Spiritual "Practice" at Suttle Lake

May 18, 2018

Reflections on the Seven Foundations for Camp & Retreat Ministries

Foundation 3: "Nurture Christian Faith and Discipleship"

by Jane Petke, Director of Suttle Lake Camp

The environment of camp is powerful.  For nearly 96 years now, Suttle Lake has been a place where individuals and faith communities come for time away from daily distractions to focus on their faith development.  Like churches, coming to camp is a time to hear God’s word and to learn how to be a beacon for Christ’s light in the world. Our ministry at camp is part of the mission of the larger United Methodist Church to form disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  The uniqueness and beauty of camp lies in the opportunities to mobilize scriptural learnings into action through practice.

When training camp leaders, I put it this way, “At camp "church-words" that we use like Grace, Reconciliation, and Calling can be experienced.  Our job as leaders is to help name them so that they can be integrated into the lives of our campers.”  There’s nothing like having to share a small cabin with 6 or 7 other people for a week or brushing your teeth at the same sink as another person you are just getting to know.  Experiences like this can really bring to life what it means to practice compassion or even forgiveness.  Washing dishes together or working together to clear a trail all while joyfully singing favorite camp songs, helps cement what it means to be a servant.  Working with a small group to plan worship, empowers youth to see themselves as Christian leaders capable of ministry.  Through living in community we explore and practice what it means to live as disciple of Christ.

As part of the formation of Christian disciples at Suttle Lake we also work hard to equip our campers with spiritual life skills.  Different ways to pray as individuals and as groups are practiced throughout the day.  Campers are challenged to look for God throughout their day and asked to share these observations during evening prayers.  Being able to recognize God’s spirit in the beauty of a soaring osprey or the respect offered during a tough conversation or the laughter of a new group of friends is a lesson that prompts campers to look for God in other places too.  Scriptures are experienced not only through reading the Bible and hearing it read; but also through skits, games, crafts and more.  As small groups meet, safe spaces are created to allow for questions and honest faith exploration.  Tools of discernment are incorporated into small group and cabin life so that listening for God’s guidance and our call to care for one another becomes a natural part of the routine.  These spiritual practices deepen the camp experience, and more importantly are skills campers can take home with them as they continue to develop as followers of Christ.

Thank YOU for being a part of our life of practice!


© 2014 Camp and Retreat Ministries:

A partnership between The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church
and The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon