CAMP STEPHENS CHAPEL ~ 125th ANNIVERSARY ~ JULY 31, 2016
“VOICES” ASSIGNMENTS (In order of appearance in narrative)
NARRATOR/LEADER: (Hal Studholme)
CHARLES COPELAND: (Grant Platts)
A MOTHER IN THE EARLY 1900’S: (Marg Law)
GEORGE PRATT, AN EARLY CAMPER: (Laurie MacIntosh)
WILLIAM, “BILL” ALLDRITT: (Mat Klachefsky)
ALFRED DAVID, ‘DAVEY’: (Punch Jackson)
NELSON MCEWEN: (Burton Boryen)
FRED HUBBARD: (Bruce Owen)
RON WATSON (Bob Wettlaufer)
PUNCH JACKSON: (self)
LYNDA ‘TUCK’ MACINTOSH: (self)
LAURIE MACINTOSH: (self)
GRANT PLATTS: (self)
BURTON BORYEN & BRUCE OWEN: (selves)
KELLY PICKEN: (self)
LISA MALBRANCK & MARGO GRANDA: (selves)
STEFAN SCHAIBLE-SCHUR & DYLAN FISKE: (selves)
LEADER -WELCOME - INTRODUCTION & INVOCATION
Good morning and welcome to Chapel. Over the decades of 125 years, Chapel has always had a significant place in Camp Life, for Worship, Thanksgiving, and simply expressing the joy of the Stephens adventure. Today’s Chapel will be an amalgam of all these elements, for together they capture the meaning of camp for campers and staff who have had a very special and unique life experience.
We invite you to take a pause in our reunion celebrations to give yourself over to remembrance, thanksgiving, sharing and worship. Close your eyes….. for a moment let your senses be open to all that surrounds you on this fabled island. Hear the breeze in the tree crowns and the lapping of waves on the rocky shore. Smell the scent of pine and spruce and moss. Let your mind reach back over the years and hear the shouts and laughter of a happy host of children as they play. Open your hearts to the spirit that inhabits every part of this place we love. This is Camp Stephens. Once experienced, it never leaves you. Once lived, it guides your life.
SONG: (MARG LAW)
Why are we here today? What has drawn us back to Copeland Island? Is it the chance to reunite with old friends from our days at camp? Perhaps it’s to revisit this special place and relive fond memories…of a special cabin, the lodge, the depot, Lone Pine. So many places, each with a million memories. Yet, something intangible calls us. Something that, if you asked anyone from any time in the past 125 years, they would express an idea that you would understand and recognize in yourself. I call it, THE SPIRIT OF STEPHENS. This is what we are exploring this morning in our Chapel gathering.
The Stephens we experience today has only existed since the lake was freed from winter’s ice this spring. How can I say this knowing 125 years have passed on this very Copeland Island? Think about the nature of camp. Camp is a creature of our creation each season, indeed with each period of campers or school group, and each staff company. That is why we must never forget those who played significant roles over the more than 12 decades of Stephens, because each time a new community takes residence, camp becomes a new adventure. This is what makes Camp Stephens so unique, so special to everyone who comes here. You become part of the history of camp, part of its continuing creation and part of its evolving future. You become part of THE SPIRIT OF STEPHENS.
First and foremost, from its very beginnings, Stephens has been about the growth of people in Spirit, Mind & Body. In the early years and for several decades that goal was expressed in terms of the Christian faith. YMCA leaders saw camp as a place to experience the handiwork of God in both nature and each other. They believed fervently in a God of love who bid them to love one another. In many ways camp is still the same, a place to learn to love one another.
VOICE OF CHARLES COPELAND: “I’m Charles Copeland and to be very honest, it is very hot and I’m tired of rowing. My colleagues, Messers Richardson, Bayley and Ball and I have been searching for a new site for the YMCA Bible Institute for two summers. When Mr. Browne first started the Institute in 1898 we didn’t realize how quickly the Keewatin Beach area would grow. The new saw mill has brought many workers and there are even new summer residents beginning to build near the beach. Yet we are confident that the Lord will guide us to where he wants us to be. This is the farthest out from Keewatin that we have come. Just one more island to explore and then the long row home. ……..Oh Lord, look at that beach between those two islands. The Lord has surely blessed us in leading us to this place, for I believe we have found ‘God’s Paradise’ and our new wilderness home. We must pause and give thanks.”
For the first twenty years of Stephens, it was predominantly an adult and family Bible camp.
VOICE OF A MOTHER: “Good Morning, my name is Maude Cameron., It was a long row out from Kenora for my husband, poor dear, but now that we’re here we are agreed that it was well worth the effort. My son and daughter are so excited that they unloaded our food and other supplies without any complaint. When they began the Bible Institute a few years ago we never imagined that it would become so popular. Why, there must be more than a dozen families here this week-end. These islands are truly a gift from God. There is talk that they will name them after Mr. George Stephens whose paint company has been so generous in establishing the camp. The children are off now gathering wood for our cooking fire. We have been granted a tent with a wooden floor that will accommodate us all. Now I must prepare supper and after that there’s to be a camp-fire with hymns and prayers and an inspiring talk led by a minister, from Knox Church. We have heard news that a fine steam boat may be purchased for next summer’s camp. The men will be happy for that boon. I must hurry with supper.”
It wasn’t until 1911 that the first boys’ camp was organized at Camp Stephens The parent YMCA was recognizing the importance of development work with young boys and what better place than in a camp setting. Men like T.D. Patton, H.R Hadcock and Fletcher Argue gave it leadership.
VOICE OF GEORGE PRATT: “I’m George Pratt. At last, I’m old enough to be a camper at the new Camp Stephens! This is going to be the best time of my life! Even the train ride from Winnipeg was fun as we sang songs and hymns. They made us walk down the hill to the dock for the camp boat, but we all wanted to run. The Pastime is a new steam launch and the trip out was exciting, sailing past all those islands. Camp is miles away from everything way out here. A lot of my buddies from the YMCA are here too and our gym leader, Mr. Hart will be here tomorrow. My friends and I found our tent; we rolled out our bed rolls and stowed our bags as instructed by a senior boy. They call him a counsellor. Now we’re ready for lunch. I hear we start with home baked bread and soup and then there’s Bible study and a prayer group, led by Mr. Daly, the director. He said we might have a campfire after supper tonight. Perfect!
W.E Davidson was succeeded by W.H. Moor who was director when World War I began in 1914. This brought hardships to all of Canada as hundreds of young men answered the call of “King and Country”. Even camp faced difficulties like food rationing and some of the favourite camp leaders were overseas. In 1918 there were not enough men to act as counselors and camp closed for that season.
VOICE OF BILL ALLDRITT: “I’m Bill Alldritt and I’ve just returned from overseas in Flanders. I volunteered in 1915 along with many of the men from the YMCA. I didn’t think I would be so moved, returning home to Camp Stephens after that terrible war. The mud and cold and the thunder of those big guns, I wondered at times if I would survive it all. I still waken at night shaking, not so much with fear, but simply because of the horror of it all. Yet, one of the things I dreamt of often in the trenches was Camp Stephens. They actually gave me a medal for bravery. I’m not sure I deserved it; there were so many brave men over there. And yet, here I am in a place that is all beauty and peace and blessed by the Lord. Still I have a deep sense of loss; 53 of my camp friends are left in graves in Flanders. I thank the Lord I was spared. The YMCA has honoured our men by naming two of the new cabins after our successes: Hill 60 and St. Juliens. Little do they know how much those victories caused us. I really look forward to working with the young lads. Perhaps I’ll dedicate this summer of 1919 at camp to the friends I left behind.”
By the end of the 1920s family and adult Bible camp gradually phased out. Boys’ camp became the prime focus, still with a large element of religion, but with new emphasis on the natural setting of camp, and skills in water craft and canoeing. The first cabins and the original dining hall were built. This was the era when a camp legend arrived and began to weave his personal magic. Alfred David, ‘Davey’ is remembered and revered, he gave the camp heart and soul.
VOICE OF DAVEY: “I’m Alfred David; most of the lads call me Davey. This afternoon I did my little trick again, cured another junior of homesickness with a slice of my blueberry pie and some words to cheer him up. Hope it lasts. I came here in 1920 and already twelve years have passed at Camp Stephens. Like some of the older counsellors, I did my stint in the big war. But after only a few weeks of fighting, up came a bunch of the Boche and I spent the next four years in a prisoner of war camp. I sure wouldn’t try any of the food I got there on this camp gang, too much of that cabbage and wurst sausage stuff. But I survived. I was lucky that the YMCA gave me a job at camp as cook in the summer and in winter at Central Y as a janitor.
At camp I’m up before first light, to bed at 9, seven days a week. It’s a good life.
But what I love most about this Camp Stephens is the young lads. When they gather in the dining hall I love the chatter and their happy faces. And sometimes I help with their troubles. Makes me feel good to do that. Oh they say I’m a terror in the kitchen, but ‘my boys’ as I call them, like the food, especially my blueberry pies. Today’s Sunday so I think I’ll slip down to see what’s on at chapel this morning. I don’t get to chapel too often. I like to sit on that big rock at the left of the pulpit. Sometimes the boys fall over on the benches. That always brings a big laugh from everybody except the Director. I guess God has a sense of humour. I hope He lets me stay a lot longer in this place.”
Davey did stay, for forty-one years. He passed away in 1961 and is buried in Brookside Cemetery. He was succeeded by his assistant, Al Wilde. In 1966 the chapel was rebuilt and named in honour of Davey. I think he would get a chuckle out of that but he would be pleased to be remembered. And he is.
VOICE OF NELSON MCEWEN: “I’m Nelson McEwen, It’s 1926 and this season I’m allowing a provincial girl’s group to use camp for the last two weeks of August. The weather is so bad at that time I felt it wouldn’t matter. Besides, they are so enthusiastic. Girls should have a chance to enjoy camp. But some old timers keep reminding me that Camp Stephens belongs to the Young Men’s Christian Association. I’m quite pleased with the new cook I’ve hired, Alfred David. ‘Davey’ as the boys call him is turning out to be a favourite already. Camp added four new cabins this year and we made new rules against tobacco and playing cards and unregulated swim times and boating. We inaugurated the Order of the Quest for older campers who spend a night’s vigil on Nanton Island. There were two eight day canoe trips this summer covering 50 miles each! Oh yes, and Flossie, our milk cow continues to serve the camp with cream for cereal and tea.
VOICE OF FRED HUBBARD: “I’m Fred Hubbard, it’s 1927 and I’m proud to succeed Nelson as Director. But I told him of my disappointment that “Flossie” the cow has disappeared! We now must bring in cream from Kenora; it often sours with the ice house as our only refrigeration. They tell me that “Flossie” swam away last fall but I doubt she could swim and there are rumours of a fine banquet for staff at camp closing. We introduced new programs for the boys of camp-craft, bird lore, camera club, fishing, basketry, sketching, knotting, and gymnastics to name the most popular. Two hundred boys are registered this summer, a record. Three canoes, a punt and a sailboat were added to the camp fleet. Four new cabins allowed us to discontinue the tents. And a local Ojibway group constructed an authentic birch-bark canoe on the island.
Camp endured scarcities in the Depression but directors H.T Williams and S.T. Smith saw it through Some staff actually volunteered to work. The Second World War began in 1939 and many young men from camp join the military. From 1941 to 1945 Charlie Forsyth was director. Charlie was registered to come to the 100th anniversary in 1991 at the age of 90 but withdrew as his wife felt he should be home for his 65th wedding anniversary. Charlie was succeeded by Gordon Hearne, D.D. Hills and Fred Hoffman.
The war changed the world and camp. Program became more responsive to the setting of Lake of the Woods. To traditional mass games a greater interest in cabin based activities arose. Camp Stephens stressed the Y’s tradition of development in Spirit, Mind and Body . But as boys came to camp from different faiths and non-religious traditions the overtly Christian flavour waned. Counsellor training became more sophisticated, focused on growth and broad-based development.
Reverend Fred Douglas, camp director in the early 50s stressed that the motto “I’M THIRD” arose out of the Christian maxim to “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR,” Ross Bannerman and the Owen brothers, Alex and Bill, directed camp in the 50’s,. Bill Owen redeveloped the Indian lore program into a major camp theme stressing the dignity of aboriginal people and honouring them for their lore of the natural world. Starting with his time as a camper, Bill likely had the longest camp experience of anyone in any era save Punch Jackson as both worked their way to directorship. Both had profound impacts on all aspects of camp.
VOICE OF RON WATSON: I’m Ron Watson Youth Director at Central Y. After being a counsellor and staff at Stephens in the 50’s, the Y had enough faith in me to appoint me camp director. This year I have some real characters on my staff, all of whom make for a great team. I don’t know one who isn’t loved by his kids. This year we got everybody singing and Hal Studholme revived the Indian lore program. We even got a new launch, the Canadianna to replace the old Y’s Man. Camp sure seems strange without Davey. Last year was his final year. I remember the phone call that announced his passing that winter; it marked the end of an era and of a camp legend. His funeral saw men from the 1920’s to the 1960’s come to pay respects. If anyone was a perfect example of “I’m Third” it was Davey.
But not all camp funerals are sad. This summer we had six straight days of rain. We tried everything, even celebrated Christmas with a tree and presents and singing carols. The rain kept on. So Hal & I decided to hold a wake and a funeral for Gertrude, the invisible elephant, the camp mascot. We sang songs, and paraded around the island. I did a eulogy and many Juniors actually cried. All camp gathered for her burial, at sea, in the front bay. Actually what we tipped over the side of the Y’s man was a grey tarp-covered Hobart dishwasher that didn’t work. Camp has always had many ways to honour its friends!
Doug McEwen & Punch Jackson succeeded Hal Studholme as camp directors and continued the evolution of Stephens. The 70’s were years of many physical and program changes at camp.
VOICE OF PUNCH JACKSON: I’m Punch Jackson and I may be the oldest living camper here this week-end…. 60 years at camp starting as a camper in 1956. I may not have been here in body all those years, but in spirit and heart, I’ve never left. I even got my nick-name ‘Punch’ here, from Bill Owen and Ron Watson, two terrific mentors. I picked up from Doug McEwen after his great rebuilding program of the cabin line and especially most program elements. It was also when I put together and we began of the Voyageur program, the predecessor of Wilderness and Trail. When I became Camp Director in I had a dream of a major expansion of camping programs, inside and outside the Winnipeg Y. With the support of Don Phalen and Hal Studholme, we created the Camping Branch. Our team of Brian, Stubby, Law, Jim King, Larry Austman, John Macbeth, Alice Neville, Laurie MacIntosh and Bob Paterson we put together a five element branch: Stephens, Wilderness, Outdoor Education at Stephens and Manitou, Manitou Day Camp, Log cabin Sales and Wilderness Two. We wanted to be the best in the Canadian Y, and we were! Yet, as much as we expanded and developed, our focus never wavered, KIDS, PARENTS, THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVED, STAFF AND COLLEAGUES IN AND OUTSIDE THE Y. We built relationships and we strove for leadership development at all levels.
Perhaps my one regret was ending the Indian Lore program. It ultimately was not working for its original purpose, to create understanding of and relationships with Native people. We have to find better ways to recognize them through camping and we will with their cooperation and input. I have always been convinced that through camping and wilderness programs we can open up fantastic experiences for kids. I will continue to be a part of Stephens and Y camping and contribute to this goal. Like I said my heart is here!
Tuck, Lynda Keep, fought for the rights of girls to go to camp and with Sheila Gawley and Ardis McLennan they braved the end of August and proved that they were right!
VOICE OF TUCK: “Hi I’m Lynda MacIntosh, maybe better known by my camp nickname as “Tuck”. Well, it took a long time and a lot of pestering, annoying and demanding of Punch and Hal by me, but here we are, at long last, Stephens has a session for girls! I remember when I set foot on the island in 1962 for the very first girls’ camp. We only got the last two weeks in August and nearly froze to death. But I loved it. Polar Bear club, hours of singing, a chance to take out the canoes and great campfires, even the boys on staff who stayed to look after camp thought we were great! I was hooked! On my last morning I went to Lone Pine Point and promised myself that I would do everything I could to make sure every girl would be able to have an experience at Stephens like this for all the years to come – just like the boys have had for 70 years. In many ways, the Y has been a second home for me. I was a kid at old North Y and eventually became a leader for kid’s programs. But when I discovered Camp, I knew I had to be a part of it. Even after my family moved to California I managed to return in the summer to keep my Winnipeg Y roots. And Girl’s camp was always my goal.
I’m pretty pleased that they’re using the concepts for girl’s camp and canoe tripping that I developed while I was in University in California. Oh there’s probably a few of the ‘old boys’ complaining about “Girls in camp!” But we did it! We persevered! It makes me so happy that from now on women and girls will have the same life-altering experiences at Stephens that gave me my start. Our spirits, our minds and our bodies now have a chance to build a “million memories” at Stephens. And my personal promise is to live by the camp motto “I’M THIRD” every day.
And we must not forget that, like the army, camp runs on its stomach! Some of the most memorable leaders at camp have been its cooks, Davey, Al Wilde and ‘Mac.”
LAURIE MACINTOSH: I’m Laurie MacIntosh, just plain “Mac.” at camp. It’s 1974 and year four as Chief Cook. What I love best about this place, next to cooking up dishes that they gulp down with gusto, is the singing. The boys are great, but the girls at the end of August are fantastic. They sing all day and everywhere! And I’m especially pleased that they’ve even created something called the Lasagna Song.
That’s a tribute and it all makes up for those really hot days in the kitchen! One more thing, I think I’d like to get to know that ‘Tuck’ gal a little better soon!
This was another era. Jim Leggat was Director from 77 to 79 and was succeeded by Grant Platts. Some of the most profound changes occurred at camp in this era, both physically and in the actual make-up of camping at Stephens. Alas we lost Jim in 1993.
GRANT PLATTS: I’m Grant Platts, Camp Director from 1980 to 86. My dream job! I’ve happily survived being a camper, Voyageur, CIT and staff and in my very first year as Director the change to Co-ed camping. The old guard grumbled and said it would never happen, but it did. Even I had personal misgivings, but it has turned out to be a great success. Luckily we had some great girl leaders led by Marg Law as Program Director, and Nancy McGregor as head cook. I also experienced the building of Lount Lodge, The Clivus composting toilet system, a shower house and a new water treatment system, all under the leadership of Burton Boryen.
Those years of new ventures and big changes turned out to be all round development experience for us all. Stephens has had a profound influence on my life. I’m fortunate to have stayed connected to camp to this day through friendships and the camp Alumni.
BURTON: I’m Burton Boryen. Most people don’t realize how close we came to ending up in jail over Lount Lodge. We cut the wrong logs and got some people very upset, but I think the good Lord was with us and we managed to cut 250 of the right ones, float them to camp, create some unique construction methods, and over three years of hard work ended up with a pretty good result.
GRANT: I’m glad it turned out so well. What with the noise of chain saws from dawn to dusk and losing a big chunk of the campus I have to admit that the project nearly drove me nuts.
BRUCE: I’m Bruce Owen and I think Mr. Graham Lount would be pleased with what his money created. Burton’s crew was me and Bob Picken, Bruce Backhouse, Colin Ledger, Dave Wright, Pam McLean, Mitch Campbell and Don Cochrane. He worked us hard and long but it was a great experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But I would be remiss if II didn’t recognize and give a big thanks to the dozens, campers and staff alike, who peeled logs, carried cedar shakes and sod and tons of stuff that we unloaded from the barge. They too are to be honoured as CREW!
BURTON: Well, despite some risky moments and a lot of sweat, we’re proud of what we accomplished. Truly,I think God was watching over our project, guiding it and keeping us safe. We should credit Him as the ultimate architect and construction chief!
Wilderness, or as it eventually came to be known, TRAIL, became one of the strongest elements of camp. Two, Three, four and six week trips for both boys and girls became the norm. The latter proved to be a great training ground for counsellors and staff. Trail also demonstrated the character-building rewards of the program.
KELLY PICKEN: I’m Kelly Picken. Me and my brother Bob are long time dedicated Stephens people. I didn’t realize how little I knew about life until my first six week trip. Every time I took out another one I lived a new life, a deeper life. No experience has such a profound effect on the young men and women who challenge the wilderness of woods and water. We all grow in every way. It isn’t just the physical challenges, which are great, it is the effect on you emotionally, and yes, even spiritually. You bond with the wilderness, you become one with your fellow travellers, you become friends in a way that changes your life forever. I forget sometimes that it’s Camp Stephens that makes it all come about. The spirit arises on that island with people like Punch and Tuck and Grant who paved the way.
Every kid, boy or girl, who ventures out on the trail enters an experience that teaches them about themselves and what it means to look after yourself and those around you. You find a deeper, more aware, more spiritual you. I am blessed to have had the chance to live it.
As an old timer, I have come to think of the 80s, 90s and 2000s as “Modern Times.” Succeeding Directors, in the 80s to the present: Bob Picken, Ian Smith, Jason Bowers, Jen Sulkers, Marlene Penner, Leighanna Shockley, and Steve Allen kept the traditions, created new features and adventures and gave thousands of boys and girls the chance to grow in Spirit, Mind and Body. And now Mat Klachefsky is carrying the torch. Sitting here on this deck overlooking such a glorious vision of the lake and taking in the magnificent Lount Lodge, the new cabin line and swim dock features, it is easy to think of our history in terms of its physical development. From five forested islands and a few tents, we now have this modern, fully equipped camp, fleets of watercraft, a ropes course, climbing wall and prospects for more development to come. The future is bright. We can even got lost in the beauty of this Lake of the Woods setting and indeed, the wilderness that is on our doorstep for decades more of exploration and discovery. But there is always more to camp.
LISA MALBRANCK & MARGO GRANDA: Hi, We’re here to speak of the days when REM, the Indigo Girls, Sarah McLaughlin, the Tragically Hip, the Spirit of the west and the Beasty Boys helped create the sound-track of our camp lives. From section songs to Depot parties, to campfire tunes to singing songs while duffing a canoe…camp was always music to our ears. If you can feel what we’re feeling right now, then you’re experiencing a musical masterpiece! Copeland Island drew us in in so many ways in the 1990s and 2000s. We learned from our peers and nature, laughed ‘til we peed our pants, made the best of friends a kid could ever ask for until it was time to go home for a rest.
Mass Days, Island swims, Food Waste, ECDCICA, and Women’s Ceremonies all helped craft amazing memories for us in this magical place. What an empowering experience for a teenager to solo a canoe, cook over an open fire and climb Raspberry Rock. You felt all grown-up, hanging with your best buds at El Gamo or just hashing a table. It was not until many years later that I realized the best thing camp ever did for me was to help me take my life seriously or sometimes, less seriously. The island developed a mystique somewhere between the summer of CIT’s and first year as staff. How fantastic that you and your cabin mates are now actually running the place! Learning to comfort a homesick junnie, or to motivate a senior for Polar Bear swim, how to balance doing laundry and busting a move at the Milltown in K-Town, all this capped off by some night swimming. And yet, camp in our era was still much like the experience of all those who came before us, the kids, your buds, the island and sitting on the swim dock watching the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time. Fortunately the important things never change.
I’m Marg Granda and I’m Lisa Milbranck and we believe this place is heaven to no one else but us…..and of course every other camper and staff who has set foot on this island.
But since 1911, Camp Stephens has been about kids. The future of camp itself lies in their hands… No, it lies in their hearts and dreams.
STEFAN SCHAIBLE-SCHUR: Hi I’m Stefan Schaible-Shur and I have a big fact for you, CAMP STEPHENS IS AWESOME! That’s like in stone! I’ve been going to camp for four years and every year was better than the last. The whole experience is fabulous, the activities and especially the counsellors who are always by your side to give you tips and guide you. After my first year I was begging my mom and dad to let me go again. There’s always something new, like Trail pizza: that’s with nann bread with cheese and klick! Sound good?
People ask me, “what’s your favourite thing about camp?” To be honest, I don’t know. There are so many things, canoeing, sailing, ropes course, water trampoline, I could go on forever. I love canoeing and I’ve been on trail 12 times so far. The stories about Trail make me want me to do more, maybe even do the inspiring 6 week! Like Dylan, generations of my family have been to camp from my eight-year-old cousin to my grandfather who is in his 70s and went on a canoe trip many years ago. I hope I can keep coming back to camp like so many of you have done. I can’t wait to be a counsellor! Thank you Camp Stephens!
DYLAN FISKE: Hi I’m Dylan Fiske and this summer will be my third year as a camper at Stephens. In fact I start tomorrow! Like Stefan I absolutely adore this place. It’s amazing that my family has been a part of Stephens for four generations, starting with my Grampa Hal, who was senior staff and finally camp director in the 1960s! Then my mom, Terri, and dad, Bruce, both were campers and then staff. This is my brother Wyatt’s fourth year and my sister Shaye’s second year and my cousin Caitlyn has also been a camper. We all have our paddles painted by grandpa to prove it! Everything about camp is great! The islands, all five of them, the lake, the big lodge, everything! The things we do are great too, campfires, swimming, kayaking, but best of all are the friends I’ve made from every cabin group I’ve been in. And our leaders are terrific! I think what I really like best about Stephens is having something new to look forward to every day and every year. I’m hoping that someday maybe I’ll be a counsellor or even go on Trail and be a tripper. I want Camp Stephens to go on forever because I’m going to be a part of it!
We must never forget that Stephens has been built on the shoulders of ordinary people, men and women who believed that the camp experience could have a profound effect on how a youngster grows and develops. The idea of growing in, in SPIRIT, MIND AND BODY, still has validity today. First and foremost camp is about children …..boys and girls, living and learning to cooperate and share with each other, learning about life in the natural setting of Lake of the Woods, acquiring skills and coming to understand the practical arts of loving the earth and their neighbour. The young adults who work with their young charges also grow to maturity and in their understanding of the same values. It’s a win-win experience.
SONG: It was in the 30s that one of the longest traditions of camp was officially dubbed the “CAMP HYMN.” ABIDE WITH ME” was a favourite at chapel and became the hymn that ended all campfires for decades into the 1970s. Some new verses have been added that make it more relevant to camp. Whatever your belief, the words speak to a confidence that goodness will prevail in life and even after.
BENEDICTION: CLOSE YOUR EYES AGAIN AND DREAM WITH ME FOR ONE MORE MOMENT. . .
. . .Sit with me on the old front dock, jutting out into the front bay. It’s a warm fall day in September. We swing our legs back and forth like many a camper has done, day dreaming of what has been and may be to come here in our favourite place on earth. We watch little eddies swirl in the cribbing of the dock just below our feet. The bay is calm, just a gentle breeze stirs the waters but it has an edge to it, a promise of harsher days to come. We’re alone on Copeland Island and the mind is free to roam, conjuring up sights and sounds and images that arise out of the times we have known this place. In your mind see the faces of colleagues and campers who have shared camp with you, Listen, can you hear the sounds of children’s shouts and laughter in the breeze? Are you here with me? I’m home. I come here as often as I wish by just closing my eyes and letting the years fall away.
Try it yourself. You never really leave Stephens and neither do my friends who shared it with me now more than 50 years ago. I see them striding along with the kids and along with them as they come across the campus I see a special figure who was our friend all the days I was at camp, the Carpenter of Nazareth. His words still undergird everything that camp is about, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. That’s why our motto was I’M THIRD. Either way, Chapel and Camp itself was, and is, and always will be, about building a better world, one kid at a time.
More than two thousand years ago a man named Micah spoke these words:
"This is what is asked of you in life, only this,
That you act justly
That you love with tenderness
And that you walk humbly with your God…"
In whatever way you conceive of the Spirit of Stephens, go in Peace.