One of the significant shifts in programming is a change of thinking regarding camp or a retreat experiences as a “temporary community.” Formerly, our understanding was that the community which is established through a camp or retreat experience is a temporary community, and that it exists for only a specified time and ceases at the close of the program. This is predicated on the belief that a person’s permanent and often exclusive community is a local congregation or other non-profit. However, increasingly it is apparent that individuals, especially younger persons, may be deeply involved simultaneously with more than one faith community or other interest group. Though faith groups may be in touch electronically, and gather face to face at differing intervals from weekly to annually, these communities may constitute no less an influence in person’s lives as traditional congregations.
Camp and retreat events can function like larger, multifaceted networks of relationship. For example, participants in summer camp programs organized around music or the arts generally form deep relationships with one another and continue in genuine relationship with one another long after the close of the program. Likewise, a group which focuses on care for the earth might convene a couple of times each year at a site.
As events and programs are designed, one of the considerations should be the ways in which such events may provide the context for enduring communities, both for persons who are a part of another gathering and for persons who are not joiners. Camp and retreat events, designed to provide the context for ongoing groups, can constitute a means by which significant new alliances are established, and through which persons are equipped to bring positive changes to the world.