Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Fall school group orientation

Hello Everyone,
Curtis here again. As you may or may not know, fall is a very busy season for Shekinah on the school programming side of things. September contains our most coveted dates all year and those who can't get a September date settle for October although that means the chance of a cold night in the shanties or even worse snow (and that's why I find time for writing this today...).

When a school group arrives at Shekinah, I have a brief orientation speech that I give them as a welcome and to inform them of some camp expectations. I always lead off with the meaning of Shekinah because I believe understanding the name can set the tone for the trip and experiencing the glory and presence of God has been at the center of my experience in this place over the years. Some schools who visit are from Christian schools and some from the public school system but all get the same prompting from me to seek the glory and presence of God during their time here. I have no intentions on preaching a sermon to each school group but everyone who visits Shekinah has the opportunity to encounter divine inspiration and I want students to know that they are invited to be part of that.

I have 3 sub-points on this topic that delve a little deeper into the reasons why people come here to seek Shekinah. The first is that God's glory is radiated through nature and we have 287 acres of (mostly) natural area. Our piece of land is special. Where the ravine, made famous by the Dave Ens trail, intersects the river valley, tremendous potential for biodiversity exists. Not to mention the remnant patches of native grassland at the top of Quill Hill, where a completely different suite of species thrive. In a world where natural ecosystems are in decline, we are entrusted with a special gift that is found in Shekinah's 287 acres and we have a responsibility to conserve this area coupled with an opportunity to appreciate its beauty. I could go on and on about this responsibility and opportunity but since you have been a part of both of those things yourself, I will trust the land speaks for itself and move on.

The second reason why people come here to seek God's presence is to challenge yourself through outdoor adventure. This is a central part of the school program as we give students the chance to try wall climbing and zip lining, hike 190 steps along the aforementioned Ravine Trail (a big feat for
many!), and we challenge them to work as a team in the initiative tasks. It is in the middle of these things that we find the voice of God speaking to us from within ourselves. We also recognize that God speaks to us through our friends, whether they be old friends or new ones made at camp. The years past are filled with instances of people finding a friend for life which began with a shared experience at camp. As creatures made in the image of God, we have holiness that dwells within us and because outdoor adventure can strip away fears and limitations and preconceptions all the way to the core of our person, that holiness is revealed.

The third reason I give for why people and school groups visit Shekinah is in the second part of the name - Retreat Centre. To me, those words are sufficient to explain why it's a good thing your cell phone doesn't get reception down here, why we don't have video games or tv in the chalet. Shekinah is the perfect place to unplug from those things - to retreat from a life lived through a screen and to a place where you can immerse yourself in the natural beauty of creation. To really be present here is to give yourself over to God's presence which will engage your heart, inspire your mind, transform your life so that you may influence the world for the better.