Camps Kenwood and Evergreen are values-driven summer camps in New Hampshire. Our parents tell us regularly that one reason that they chose our summer camp community is because of our emphasis on character education. Over the course of each seven-week season, we strive to teach our campers about the value of being an honest, hardworking, empathetic, socially-conscious person. Our counselors serve as role models to their campers, actively reinforcing these values in the midst of bunk life, on our ball fields, and in the rest of daily camp life. We are so devoted to our values that we even dedicate a portion of our Friday nights to it.
After our busy, fun-filled week, we pause each Friday night to discuss and reinforce our community’s shared values. As part of an inclusive community we offer two simultaneous gatherings: a historically Jewish Shabbat service, and a non-denominational, ecumenical service. Though 90% of our campers come from Jewish homes, we feel that it’s important to offer a weekly Shabbat service for them while also offering a welcoming alternative to our non-Jewish friends. Campers are free to take part in either service, and most happily try out both over the course of each summer. Friday’s are very special at Kenwood and Evergreen. At the conclusion of Friday Night dinner our campers, with siblings or cousins at our summer camp, participate in what we call “Brother-Sister visiting”. It’s a nice, relaxing time each week for the campers with relatives in the other camp to spend quality time together. Afterwards, we announce the start of services over our PA system. You can see that our campers and staff get very excited for Friday night services, as they have even created a silly, spirited dance to signal its start.
After the Service Call Dance our community members gather for our two different meetings. At our Jewish service we light candles, recite the Sh’ma, and say a few other important blessings. Our campers volunteer to lead the recitation of each prayer, poem or song, and it is common for siblings or cousins to do this together. Then, our camp director – Jason – gives a sermon that tries to highlight our community’s collective values. The sermon is usually a story or allegory with imagery that is easy for our campers to grasp, and is not religiously dogmatic or Torah-based. The ecumenical service feels a lot like a Quaker Friends meeting. Camp owner and director, Scott Brody, runs this smaller service, and spends the time both reading the weekly sermon and asking his group of campers and counselors to engage in a thoughtful discussion about its meaning. At both gatherings we ask the community members how they intend to use the message in their lives during the following week. We also ask if anyone has an example of how they used the previous week’s sermon to make our community a better place.
Both services are short, lasting no more than 25 minutes. By the end most campers have their arms around their friends and counselors, and there is a feeling of deep connection amongst us all. At the conclusion of each summer, a large majority of our campers tell us that Friday Night Services are one of their favorite traditions at Camp. They enjoy the quiet, the solemnity, and the chance to reflect on the values of kindness, honesty, and acceptance that are so cherished in the Camps Kenwood and Evergreen community.