During the week of July 13-17 the Metropolis of Atlanta held a special virtual youth experience in lieu of our canceled annual Saint Stephen’s Camp program. This week-long experiment was conceived by the Metropolis Youth department and the Saint Stephen’s Camp directors (a team of which Fr. Steven was just named a part of this Summer). What followed was a truly creative, incredibly fun and surprisingly meaningful experience for the kids and their families.
The week was set up with a simple structure. Every day would begin with a short video. This video would include a brief prayer service, scripture reading, theological reflection and then a series of challenges for the GOYANs to complete throughout the day. As the kids took part in the challenges, they were then instructed to post photos and/or videos of them to their social media accounts tagging St. Stephen’s Camp in them. We had no idea what to expect, but when we started seeing the first posts show up on Monday we knew that we were part of something special! Hundreds of participants from all over the metropolis (including 10 from our own parish here in Wilmington) were active throughout the week, and many delivered some memorable challenge submissions.
To wrap every day there was a live discussion held via Zoom (you can see a sample of one of the discussions on this page). In these calls, the kids were divided into age groups and put into virtual breakout rooms with two clergy in each. These discussions followed the “Reset” theme for the week, and meticulously addressed how this pandemic has given us all the opportunity to spiritually renew ourselves. Beginning by acknowledging the things that the quarantine took away, then remembering to give thanks for the things that remained, the kids were able to confront the challenges that they all faced and place their focus on the hopes of a brighter future.
We all wanted to be at camp, there is no denying that. Saint Stephen’s Camp is one of the most celebrated highlights of our metropolis calendar every year. Next year we pray that we return to the Diakonia Retreat Center better than ever. But in doing so we should not overlook the remarkable service that we were able to provide our young people here in 2020.