Watching my grandmother pass a few months ago, was one of the hardest, and most silently relieving things, of my short 29 year-old adult existence. It was hard because she wanted to go, and we (the family), wanted her to stay. But now, she’s gone and I believe that she is in a better place. Her body is buried right next to my Grandfather’s, but her memories live on; especially at Christmas time.
When my partner and I were out this past weekend, despite being on Weight Watchers, I urged her to stop at one of the local candy stores, to get a box of chocolates. Grandma always had chocolates at her house at Christmas time.
So, Christmas is the time I think of delicate little chocolates sitting under the tree, waiting for someone to come in and steal one out of the brightly colored boxes.
Or, there is the Christmas poinsettia that needs to be gotten each Christmas in remembrance of Grandma and Grandpa because she used to get one for me each Christmas at church. Christmas was the one time of year that you went to Little Rock and Westover Hills Presbyterian Church, without fail. It was the time of year we ate cheese straws that her bridge group brought over; it was the time I went out and bought little Ikea tea cookies for her because she was Swedish and it was the closest thing I could get for her to remind her of her childhood; its the time you put ginger cookies shaped like hearts on your Christmas tree, just high enough where the dogs can’t get them, so that they smell like Grandma’s house; its the time we do puzzles because Grandpa used to do them in between watching NASCAR and playing endless bouts of UNO with my cousins. Christmas holds a lot of memories; especially memories of my Grandmother and Grandfather. This is our first Christmas without both of them.
For all its joy, Christmas is a hard season to get through.
For all its representation of the birth of a savior and God’s greatest gift to humankind, it is also a reminder of all that we have lost. Well, I might have lost things, but nothing can take my memories. If anything, Christmas is the time when I get to have those memories over and over again. And nothing brings me more joy than to know I experienced those memories and that Christmas will help keep them alive.
This afternoon, the Presbytery of Chicago will meet for a called assembly meeting in Western Springs to vote on the contract of a possible sale for the Presbyterian Camps in Saugatuck, MI. It’s a good sale. It provides the Presbytery with the money it needs to pay off its debt from the lawsuit and to close a chapter in the life of the Presbytery. The stakes in this high roller game: 631 Perryman Street. Now, this property loss does not mean the loss of the ministry, but it doesn’t have to. Here’s the deal.
The camp has been around for over 100 years. Families have spent generations there. They have lived their lives with this property as part of it. Just as I lived my life with my Grandmother in it. It impacted their lives. It gave them a place to go to be kids, to grow spiritually, to get away from Chicago for a few days, a place to come for retreats: it was a place that was set apart. It’s the place where I held my first job out of graduate school. Some call it a holy place; but a holy place can be anywhere you want it to be. It can even be Grandma’s house.
One of the concerns that people have about the camp, is that the ministry will be lost. Well, that could very well be the case. The ministry might go away. Just like the ministry of San Marcos, it could go away. Now, I do not mean to be insensitive, I realize what one minister did while that ministry was going on, but it was a ministry and there were people helped. Nothing can ever make right what was done wrong to those victims, but it was still a ministry lost; all because of one man. If the property of the Presbyterian Camps is gone, the ministry might leave as well. That is a reality.
So, what’s the difference, you ask? Well, this could be the chance for the Presbytery of Chicago to embark on a new ministry; a ministry that envisions outdoor ministry differently. Yes, the property of 631 Perryman Street will possibly be gone, but those memories won’t be. Like the Christmas memories of my Grandmother and her generous helpings of pancakes, the memories of summers spent at Presbyterian Camps will not be lost unless you allow them to be.
The world changes. Ministry changes. People evolve, and if we do it right, ministry evolves with us.
I am not getting on the bandwagon of, “let’s sell the camp,” or, “we have to save the camp,” (I remain neutral on the topic because I have other things to focus on, such as a successful and meaningful summer 2013), but we have to live in the here and now, and we have to atleast give those memories their credit due. We have to hope that in light of this possible sale, that this ministry will evolve into something that evolves with the Presbytery of Chicago. We have to rethink how we do outdoor ministry with our uber-urban context. We have to rethink outdoor ministry so that the churches within the Chicago zip codes are actually included.
We have to make the ministry about the memories and the experiences that we make readily available, rather than a physical place. Yes, it is easier to have a specific place to remember where those memories happened, but it is better to have memories and experiences, than none at all.
While the property of Presbyterian Camps is that place that allowed us to have some of our memories, it is also a place. It is a place like my Grandmother’s house that allowed me memories that helped me become the person I am, and I remember that place fondly, even though it is no longer around.
At the end of the day, we still have our memories and experiences. Those help to shape who we are and affect how we treat others and how we engage and share in ministry with others in new ways. The ministry of Presbyterian Camps should not be in vain, it should be a catalyst for new ministries and growth with or without the property.