Together Apart

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 9, 2020

By: Amelia McDaniel

Last week I returned to being Chaplain for a week of camp at St. Elizabeth’s. Camp was different this year. There was no packing for a week up at Shrine Mont, no minivan full of supplies, no living in a modest cottage, no bug spray, no sunscreen, no hello waves or goodbye hugs.

St. Elizabeth’s, a camp designed especially for teenagers and young adults with varied special needs, was held online this year. And it was magnificent! The staff worked long and hard to figure out ways to make camp feel fun through a screen and at home. I am amazed at how wonderfully they pulled off camp. I had just a smidge of work at the end – jumping in at the end of the day to set off a conversation for the groups to talk about.

After a day of jumping online for a zoom call dance party or a scavenger hunt or a song fest online, we stopped to read a bit from one of Paul’s letters. We talked about how Paul wasn’t with the people he was in community with as he wrote the letters. We remembered that Paul was not just stuck at home like we are, he was often stuck in jail, as he encouraged people near and far.

On Friday I got a little more time with the campers. I heard about where they were finding energy and love in these long days where they are mostly at home. There were long lists of things they were so thankful for. There were ideas about what to do when they were sad or frustrated. There was so much love and light that truly was conveyed through a simple Zoom call. I’m pretty sure Paul would have been wowed by what technology can do to connect people who are apart, but together in spirit.

Was camp just as we would have wanted it to be for these incredible people? Not quite. We always want to give them more. But this was so good. Last year when I attended St. Elizabeth’s, it was my first real camp experience and I was hooked. This year I went into these Zoom calls really expecting it to be a let down. But it was anything but that.

These days of separation are so hard. It’s not exaggerated or dramatic to call this time painful. But under the disappointment there is such love to be found. I found it this week “at camp.” I’m so grateful that Paul knew something about separation and sacrifice and hardship. He knew far more than we do about what it means to be separated when we live in the light of God’s love. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” he writes in a letter to the Romans (8:28-39).

Paul also calls us to be thankful in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” And reminds us in Colossians 2:5 that even though we are far apart, we are right there beside each other. Also, we can’t get tired of doing good and we have to work for the benefit of all as Paul writes in Galatians 6:10, “so then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Lastly, do not forget 1 Corinthians 13:7 that reminds us, LOVE NEVER GIVES UP.