After a few days of settling in to my new Seattle life, I headed back east to attend the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America~Bautistas por la Paz Summer Conference (affectionately called “Peace Camp.”) My Nashville pastor Rev. April Baker picked me up from the airport in Cleveland and I joined a group from my Glendale Baptist Church congregation on the way to Keuka College in Keuka Park, NY. Keuka Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in the southern part of New York and the college is absolutely lovely sitting on its shore.
The theme of this summer conference is “Decentering Power and Privilege: Becoming a Peculiar People.” Our theme text for the week is 1 Peter 2:4-10, which has been used (and mis-used) in many different contexts. Look it up and see what comes to mind for you! How have you heard this text preached? How does it speak to you?
Throughout the week we will read scripture from various translations, in (at least) English and Spanish. We will also have worship, plenary sessions and workshops with both English and Spanish translation. Our worship leaders are Rev. Gerardo Oberman and Horacio Vivares from the Argentinian creative organization called Red Crearte, a group of songwriters and liturgists who seek to create accessible worship experiences for all people within and beyond Latin America. Together they wrote the lyrics for and composed our camp theme song drawing from the 1 Peter text as well as current politics facing the Americas.
Worship tonight began after a delicious dinner provided by Keuka College staff, including many greetings in multiple languages and hugging friends far and near. Peace Camp always feels like a big ole family reunion, as perhaps some of you who have attended prior camps can attest. The worship space is a beautiful chapel with stained glass art much like the parable windows at SFBC. Cheryl Bear, a Nadleh Whut'en singer-songwriter from the Dakelh Nation in central British Columbia, shared a story about God’s protection and solidarity with the oppressed.
The sermon this evening was shared by Rev. George Oliver and Elivette Mendez Angulo, the two summer conference coordinators. They preached from Mark 3:1-6, 20-35 on the topic of “When there is a conspiracy against doing good.” Some highlights included exhorting those gathered to continue in the journey towards justice, though we may struggle with those around us, including even our own families (as Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”) The preachers lifted up Jesus as someone who amplified the voices of those marginalized by the Roman Empire, speaking the Good News the empire didn’t want them speaking, always sharing the gospel of life everlasting. Rev. Oliver also said, “Jesus didn’t want us to learn a simple religion…Jesus decided in his time, when he saw people who were hurting, he was gonna heal them. He used his power and privilege to make the world better.” It is time for us now, to decide what we do when we encounter those who are hurting. We must build communities to amplify the voice of Jesus in our time. We also must publicly recognize our membership in God’s family, sometimes even asking “Who is included in my family?” and living in solidarity with those some might label “the least of these.”
That’s just a little taste of Day 1 at Peace Camp. Here are some photos of the beautiful chapel, the gorgeous sunset after a thunderstorm, the words to our camp theme song and my edited name tag!
Peace be with you.