Reflections on Canada

The Columbia Ice Fields

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and my blogging has suffered because of it.  But I’m sure the writing juices will return soon, stimulated by the great content I’ve been devouring and digesting.

But just to keep things here from gathering cobwebs, I’ll start to share some of my reflections after my recent trip to Canada!

Mainland Canada has 600,000 lakes and one-third of the world’s fresh water supply.  It’s little wonder that their summer camping programs revolve around water!

I’ve just come back from a whistle-stop tour of 25 Canadian camping ministries, a tour organized by the Christian Venues Association and containing 26 camp directors from Australia and New Zealand.  We whizzed through three Provinces and saw a huge variety of Christian sites, ranging from the giant Muskoka Woods Sports Camp to small Menonite Bible camps with 10 year olds blazing away on .308s and shotguns!

We were blessed to be immersed in some amazing ministry venues and programs and it has given a lot for us to think about for our own context.  Not everything the Canadians do would translate of course (eg Maple syrup camps and ice skating rinks) but the main takeaway for me was their emphasis on space, intentionality, incarnational ministry styles and the preparation of their staff.

I wish we had lakes like this!

I was particularly impressed with the heart and passion of the Canadian youth for the Kingdom of God and for camping.  It was invigorating to be around them.  It is possible that by age 22 a Canadian growing up around camping will have spent nearly two years (1/10th) of their life directly in camping ministry, and the benefits of this for their people and nation are obvious.

It’s a shame our summers breaks don’t allow for it, but the opportunity to have up to ten weeks of each year in camping ministry means Canadian camps are fostering a generation with broad experience in proactive mission and discipleship as “lay people” who are then equipped and empowered to take the same approach back into their everyday life.

In this respect camp shows its power as a builder of “communitas.”  Communitas takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience.  It’s an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness. In communitas people experience liminality together.

Liminality is a stage of transition, preceded by separation from normality and followed by reintegration.  In the middle ‘liminal’ stage profound learning, personal change and relational bonding can take place.  It references the initiation rites of indigenous people groups worldwide.

Increasingly what we’re starting to offer at QCCC uses narrative to reference the excellence in hospitality and relational community shown by indigenous and migrant communities throughout Australia’s history – creating a holistic focus around the key themes of provisioning, protection, purpose and identity.

Some might call what we do “temporary community”, we prefer to think of our role as inviting existing communities to join our community, be enhanced by it, and return to their normal context strengthened and inspired.

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