The New Chapel on the Beach

It was an amazing summer and fall at Camp Arcadia.  A highlight of the summer was the construction of the new Chapel on the Beach.  At our Chapel dedication and 90th Anniversary celebration we heard from various past and current Camp Arcadia leaders.  I want to share with you the inspirational comments by former Camp Director, Kristin Jass Armstrong.  Her comments were read by Kyle DeWees, camp’s program director, since she was unable to attend the gathering.

Ninety years ago when Camp Arcadia was founded, these core values – meditation or “worship”, and true friendship – were at the center of Camp’s mission. It’s probably fair to add something about “recreation for the body” since we’ve been playing volleyball, shooting archery, and square dancing for ninety years, too. But our founders intuited what the great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis also understood: that people yearn – indeed are starving – for meditation and true friendship.

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.  – C.S. Lewis  from “The Weight of Glory”

Fast forward nine decades to 2012.  I suspect we’re all nodding our heads in agreement with Lewis.  We are still starving for meditation and true friendship.  Which is why Camp Arcadia remains more than relevant all these years later – for those of us fortunate enough to discover Camp Arcadia, it is absolutely crucial to our spiritual health & well-being.  This is where our starving minds are fed, our thirsty hearts find water.  This is where we discover true friendship with others and come to nurture the deep friendships in our families.

So, in this God-drenched place … this sacred space where we regularly meet angels, where the wisdom of teachers breaks like soaking rain over our parched souls, why do we need a new Chapel?  Why do we need a space dedicated to worship when the culture of Camp Arcadia encourages continual, authentic worship through our words and actions?

We welcome this Chapel – a space expressly set aside and deliberately built – because it will become a focal point for so many aspects of worship and praise. We will bear witness to the cycle of Christian life in baptisms, weddings, and memorial services in this space. We will laugh and sing and hear music and play games – all part of the rich life of Christian worship at Camp Arcadia– in this space.  We will pray and meditate – sometimes in solitude when our hearts are broken or yearning and sometimes as a joy-filled community – in this space.

Remarkably, over the last ninety years many of Camp’s core activities have remained constant – who would have thought we would still be starting each day with reveille and ending each day with Taps?  On the other hand, how could Fred Kuhlman and Hans Jass have imagined computerized reservations, digital payment, and fresh salads at every meal?  Can we predict all the ways this Chapel will be used over the coming decades?  Can we imagine the small – and large – miracles that will happen here? 

No, but we know that at Camp Arcadia we find this precious balance: the ability to seamlessly meld the past with the present, and to walk confidently into the future. What I think we can know with certainty is that this Chapel will be a sacred space for us and for generations to come. And that the important work of meditating and finding true friendship will happen here.

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