Pilgrims on a journey

The pews quickly filled as family members continued to arrive. Several lawn chairs were set up on the dirt road at the back of the ‘church’ by some veteran families who obviously knew the ropes. Campers finally completed their chores and were released from their duties and the noise level rose as the kids scurried down the main road and were happily reunited with family members. The kids without visitors clumped together with a large group of counselors.

I watched as a shy camper hesitantly hugged his grinning Mum as his Dad ruffled his hair and his little brother punched him on the arm. Another camper ran towards his family shouting “I missed you so much!” and then immediately and enthusiastically wrapped his arms around his dog. The little dog gleefully licked his happy face as his family laughed. Himself gently elbowed me and nodded towards another camper who had buried his head in his mum’s shoulder and was sobbing.

“Think he will last?” Himself murmured.


“Looks doubtful.” I responded. Himself shook his head.

A group of a dozen counselors and campers stepped up to the front of the church and organized themselves on a picnic table. Counselors Bobbo and Ben had guitars and they sat down and tuned them up. Lydia sat down with a small Native Indian drum and placed it between her knees. She gave it some rhythmic taps. They started into the entrance music.

“Please join us in singing the entrance antiphon found on your song sheet. The Servant Song.” Lydia shouted out over the gathered crowd. The noise died down as people stood and began to sing with the choir.




Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the the peace you long to hear
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
Father Brian processed down the center of the church with Mikey and David following him. And so mass in the forest began. Campers stumbled through the readings at the worn wooden lectern. The choir sang the responsorials and the acclamation accompanied by the guitars and the drum. Dogs barked. Birds tweeted. The wind whispered through the trees. My son hopped off my lap and played with his toy car in the sand.
Father Brian read the Gospel. It was all about Jesus’s long journey to Jerusalem. He went into a village to find a place to sleep but He found that He was not welcome, so He and the disciples had to move on to the next village.The disciples were indignant and wanted revenge, but Jesus chastised them. When Father completed the reading he closed up the bible and started into the homily.
Father Brian began by welcoming all the visitors to Camp Acorn. He asked everyone to imagine if they had driven all those hours, up from the city, to Camp Acorn and they were turned away, like Jesus had been.
“Rude! And hurtful. Thankfully, Camp Acorn is not that way. Camp welcomed you here. Camp teaches each of us acceptance and tolerance.” Father said. “Everyday. All of our campers are living in small huts, in somewhat crowded conditions, in bunk beds. All of the campers are forced to learn to accept and tolerate the nineteen other campers who live in the same hut. Am I right?”
“YES!” The campers responded with chuckles. The visitors joined in the laughter.
“Campers have to learn to accept the kid who talks in his sleep. Campers have to learn to tolerate the kid who is untidy, with his belongings all over the floor. We have to learn to eat food that is probably different from the food your parents cook at home. We have to share all of the camp resources. We have to learn to tolerate some dirt, don’t we?”
“Yes. The outdoors is a little dirty, isn’t it?” Father said as he pointed towards the grassy floor of the ‘church’. “It sure isn’t easy, is it? Sometimes we are tempted to lash out. Maybe we want to yell at the kid who is talking in his sleep. Maybe even stuff a pillow down his throat!” Giggling. “We are tempted to gather up the belongings of the messy camper and throw them in the camp fire. That would teach him, right?” More giggling. “I urge you to demonstrate acceptance, tolerance. Kindness. That is what camp is about!”

“Think about our campers who are off on their week long trip.” He continued. “They are out in the middle of the thick forest, portaging their canoes on their shoulders.

Portaging through life!

They carry the heavy burdens of the tripping packs. Some of the packs have food, some have tents, others have their clothes and their sleeping bags. They HAVE to work together to complete their journey safely through the woods. And so too must we, back at camp here. We are on a journey. It’s a two week journey and we are half way through it. It is filled with highs and lows. Laughter and tears. It is filled with many lessons learned, not only in our instructions but in our day to day activities. We are all brothers and sisters, working together, with acceptance, with tolerance, with kindness as we journey along this road of life. Help each other to walk the mile and bear the load.” Father finished and sat down on his small wooden chair behind the altar.

Pretty powerful. I looked around and saw the parishioners smile and nod.
The rest of the service involved a blessing where Father sprinkled us all with holy water using the cedar branch as an aspergillum and then a ten minute pause in the proceedings for the sign of peace as every counselor seemingly hugged every other counselor, staff member and camper.  During communion the choir led us in singing “Lean on me.” Most of the congregation didn’t even need the song sheet for that one.
Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on


As we finished up, I had a lump in my throat. A beautiful message in beautiful surroundings. I never wanted to leave here. EVER.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Mary Ann Chesser says:

    Love it.


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