Sunday, April 08, 2018

Windsor Hills Camp

In the summer of 2002, my girlfriend was traveling for Eastern Nazarene College on a summer ministry team. I had opted not to try out that year as I had some other responsibilities. One day I drove the eight hours down to her hometown in Maryland to ask her parents if I could marry her. They said yes. So I drove back up to my home in southern New Hampshire, got a good night's sleep, and then the next morning drove an hour or so up to Windsor Hills Camp just outside of HIllsboro, NH  where  Meghan's team was stationed for a week to help lead teen camp.

Meghan was surprised to see me and was able to get a couple of hours off. So we drove a bit away from the campground to a nearby state park where I proposed to her. We had talked about getting married, but she was surprised nonetheless and after I asked a second time (being so surprised that she didn't say anything), she said yes.

I don't think that I mindfully considered it at the time, but it was quite appropriate for me to propose to Meghan there by Windsor Hills. So much of my life had been shaped on that campground. Meghan and I had fallen in love traveling to camps and churches when we were on the same summer ministry team the year before. And once we came back to New England after seminary, our church took an annual retreat to the camp for ten years.

Our last retreat was just in February and it looks like it will be our last at Windsor Hills as the campground is now going up for sale.

It's an awesome campground, but it takes quite a bit to keep running. Some very good friends have run the camp over the years and each one of them sacrificed mightily to make things go. I prayed often for those people. Our church did not much, but at least a little bit to support them over the years. I'm so thankful for people like Ron Boyd, Brian Kelley, Rick & Sandy Smith, Dan & Nancy Whitney, and Joe & Tammy Baldinger.

I've written on sacred space a bit before, but I'm reflecting again. There are many places that have provided the vehicular means for the sacred in my life. Some have gone and others remain. It's untrue to say that the space doesn't matter and only that which happens there does. The Christian faith believes in the sacramental and that is to say that God acts within the physical. Locations, buildings, and geography all count.

But it's also untrue to say that something can't continue to happen because of the death or loss of a certain space or location. We can lament its loss, but we need not despair in its going.

Windsor Hills has been such a huge part of my life. Since the New England District Church of the Nazarene bought the came in the 80s, there have been but two years when I didn't make it up there, and that was when I was in seminary in Kansas City. Other than that, I've been a tadpole camper, boys & girls camper, Jr. High camper, Sr. High camper, music camper (a very select few of us!), Mountain Climber, CIT (counselor-in-training), counselor, volunteer, and my church has had TEN annual retreats during the winter in the Inn. I have pictures of me helping to raise the walls of the Inn. Some people remember the yellow tent in which we had chapel, but even before that, I remember worshiping in the outdoor amphitheater that was where the lower fire ring now sits.   I will miss Windsor Hills like I miss a dead family member.   But I totally support the decision. I once heard a preacher purport that Jesus would never have owned a family photo album. I don't know if that's true, but over the years the notion has challenged some of my sentimentalism. The Kingdom exists within the material, but it doesn't exist materially. So I'll look forward to new vessels that more efficiently carry the mission for tomorrow.