Camp Aldersgate is a magical place! It is an incredibly transformative experience to see how camp touches everyone who comes through those gates. Lives are truly being changed here as the community seeks to encounter God in creation, learns to live out the Jesus example of love, and is filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Almost 10 percent of the New England Conference Mission Share budget is allocated to support our Camping and Retreat Ministries.
The importance of places like Aldersgate cannot be stressed enough. This is a space where staff and campers alike can be a part of a community that truly understands how to live into the phrase, “all are welcome.”
Here I have seen people come to a new understanding how God is working in their lives. I have seen children of all ages learn about Jesus and the importance of loving not just one another but themselves.
I have watched as counselors have grown spiritually, renewing their faith or starting out on a new journey, while mentoring and encouraging campers to do the same via devotions, special prayer times, and in morning worship.
For some of the campers, Aldersgate is the first time they have encountered real Christian love. A wonderful glimpse of what the Kingdom of God can look like is being created each week at camp — and disciples are being formed because of the teaching and experience that happens at Aldersgate.
At the end of their time at camp, they leave hopeful and ready to transform the world.
There is no question in my mind that those who have been a part of the Aldersgate community will change the world for the better. This is because during their time here they have been shown unconditional love in a place where they feel safe and affirmed, and they have a beloved community where they can explore their identity as children of God.
The most profound transformations I saw were during times spent at in the outdoor labyrinth at Aldersgate, and especially with the Foster children attending Adoption RI's Sibling Camp.
The sibling groups were encouraged to participate as much, or as little, as they were comfortable, and more often than not, the whole group would want to be a part of this very spiritual and contemplative experience.
I would encourage the children to go in one at a time and — as they made their way to the center — to envision a place where they felt the safest or the most loved.
We would work on breathing and listening to our bodies for cues that anxiety and fear would mask. It was amazing to see these incredibly "busy" kids start to relax and quiet themselves as they journeyed along the labyrinth path.
The clinicians present remarked how "this is the first time I have seen these kids able to focus and concentrate."
As they would exit the labyrinth, the children would be making their own observations about how they felt calm, and safe and secure while there; how they were able to think about things, and experience the space in a new way. They would ask the return there during their stay.
It was incredible watching them explore what it means to be in a sacred space!
Alicia Vélez Stewart is an MDiv candidate at Boston University School of Theology. During the summer of 2017, she served as chaplain at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate, RI.