Hammocks, Canoes and so much S’more

Nestled in the hills of northern New Jersey sits the place I called home this summer; Cross Roads Camp and Retreat Center. That place really lived into its name. It is a cross roads between heaven and earth. This summer it was my cross roads at a very major life transition (going into seminary). My heart nearly broke having to leave so soon. It was hard to leave a community that quickly became my family. With that new community, I had an adventure of growth, exploration and community building. That adventure was shaped by my fellow staff, my campers, and God’s peculiar action. My fellow staff will forever hold a special place in my heart as we part to walk our individual paths. They were so supportive when I needed it the most. They were also a spark of constant joy and laughter. Furthermore, they were my teachers from whom I learned how to better minister to our campers.

I had the privilege of serving as a senior high counselor for the time I was at Cross Roads. This includes regular youth camp and the SEEK (Service, Excellence, Education, and Knowledge) leadership development program for 14/15-year-olds. The SEEK program lasts 2 weeks straight and as a result, builds a very tight knit community. This required constant attention to the community dynamic. As someone in the ordination process and a seminarian; I would say that the practice of identifying issues, conducting appropriate interventions, and sustaining growth in building a community was invaluable. As the weeks progressed it became clear that those teens held a lot of pain. We worked through some of it and by that, God started some healing. Being a teen is hard! Anyone who says otherwise has chosen to forget how hard it can be. The teens just needed someone to love them enough to treat them with respect, listen to their stories, and genuinely care. Those teens found organic community by hanging out….in trees. I’m not kidding. Over half of the group brought hammocks with them to camp. They set up a little “hammock country” in a nearby grove of trees. As the first week came to a close, almost every SEEK camper had a hammock in our little grove village of hammocks. I witnessed a real and powerful event of community forming. My co-counselors and I didn’t plan this or have anything to do with it. But we let the Holy Spirit do her weaving work, and it was beautiful.

This summer was a transformative experience for my relationship with my myself, God and others. God also showed me healing. In myself and others.  God showed me how to lead and what it meant to share my gifts. A saying from my childhood camp continues to ring true: “I show up in pieces and leave fully whole”.

Between the goofy games, odd animal noises (mostly produced by me), enthusiastic worship, late nights jam sessions, smelly teens, great coworkers and endless laughter; I saw Jesus. I saw faith alive in it all. Jesus Christ was active this summer in His mysterious, jarring, odd and wonderful way.

As I rapidly transition into the next phase of my adventure with God, I hold with me the prayer that was prayed many times by a fellow counselor:

“May we celebrate our differences to be markers of our unique creation”

May we indeed celebrate our differences to be markers of our unique creation. May we celebrate in the unwavering love of God revealed in the ways we experience God in our daily mundane lives and in each other. May we rejoice in our own unique creation and recreation in baptism as a Beloved child of God. May the gift of our uniqueness in God send us out to do the good that we are called to do in joyful celebration.

I start my first seminary class tomorrow! So prayers to begin Biblical Hebrew would be greatly appricated!

Grace and Peace,

-Josh Barrett



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