Religious Education Director’s Column

Enter, rejoice, and come in!

Dear Friends,

As I sit down to write this, the temperature outside is frigid. Snow is falling and the wind is howling. My back yard is a blanket of white, but buried beneath it there is a patio table, a grill, and a swimming pool. None of it is visible to the eye, but I know it’s all there, and I’m already beginning to look forward to the return of the warmth and sunshine. Although there’s certainly some joy to be found in each season, summer is by far my family’s favorite. Why? Because for our family summer means CAMP! For nearly a decade my family has spent some portion of each summer attending Unitarian Universalist camps and conferences. In June and July my kids attend camps for children and youth, and in August the whole family attends a week long conference. We look forward to these camp weeks all year. In fact, before our car has even pulled away on the last day of camp, my children begin counting down the number of days until they will return next summer!

UU camp is so much more than just a place to have fun swimming and making s’mores. It’s a place where our children have the opportunity to find wonder in their world, gain a deeper understanding of our faith, and develop life long bonds with UU peers. The following quotation captures it perfectly:

“The Magic Pool of Communion is a powerful ritual and a powerful spiritual experience. As far as I can tell, it is the UU conversion experience. Not only youth converts, but also young adults, ministers and lay leaders will tell you that intellectually, they think that UU ideas are nice, but that they first knew they were really UUs when they attended certain conferences, summer camps, assemblies, or retreats … We know that once someone has been to the Magic Pool, chances are high that he or she will serve the movement for life.

Even if they still can’t explain what it is.”

~Kate Tweedie Erslev, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs~

So where can we find the Magic Pool for our children, youth, and ourselves? Our family loves Ferry Beach in Saco, ME. But there are lots of other programs out there. Keep in mind that some programs are cost-prohibitive, but most offer some form of financial assistance or volunteer opportunities to help defray the cost. (And while it may seem early, this is indeed the time of year when camps begin to fill. Now is the time to register.)

Here are some ideas….

General Assembly – This annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists from all over the country (and all around the world), will be in Portland, Oregon from June 24-28. Too many workshops to count, inspiring worship services, and opportunities for social justice make General Assembly an amazing experience for all. Youth Caucus for ages 14-18 and separate programming for children and middle­schoolers make General Assembly a place where all can learn and grow in our faith. Information here: www.uua.org/ga

Ferry Beach Park Association – This retreat and conference center on the coast of southern Maine offers family conferences, retreats, and youth camps on a beautiful ocean front campus. Kids for the Earth (grades 4-6), Different Drummers (grades 7-9), and Future (grades 10-12) are held in June & July (see the website for specific dates), and the very popular family conference held the first week in August and attended by many folks from UUS:E is called Unitarian Universalist Fellowship & Fun (UUFAF). Details: www.ferrybeach.org

Star Island – For over a century people have visited Star Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, to engage in spiritual renewal. There are many summer gatherings from which to choose, including family conferences and camps specifically designed for children and youth. Details: www.starisland.org

Rowe Camp & Conference Center – Located in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts, the Rowe Center offers four different camps for children and youth ages 8-19, as well as several camps for adults and families. Summer camp at Rowe is a place for fun, exploration, and acceptance of oneself and others, with an emphasis on a balance between individual freedom and responsibility to the community. Details: www.rowecenter.org

UNIRONDACK – This camp and conference center, located in New York’s Adirondacks, offers summer-long programming for children and youth ages 9-19. They also offer a week-long family conference in August. Unirondack’s goal is to provide children the opportunity to find joy in everyday interactions with others. Details: www.unirondack.org

Right here at UUS:E – Don’t forget that we run a summer program every Sunday morning. While not a camp, it does provide a nice opportunity for our children and youth to be together and stay connected over the summer. We’re still planning what this summer will look like. If you’d like to help plan or be involved with our summer program, please see me or someone on the RE Committee.

Gina Campellone, Director of Religious EducationBe well and be loved,

Gina Campellone