Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Camp

I'm writing this post overlooking a placid Missouri lake 90 minutes or so southwest of St. Louis.

I'm here for the annual, week-long gathering of several hundred Unitarian Universalists. This group has been meeting for some 60-plus years, most of that time on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. Changes five years ago in the configuration of the facility that hosted them for most of that time forced a relocation, and this is now the fourth year that the organization has been meeting here in Missouri.

Summer Assembly was for a time an important part of my religious life and experience and a beloved community. My former spouse and I first attended 18 years ago, when DairyStateKid#1 had just turned 2 years old, and attended annually for years thereafter. It was there, in our 11th summer of attendance, that she told me that she had decided it was time for us to separate; by the time I returned the next year with my two sons, we had been divorced for months and I had met the person who would become the DairyStateMom of this blog.

The transition away from Lake Geneva was a challenge for this group of 500-plus UU campers, and it was followed by a period of true mourning. My sons and I continued through the camp's one-year interim site in 2007 and the first year at this new place the next year. For many reasons, I skipped the last two years, but now I am back.

Summer Assembly is as pure a distillation of the blessings and foibles of Unitarian Universalist culture and community as I think you will find anywhere. The spirit is generous and relaxed, the speakers tend to veer more toward the experiential and inspirational side of UU-ism than the dry and intellectual side. For children it is a safe and permissive environment, and there has been a special joy in seeing them grow over the years, many of them into sensitive, caring and energized adults.

So after two years away, here I am again. I am taking a workshop on photography to help me get more comfortable with the fancy new camera I bought recently for my work. I had hoped to take another workshop on Unitarian Universalists and Prayer, but that canceled at the last minute. And each morning we have a worship service featuring talks by Meg Barnhouse, one of our UU rock stars, who is our theme speaker.

Of late, much has been on my mind that all boils down to -- just what is it, anyway, that I want to do with my life? Summer Assembly has often been a time to contemplate that question, in various iterations, and so it is again.

So for that reason alone, I think this is a good place to be right now. And I am glad to be here.

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