Any hope of a normal summer for diocesan camps has been dashed by the continuing fallout from COVID-19.
While most of New Brunswick is now in the Yellow phase of recovery, restrictions are still tight and not conducive to the usual camping experience of crafts, sports, chapel services, campfires, talent shows, games, communal meals and so on. Social distancing is all but impossible in a camp situation.
Each of the four diocesan camps — Diocesan Choir School, St. Michael’s Youth Conference, Camp Brookwood and Camp Medley — are independant of each other and made their decisions separately.
DIOCESAN CHOIR SCHOOL
Diocesan Choir School was the first to cancel its usual early July event.
“We're sure going to miss everyone,” said administrator the Rev. Paul Rideout in his notice of cancellation.
To help fill the void and maintain interest among choir school members, he is hoping to have an online project next month.
“We will be inviting all our choristers — past and present, junior and senior — to take part in a very special virtual project to be released during what would be Choir School week. Spread the word, stay safe, and we'll see you all next year!”
ST. MICHAEL’S YOUTH CONFERENCE
Held at the end of August, there was some hope that St. Michael’s Youth Conference would take place late enough to avoid the tight restrictions. That turned out to be false hope. The Rev. Canon Kevin Stockall, director of the conference, broke the news in an email on May 27.
“In light of the regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as my heartfelt concern that we not risk the health of our conferees and staff, I have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s St. Michael’s Youth Conference,” he said.
“Public health statements in New Brunswick have been clear that social and physical distancing will be required for a long time yet… It is impossible for me to imagine a St. Michael’s Youth Conference operating effectively under the rules of physical distancing.”
Another issue with St. Michael’s is the distance many travel to attend — from Nova Scotia, Ontario and even the UK. Parents would be reluctant to allow their children to travel while there is still a risk, and inter-provincial travel might still be banned in August, said Kevin.
He is exploring the possibility of holding regional ‘mini-St. Mike’s’ later in the year if possible.
“We’ll have to see what the public health landscape looks like then; and we’ll have to be sure that we can do so prudently and wisely,” he said.
Kevin knows well the disappointment of his tightly-knit group.
“St. Michael’s has been a central event in my life each year since 1989,” he said. “I cannot even begin to think what the month of August will be like without the wonderful, crazy, blessed and joyful chaos of preparing for, and sharing in, the Conference. But I know that God is good and, if it is his Will, that he will call us together as a Conference in 2021.”
The board of directors at Camp Brookwood was heartbroken over the decision they made to keep the camp closed for the 2020 season.
“This has been a very difficult decision to make,” said Mary Lee Phillips in a statement. “With all the required protocols that must be adhered to, the inability to allow for social distancing at the camp, and most importantly, the health and safety of both the staff and children, the board has determined the camp will remain closed.”
Mary Lee encouraged campers to watch the camp’s website and Facebook page for fun activities, songs and craft ideas for children and their families to enjoy. In fact, camp director Ally Green has already posted a song on the camp’s Facebook page to kick off the unusual season.
While the camp will remain closed, they will need to hire a groundskeeper under the SEED program. Resumes should be sent to email@example.com.
Camp Medley director John Galbraith cited the safety and wellbeing of campers, staff and volunteers as the main reason for deciding to forego the regular camping program this summer at Camp Medley.
He did not make this decision lightly.
“After running through many different scenarios and considering all the options available to us, we believe that, despite our best efforts, this is the best decision,” he said.
He has some hope that the camp will be open in some form.
“We will be looking into the possibility of offering the facilities as a day adventure destination for families, as well as trying to do some sort of virtual camp experience for past campers,” he said.
There is some small blessing in being closed.
“This is a great opportunity to focus on some things that we never have time to get to,” he said. “We are hiring 10 staff. Our focus will be improving the camp experience in the future, giving attention to the development of sessions, programs, virtual camp, camp as a destination.
“We’ll be working in the wooded area to clean it up and build some ninja warrior challenges, plus painting, cleaning and repairs.”
Repairs include rebuilding the deck and wall near the basement of the staff house, and resurfacing the field with top soil and hydro seed.
“As you know if you have been to camp, the field has been in very poor condition for many years. Rock picking was one of the fun activities to do before going into the dining hall for lunch.
“We are going to do our best to make the most of an unforeseen summer,” he said.
Donations are welcome towards the costs of upgrades to the grounds and facilities at Camp Medley, which can be done through the diocesan office (506-459-1801 or https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/13778). John suggests checking the camp’s website (www.campmedley.ca) and Facebook page for further information. Contact him directly at 506-471-2429.
BISHOP DAVID EDWARDS
Bishop David Edwards is concerned about those affected by the loss of the camping season.
“It’s very unfortunate that COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of our camps this year,” he said. “A lot of young people, both those hired to work and campers, are going to miss out.
“The most important thing they’ll miss out on is discovering what it means to follow Jesus,” he said, adding they’ll also not have the same opportunity to make new friends and renew friendships developed over past summers.
The bishop noted some good news in this: the day activities some camps are planning, and the opportunity for infrastructure upgrades that are difficult to do when camps are open.
“My hope is we’ll be able to have camp next year,” he said. “Let’s continue to pray for everyone across the country afflicted by COVID-19 and for everyone in essential services as we navigate the current situation.”
1. Fun and games comprise a great deal of time at St. Michael's Youth Conference. Many of them result in staff and conferees getting wet!
2. The slack line at Camp Medley is an endless source of fun and challenge for both campers and staff.
3. Diocesan Choir School practice at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Rothesay in 2018.
4. A rainy day at Camp Brookwood means indoor games to keep everyone dry and busy.
Gisele McKnight file photos