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B.C. Camp Meeting: A Thin Place


“Is this place haunted?”
“I don’t think so?” Replied a perplexed receptionist.
“But something is here…. Like an energy or spirit” continued the pipeline worker.
“You mean, like the Holy Spirit?”
“Yeah! That! That’s here, in this place!” He exclaimed.

Recognition on this level of awareness speaks directly to the kind of environment at Camp Hope. Named in part to its proximity to the town of Hope, British Columbia (B.C.), yet that would undermine what this place has become. B.C. Camp Meeting is hosted on grounds used for religious retreats of all kinds, nature-bound conventions & humanitarian work. The conversation between the receptionist and pipeworker came after a construction workcamp had to be moved onto the church camp grounds due to a sudden forest fire nearby. This event was one of many, stringed together in a manner only knotted by God. Two summers ago, saw forest fires burn out towns, such as Lytton, with provincial officials requesting that evacuees stay at Camp Hope. Then that fall, with months’ worth of rain plummeting over the span of mere days causing huge flash floods and mudslides damaging major freeways. Camp Hope found itself in the middle of two slides from which camp staff offered those stranded safe refuge and food. The source of hope among the fires and floods became Camp Hope, to the point of food deliveries being made by helicopter – yet the need never over took God’s provisions. Therefore, one can only conclude the closeness of the Creator, or as Celtic Christians would say, a thin place. Thin places are areas in which the separation between our world and God’s heavenly dimension is more porous. Celtic Christians discerned & comprehend thin places though the physical landscapes as well as history of a locale’s spiritual ethos.

Those who arrive to Camp Hope do so on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Stó:lō people or “river people.” In fact, the road into Camp Hope crosses the Chawathil First Nation’s Reserve. Coming to camp also means witnesses the narrowing Fraser Valley has it is absorbed into the Cascade Mountains. This transitional location provides some of the best hiking and views to be hand, a staple experience of Camp Hope. With imposing height, and clothed in cedar forests, the guardian mountains redirection of wind lifts both spirits and glider planes, while directing the morning sun and evening shade. Among such stewardship floats the smell of Morning Star Stripples in the morning, and clamoring noises of meetings during, greetings, and feedings throughout the day. Sights of tents, campers, more tents, and Bibles carried with a smile, round out the observing mind.

As the largest Adventist camp site in Canada, Camp Hope includes many amenities, with cabins of different sizes, various lodges, numerous bathroom buildings and meeting places; not to forget a children’s store, a food store and of course, an ABC bookstore. Next to camp, up the famed “youth hill” resides Mountain View Summer Camp. Although interchangeably used for Camp Meeting, this establishment is run independently from the youth department of the Conference, with its pool, gymnasium, and beach volleyball courts.

With age still the go-to method of organizing events, many volunteers take to their respective buildings and deliver morning and afternoon programs for the eight-day length of camp meeting. Pinned in the middle of camp is the Main Pavilion, showcasing a more traditional approach to music and speakers. Such as Artur Stele of the General Conference who one night, boldly proclaimed the Bible shows there to be only two genders (I did want to ask him where eunuchs would be placed). He reminded the listeners that Daniel and his friends were not “brainwashed” by the Babylonians, and we shouldn’t be either by LGBTQ philosophies.

In balance, and right near the camp’s entrance is placed The Wave Tent. With the only allowed usage of drums on whole camp site, The Wave conveys a more progressive tone. In seeking to understand faith in a daily lived way, speakers at The Wave, such as Lisa Clark Diller, spent their time confirming the processing of beholding God to then behold our fellow creation. Another presenter, Pastor Iki Taimi of La Sierra University, reminded listeners with humor and wit, that the Rich Young Ruler believed he had everything figured out. But the Ruler’s inability to fully behold Jesus could easily be those of us caught up in Adventist culture.

Between these two examples stretches out the full spectrum of Adventism, creating a thin place of contact for those who may never have met before, or re-meeting from yesteryears. With visitors from more than just B.C., but Alberta, Alaska, Washington State and beyond, travelers to B.C. Camping Meeting find connection to the big-ness of our church. With nature’s prompting, this is the greatest treasure of such an event, to remind ourselves of one God, one baptism and one faith. This eight-day event stands as a monument of hope, that church members can indeed all work along towards the desire of thy kingdom come. If not at least to be reminded of the camp’s thorniest vines still freely giving their sweet blackberries. With an outpouring of grace (and Filipino food), as the Fraser River searches for the depths of the ocean, campers leave Hope Camp Meeting instilled with heavenly visions, while hopefully seeing their place in the communion of saints a bit more clearly. A place worthy of return – I’ve only missed one in my 31 years – for as a former student highlighted with her assertion: “Camp Hope is my happy place!”

Kevin R. McCarty – Identifies home as the Cascadia bioregion of western North America.

Title image: Sabbath Morning at Camp Hope, Screen Capture from Education Service.

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