Evergreen Presbyterian Church recently hosted its inaugural Peace Camp –- a weeklong, low-cost summer day camp focusing on issues of peacemaking and justice for children ages 4-12 years old. Camp curriculum and activities invited children into accessible, age-appropriate conversations around issues ranging from poverty and environmental justice to gender/sexuality, racism and various faith traditions. Rev. Rebekah Gienapp -– native Memphian, former community organizer and ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church –- served as Peace Camp’s lead teacher, while community volunteers gifted in art, music, performance, yoga, gardening and other fields lent their talents to Peace Campers throughout the week.
“Our goal when imagining Peace Camp was to draw upon the natural curiosity of children, encouraging them to ask questions of themselves, their neighbors and the world around them with wonder and respect,” said Lucy Waechter Webb, pastor of Evergreen. “Camp curriculum was designed to cultivate a sense of deep love for self and others within our children, emphasizing the courageous aspects of love beyond its more cuddly connotations.”
In keeping with the summer camp setting, children had opportunities to sing songs, enjoy fun in the sun and water, hear stories, create art, play, move their bodies and make new friends. Peace Campers also participated in service learning initiatives such as making snack bags for the Mariposas Collective and exploring recycling with the Big Green Team. Each day of camp focused on a particular social justice issue, and throughout the week participants read stories about Civil Rights leaders, gender identity, migrants journeying to the U.S. and water protectors at Standing Rock; campers also enjoyed conversations with guest speakers on topics including the prayer tradition of Islam, the Jewish tradition and its teachings on hospitality to strangers and the Jade tradition and its teachings on protecting living creatures. Parents of campers received an accompanying Peace Camp Parent Workbook outlining additional resources, books, reflections and age-appropriate talking points for each day’s topic or theme.
Evergreen Mission Developer Mitchel Griffin noted that even without much initial publicity, Peace Camp registration quickly reached capacity and a waiting list formed. “Children are much more aware of issues unfolding in the world around them than we tend to give them credit for,” said Griffin. “We are moved and encouraged by the amazing experience we had with Peace Camp in its first year, and the community’s strong positive reaction to the curriculum underscores our belief that families are searching for guidance and opportunities to explore the world’s more difficult topics with their kids.”
From its involvement in myriad social justice happenings in the Memphis community to its hosting of nontraditional spiritual offerings such as Beer and Hymns on first Fridays each month, Evergreen Presbyterian Church continues to cultivate opportunities for the juxtaposition of fellowship, faith and practicing whole-hearted life alone and together. To learn more about Peace Camp 2019, plans for Peace Camp 2020 or Evergreen’s ongoing efforts to invite people of all ages into the work of justice, please contact Mission Developer Mitchel Griffin at email@example.com.