Once upon a time, in a far off land… Actually the story goes more like this: last January at the UM Camp & Retreat Leaders Gathering in Texas, someone spoke about the Compass Points Program and camp director certification within the UMC. Something welled up within me at that moment and before I could rationalize how I didn’t have the time, etc., I found myself registered for the set of classes being offered the following month. Last autumn whilst I was in the midst of another set of Compass Points classes, I learned a bit more about the UM Immersion Experience and immediately registered for that as well.
One of the many great takeaways from the Compass Points classes I’ve taken so far is the importance of claiming and articulating one’s personal core values. Learning is one of my deeply held core values, particularly the kind of learning which helps me be a more confident, effective leader within Christ’s church. So it makes sense that I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about camp and retreat ministries from a uniquely United Methodist perspective.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I had relatively high expectations nonetheless. To use a flight metaphor for a moment, from the Immersion description I anticipated that we’d basically take a 35000-foot view at the topics covered by Compass Points, and then drop down to 5000 or so feet to get a closer look at our United Methodist heritage, our present realities, and vision for our future. What I didn’t anticipate was that we’d do it at mach speed and basically circumnavigate the globe twice in four days. In many regards, I imagine John Wesley would be delighted with the speed and intensity at which we proceeded.
At times it felt as if we were at camp ourselves—complete with some sage mentors. While there were quality and practical instructional sessions, the connections made in intentional small group times; sitting around the dining room table; going for walks after meals; and sitting in silence together were equally important and impactful. I feel that not only have I personally benefited from this Immersion Experience, but that my site will too. While I won’t expect everyone at camp to geek out about our Wesleyan heritage to the same level as many us in the Experience did, I did come away inspired to better articulate for our staff and campers the Wesleyan understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in the 21st Century.
As an avid snowshoer, I’m glad I didn’t let the possibility of a big snowstorm in upstate New York keep me from travelling to warm, sunny Florida for this experience. It was well worth it and I highly recommend even seasoned camp directors consider attending the next Immersion Experience wherever it is held!
Matt Williams is Director of Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center in Windsor, New York. Ask him what podcasts he’s listening to, and then invite him to say something in Welsh.