A friend of twenty-five years of age told me yesterday that he had just seen a pig for the first time in his life. Another city-raised friend saw a chipmunk some time back and asked his rural-raised wife, “Is that a deer?” Over a century ago, cultural leaders, seeing people leave farms and flock to cities, feared that knowledge of woods and animals would vanish. In response, they founded organizations like the Boy Scouts. Churches, too, began planning rural retreats, partly to keep city dwellers in touch with God’s Creation. White Lake Encampment, owned, maintained, and operated by the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Presbyteries of the RPCNA is such a place, established a hundred years ago in the southern Catskill Mountains a hundred miles from NYC.
It gets cold there at night in the summers. We get away with having huge campfires every night. There are woods on all four sides of the five-acre open encampment of cabins, dining hall, and playing fields. Bears, snakes, deer, hawks, and salamanders appear without warning. It usually takes young children and their parents about two days to realize that it is actually safe for them to run free, the way their grandparents did, and the children love it. And the campers do almost all of the work themselves. In that setting the urban/suburban Broomall and Elkins Park churches together with rural dwellers from the Hazleton church met for a White Lake family retreat over the American July 4th weekend.
Rev. Bill Edgar
Further rationale for a tri-congregational retreat was as follows: 1) Use the camp more often! And 2) make a concerted effort toward more active fellowship between these three RP congregations. Elkins Park, Hazleton, and Broomall are just far enough away from one another to make regular contact and fellowship difficult to maintain, but close enough to make it a shame that we don’t all get together more often than we do!
We met together at White Lake Covenanter Camp from July 1-4, 2017, and as the saying goes: “A great time was had by all.” Recreation was varied, from electrical wiring and camp repairs to bushcraft and archery tag. And, of course, the beloved slip-and-slide (see pictures!).
The teaching emphasis of the retreat was the singing of Psalms in the life of the Church. Pastors John Edgar (Elkins Park), Alex Tabaka (Broomall), and Paul Brace (Hazleton) each taught on a portion of Colossians 3:12-17 (3:12-15; 16; 17, respectively).
And as any committed White Laker will know—the day is not complete until we all embarrass enjoy ourselves with silly songs around the campfire (again, see pictures!).
A particularly unique and delightful aspect of this retreat were the campfire talks delivered by retired pastor (Broomall congregation) Dr. Bill Edgar. Bill gave three campfire talks filled with stories and biographies from the RPCNA’s pre-Civil War, anti-slavery history. It was a great blessing to hear of God’s hand at work in and through our denomination as we stood, by His grace, against the wickedness of the African slave trade.
The Lord’s blessing was evident in our times of worship and fellowship together—to which I’ll briefly add, with all glory to the Lord, that the above mentioned two-fold goal was met. 1) The camp was used! And 2) the Lord was pleased to further bind these three congregations together in visible manifestations of love and unity.
Rev. Alex Tabaka