than 175 youth, ages 5-18, attended over the five week span. Campers were engaged in programming that taught them about healthy social, nutritional, and environmental practices while immersed in God's beautiful creation from morning until night. Let's take a look at some of what campers experienced this summer.

For those who stay overnight, summer camp starts the day at 7:00 a.m. The morning begins with music and weather announcements bellowing from the speakers in front of the cabins. The campers know they have to be out of bed by the end of the second tune to gather in the Worship Barn for morning songs. We stretch, sing, and learn about the current theme.

Each day has a theme that ties together the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical learning that occurs every day at Bellwether Farm:
  • Monday:“Be the Bellwether” invites conversations about ways to be a leader and we discuss the parable of the Mustard Seed (and the actual mustard seeds from the plant at the farm).
  • Tuesday: “The Buzz About Biodiversity." The parable of the Five Talents helps us demonstrate that we all have different gifts and skills and can use them to better our community and environment.
  • Wednesday: “Part of the Herd” takes a look at the connections we have with so many, and the campers discuss a local Native American story that illustrates this theme.
  • Thursday: “The Least of Us” is supported with the parable of the Good Samaritan as we learn the value of spiders and about the parts of ourselves or community we don't think have value.
  • Friday: "Wild and Holy Compost” helps us to see that even when things end, they can create fodder for new beginnings and new life.
The story of the lost sheep cements the entire ethos of camp, that all are welcome and all are loved just as they are. One camper reflected on this running theme, “You make everyone feel so accepted no matter what they do, what they look like, anything. It means a whole lot.” Another camper mused, “I felt so accepted, I felt like everyone here was like family." After the themed discussion, we leave the barn and head to the Grange for breakfast. We tidy up our cabins and paired cabins (referred to as family groups) head out to their first activity. Activities include: archery, sensory nature hikes, harvesting vegetables, swimming, canoeing, fishing, arts and crafts, chaplain’s time, and cooking lessons. After midday assembly, lunch, and rest time, family groups continue their scheduled activities. There’s also time for friendship bracelets, basketball, field games, visting with the farm animals, and gaga ball. Each evening after dinner, campers participate in some kind of group activity—capture the flag, a mystery game across the whole campus, a barn dance, or a cooking competition. Things quiet down for bedtime prayers, a compline-like service which includes sharing, reflecting, yoga, songs, and sometimes a reinterpretation of a parable as prepared by the campers.

Midweek, campers carry supplies and ingredients into the woods to cook dinner. They dig a firepit, learn how to build and start a fire, chop veggies, and cook in large dutch ovens propped over the flames. After dinner, they make dessert (cobbler with preserves from the farm) and sit around the fire to tell stories, reflect, and pray. They clean up and head out of the woods, usually singing songs.

In my opinion, the pinnacle of a week at Bellwether Farm Summer Camp is Friday night. There is a talent show/dance party where each cabin (along with counselors and staff) present a group talent, complete with costumes, music, and dance moves. Personalities shine through! Family groups get creative with skits, dance-offs, songs, and full-fledged dramas. After all of the fun and laughter, we settle down for the closing Eucharist. Lights are dimmed and a camper lights the candles and brings out vases of fresh-picked flowers from the farm. We compare celebrating Eucharist with celebrating a birthday party—candles, decorations, flowers, food, dancing, and friends—and proceed with a simple, fun service. The campers are a vital part of the celebration. They make the bread, pick the flowers from the fields, and write the prayers. They are invited to stand in front of the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer to be close witnesses. After the celebration, everyone goes out to the bonfire and sings songs and makes s’mores. The night contains some of the most essential parts of Bellwether: play, sacrament, and nature.

In addition to the traditional week-long overnight summer camp, Bellwether Farm hosts a number of camps for all different age groups. Young children participated in day camp or mini camp (which lasts three days and two nights to give campers a taste of what it's like to stay for a full week). One of our favorite stories was a young camper who came for mini camp and called on the way home to ask if she could come back and finish the week—and she did!

Bellwether Farm also held a three-week Leadership-in-Training program which gives older campers opportunities to develop their own skills and get to know what it takes to run a camp. Four high schoolers participated, including one from our companion diocese in Belize. They shadowed program staff, led songs and activities, visited churches, and participated in leadership development activities. One participant stated, “It’s been a very amazing time. Bellwether Farm shows you never know how much potential someone or something has until you actually try to reach for it.”

This first summer was amazing and we can’t wait to continue reaching toward all the potential Bellwether Farm has to offer. We are so grateful to all those who made Bellwether Farm Summer Camp’s first year possible! We can't wait for next year!
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