Values-Driven Summer Camps: Friday Night ServicesNovember 27, 2013
Values-Driven Summer Camps: Friday Night Services
Camps Kenwood and Evergreen are values-driven summer camps in NH. Our parents tell us regularly that one reason that they chose our summer camp community is because of our emphasis on character education. Over the course of each 7-week season we strive to teach our campers about the value of being an honest, hardworking, empathetic, socially conscious person. Our counselors serve as role models to their campers, actively reinforcing these values in the midst of bunk life, on our ball fields, and in the rest of daily camp life.
Another way that we do this is when we pause on Friday’s to discuss and reinforce our community’s shared values. As part of an inclusive community we offer two simultaneous gatherings: a historically Jewish Shabbat service, and a non-denominational, ecumenical service. About 90% of our campers come from Jewish homes. We feel that it’s important to offer a weekly Shabbat service for them while also offering a welcoming alternative to our non-Jewish friends. Campers are free to take part in either service, and most happily try out both over the course of each summer.
Fridays are very special at Kenwood and Evergreen. At the conclusion of Friday night dinner our campers with siblings or cousins at our summer camp participate in what we call “Brother-Sister visiting”. It’s a nice, relaxing time each week for the campers with relatives in the other camp to spend quality time together. Afterwards, we announce the start of services over our PA system. You can see that our campers and staff get very excited for Friday night services, as they have even created a silly, spirited dance to signal its start.
After the Service Call Dance our community members gather for our two different meetings. At our Jewish service we light candles, recite the Sh’ma, and say a few other important blessings. Our campers volunteer to lead the recitation of each prayer, poem or song, and it is common for siblings or cousins to do this together. Counselors who are former campers delight in running our Jewish service, and are affectionately referred to by the kids as “summer camp Rabbis”. Then I give a sermon that tries to highlight our community’s collective values. The sermon is usually a story or allegory with imagery that is easy for our campers to grasp, and is not religiously dogmatic or Torah-based.
The Ecumenical service feels a lot like a Quaker Friends meeting. Scott runs this smaller service, and spends the time both reading the sermon and asking his group of campers and counselors to engage in a thoughtful discussion about its meaning. At both gatherings we ask the community members how they intend to use the message in their lives during the following week. We also ask if anyone has an example of how they used the previous week’s sermon to make our community a better place.
Would you like to read some of our sermons from this past summer? If so, please click on the link below.
Both services are short, lasting no more than 25 minutes. By the end most campers have their arms around their friends and counselors, and there is a feeling of deep connection amongst us all. At the conclusion of each summer a large majority of our campers tell us that Friday Night Services are one of their favorite traditions at Camp. They enjoy the quiet, the solemnity, and the chance to reflect on the values of kindness, honesty and acceptance that are so cherished in the Camps Kenwood and Evergreen community.
If you would like to read about what this summer camp community in NH means to our campers and parents please click on the link below.
Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a values-driven 7-week community for boys and girls. We teach activity skills in sports, arts, swimming, and theater, along with softer skills like empathy, honesty and understanding.