Last night we took advantage of our amazing location and headed down to the Sound to have chapel on the beach. We sat in a big circle around a bonfire (fortunately for us one of our LIT leaders, Andrew, is a former boy scout), brought guitars and drums, and spent time worshipping. The lights in Connecticut were just starting to emerge as night fell, reminding me of a summer I spent on the Sea of Galilee and the way Tarsus sparkled at night across the water’s short distance.
We began with a story about Jesus on that very Sea of Galilee, not unlike our quiet stretch of shore on Long Island, being commissioned to heal two different women. One had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years, and the other was a 12-year-old girl who Jesus raised back to life. Both women were in very different situations in life, yet both had tangible needs for Jesus’ healing. I reflected that we often carry things with us that God wants to heal, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual. For some of us we have carried pain for a long time, like the hemorrhaging woman bleeding internally and unable to find a cure. But we worship a resurrected Christ, and just like Jesus raised a young girl from the dead, God wants to bring life to every aspect of our beings.
I then instructed everyone to disperse along the beach, find a rock, and write something on it that needs healing. It could be someone’s name, an illness, a painful life event, or a feeling. Then I instructed everyone to take their rocks and throw them in the water, releasing our burdens to God’s care.
We scattered along the water’s edge, busy evaluating rocks of different shapes, textures, and sizes. I found several with smooth white surfaces and wrote the names of things I was carrying inside myself. I watched each stone sink under the weight of the ocean, enveloped into something larger and more mysterious.
As we gathered back around the fire we shared the things we had written. One camper named her sick grandmother, another his sibling going away to college, another a sense of guilt at her parent’s divorce. We listened quietly to one another’s burdens, the embers burning low and warm around cool shell-laden sand. Then one camper reflected that throwing his rock felt like a weight being lifted off his shoulders. Another said watching it go in the water gave her a sense that God was taking care of the things she had written. Another said it felt cleansing. And another said it provoked sadness, because she loved the people she had named and didn’t want to let go of them.
We thanked God for being present in all our cares and burdens, and entrusted God to safeguard and carry the things we had surrendered. Then we packed up our instruments and shuffled campers up the steep stairs leading back to camp. I trailed behind with a boys’ cabin, who was theatrically sharing the remnants of last night’s ghost story, complete with ominous whispers and screams. “We should do this every night,” William said coming alongside me, “To really enjoy where we are.” Then catching sight of the chapel’s broad window just above us, facing onto the still moonlit water, he added, “Well, the chapel’s really nice too. I guess we should just do both.” I smiled with a deep sense of gratitude and contentment, unburdened of the grievances I carried, made expansive for the abundance of life stirring around me.
-By Christina Miller, Christian Formation Leader