Margie Quinn, UCC Social Justice Intern
It was a week of restfulness, of deep conversations and of self-exploration. We met up in an airport, four from Seattle and four from Philadelphia. Karin, Briana, and I (Margie) had just met the day before we hopped on a plane with our Spiritual Mentor, Elizabeth, to fly to Pilgrim Pines Camp in Yucaipa, California. As we descended the escalator in the California airport upon arriving, we saw who we knew had to be Margaret, Kayla, and Julie, along with the Philadelphia Spiritual Mentor, Rich. The eight of us plus Mary, our fearless YASC Mama Bear, scrambled into a van and drove to the campground.
Pilgrim Pines Camp is undoubtedly a sacred place, a holy ground. As we drove up, we saw a wooden sign that read, “The mountains shall bring peace to the people.” Indeed, as we took strolls, had long talks and ate wonderful food, we experienced that deep sense of peace and restoration that only the mountains can bring.
The first night at camp should have been somewhat awkward given that we were all new to each other. Instead, we jumped right into picking each other’s brains. Briana, Julie, and I went on a long hike that ended at a helicopter pad overlooking Yucaipa. We talked about the beauty of Native American culture, what it would be like to live on such a small budget, and why we loved the natural environment so much. We laughed and explored. It was a great way to start the week. As we hiked back down, we found Margaret playing basketball by herself. She has a pretty good shot, I will admit. We joined Margaret on the court and played around until dinner. At dinner, we pushed tables together to eat as one big family, a telling sign of what we would surely become over the next few days. Meal time for the next few days became a time for us to unleash any and all thoughts we had around hot topics. From sexual education in the church to the definition of God to army ants, we were not shy to approach the tough stuff.
There were so many highlights of the week. One day we went to an apple orchard and each bought a different flavor of root beer. We sat under a tree eating apple-spice donut holes and drinking our assortment of sodas. One night we walked a labyrinth, watching the sun set as we wove around each other in circles of thoughtful contemplation. One night we filmed a video for the program that proved hard to do because of our constant laughter. On our last morning together, Mary gave each of us an acorn. She asked us to affirm someone in the group out loud and then hand them our acorn. This was one of my favorite moments of the week. I nodded my head in enthusiasm to the affirmations that I heard about my new friends. Briana’s eagerness to know more, Kayla’s insightful nature, Karin’s wit and knowledge, Margaret’s deep self-inspection, Julie’s unmatched enthusiasm…
My sister once told me that she believes different landscapes bring out certain attributes of people. I have found that camp brings out a need to seek, to explore, and to grow. Without internet or cellphone service, we were forced to confront each other and ourselves. We made covenants in our respective groups of how we wanted to live together this year. We took time thinking about our own strengths and motivations for doing the program. It was an invigorating way to begin what has already been an incredible year of learning.
I will miss the night we roasted s’mores and sang songs, the night we played cards and celebrated Briana’s birthday with miniature cupcakes, the day we saw peacocks and ate apples. I am, though, grateful for the time at Pilgrim Pines camp and I think I can speak for all of the other Interns when I say that we wouldn’t have wanted to begin the year any other way.
What a blessed retreat on God’s holy ground.
A Leap of Faith -
a year of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.