When I think of acceptance as something that we facilitate in our camp and retreat ministry, there are two elements that stand out for me. The first is the way in which we offer Christian hospitality. This element says to our campers and guests, “you are welcome here as you are, a beloved child of God.” We seek to see you through the eyes of those who are called to love all whom God brings to us. It was a profound gift for me to be able to practice this kind of hospitality at the Collins Retreat Center because we served many people whose idea of the church and “church people,” is one of judgement and hypocrisy. For them, we could demonstrate a very different idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
The second element of acceptance is providing a space where each of us can explore what it means to accept ourselves for who we are. Depending upon our upbringing and experiences in life, we may find something in ourselves that is objectionable and not worthy of acceptance. It is our commitment to create safe places for campers and guests to explore who they are and encourage them to love and accept themselves. We know that we are succeeding in providing this space when campers tell us that this is the place where they can be who they know themselves to truly be.
My own experience says that these elements are tied together in strong ways. When others offered me acceptance, I could begin to see myself in a new and powerful way. This led to self-acceptance for who I am and allowed me to forget about all of the things that I am not. In turn it allowed me to offer acceptance to others who were also seeking a safe place and the grace of God and a loving community.
This grace of acceptance offered to me by the church, through camp and retreat ministry, continues to inspire me in my work and life. Through these next few weeks as we focus on Acceptance, I hope that you are encouraged to offer and/or receive this wonderful gift
See you around the campfire soon,