I have spent many summers over the years at Canterbury Hills, but the first summer with the director title is a whole different ball game. As the preparation for summer 2020 quickly picks up speed, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to pause for a moment to reflect on the amazing, hectic, beautiful, and magical year that was 2019.
Shortly after I began my position, I was lucky enough to join the Board of Directors in participating in a workshop focused on visioning and creating our official mission statement.
“Canterbury Hills creates inspiring and engaging experiences that develop leadership skills, confidence, and resilience in a safe and inclusive environment. Immersed in nature, we experience God in and around us and build community values”.
I am so proud of this stamen as I believe it perfectly describes the magic that makes Canterbury Hills so special. The leadership and spirit that our young staff put into their work to create fun and safe moments every day, is a sign of God working through them to build community and empower our youth.
Our outdoor chapel is one of mesmerizing beauty; when we meet for Eucharist in the afternoon, the sun is at a point where it shines down through the treetops, perfectly hitting the stone altar in a way that makes your heart feel full. Experiencing the connections that are built through belly laughs, singing, playing, and reflecting in the beautiful Carolinian forest helps remind us that God is always with us.
One of the reasons I have enjoyed working at Canterbury Hills so much, is that no matter the background our campers come from, or the trials they may have faced, they are welcomed into our space with open arms and hearts. In a cabin group, they immediately have eight new friends that support their growth and ideas.
This past summer gave me the unique view on how this is the same for our young staff too. At the camp we have a leader in training program for 15–16- year-olds to work as staff, while receiving additional leadership training. While I was leading a session on spirituality, I asked each leader in training to take a few minutes to reflect on their spiritual timeline, focusing on what life experiences have helped shape who they are leading up to that moment. When it came time to share, I was shocked to hear some of the hardships of death, bullying, family troubles or school issues that they had faced throughout their young lives, but they all echoed similar endings: Canterbury Hills had been a refuge for them as they grew up through our camping programs, and allowing them to partake in this program and give back to campers while bonding with each other so deeply gave them a strong sense of purpose and direction. I definitely had lots of emotions to reflect upon after that session!
I began working at Canterbury Hills Camp as an overnight cabin leader in the summer of 2013. My mom saw a flyer for the camp hanging on a bulletin at our church one day, and brought it home to show me. At the time I was a shy sixteen year old kid who was used to spending my summer days at our family cottage; I wasn’t sure that camp life was for me. If only I knew then that I would end up making it my career!
Camp changes lives for the better. Each year I am lucky enough to return, regardless of the role, I can reflect back and feel grateful for the growth in my leadership, confidence, and faith. No matter how exhausting or hectic a day (or even a week) may feel, I can take a break to pause and stand on my office porch and just listen. Listen to the sounds of splashing and cheering of the kids cooling off in the pool. Listen to the sound of songs coming from the campfire pit, and the familiar sound of crackling twigs that goes along with it. Or maybe just listen to the sound of silence after the day campers have gone home, and the overnight campers are asleep in their bunks, and look up at those beautiful stars that just don’t shine the same from the city so close by.
It is in these moments I am reminded of how blessed I was to have called the number on that flyer all those years ago, and made the call again to apply for the position as director in November 2018. I am a camp person at the best camp in the world, and I cannot wait to take all that I have learned and make summer 2020 even better.
Source: The Niagara Anglican Newspaper by Emily Lloyd