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Works of the Order in Action: Learning Christian Living through the Orthodox Camping Experience

Over the next few months, young people will be registering for one of the eight summer camps in our Archdiocese. If you know any of these young people who have been to camp before, you know that they have started their countdowns to the first day of camp. They spend hours on Skype and Facebook talking to their camp friends throughout the Archdiocese, and they go into a post-camp depression when they return home from camp.

So what is it about the camp experience that makes our young people love it so much? Certainly, there are many things that contribute to it: the friends, the activities, the counselors and staff, and being in the outdoors, to name a few. The thing that makes camp so special, however, is the camp environment, which presents a living experience of the Orthodox faith. In 1978, the Archdiocese purchased the Antiochian Village, and His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of Thrice Blessed Memory appointed the Archmandrite Fr. John Namie (+ 2001) of blessed memory as the first Camp Director. Thanks to the vision and leadership of these two great men, this mission of presenting a living experience of the Orthodox faith in the camp setting has become the standard at all of our camp programs in the Antiochian Archdiocese.

When asked by Constantine Nasr in 1998 why campers come to camp, Fr. John Namie responded,

[Christian living–] that’s why people come here: to learn Christian living by doing it. It’s the best way to learn. The best way to learn is by doing things. When you come to the Village, you get to do everything in a Christian fashion. You get to love each other, and that means that you get to share with each other your life.… We get to pray, both privately and in church. We learn church hymns, we have a good time at our meals, and we play a lot and play hard. It’s great to be at camp. It’s one of the greatest experiences that a young person can have.

With our busy schedules, instant communication, personal independence, and an abundance of choices, our summer camps offer a much needed break to our young people. Camp offers a simple lifestyle where the focus is living in community as Christian brothers and sisters. There is only one option for meals, church services are offered twice daily, and eight to ten campers live together in one cabin, sharing a bathroom. Yet it is a haven of joy for our young people.

Our Archdiocese is blessed with eight summer camp programs for our young people. Each year, over 2,000 young people attend our camp programs. Every summer, partial scholarships or full scholarships from The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch are awarded to campers from all over the Archdiocese who attend one of our eight camp programs. The Order has made a commitment to help every camper who needs financial assistance so that no one will miss out on the camp experience for financial reasons.

Our camping programs have become a vital part of the spiritual growth of the young people in our Archdiocese. Camp provides not only a place for them to learn about our faith, but also to learn how to live our faith. Without the support from The Order, many of our young people would not have this experience.

On behalf of each of our camps, their counselors and staff, and all the campers who attend camp, we thank The Order for their generous support.

Khalil Samara
Vice-Chairman Antiochian Archdiocese, Department of Camping

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