Silent prayer. Lectio Divina. Solitude. Space for reflective journaling. At first glance, these ancient spiritual practices might seem more at home being discussed in the Great Hall up at Laity Lodge than being actively practiced by 13-year-olds in the old cedar-post Arts & Crafts Pavilion down at Echo Valley. But this summer, Laity Lodge Youth Camp’s M.O.G. and Rooted (the guys’ and girls’ morning devotional times at Echo Valley, respectively) are stepping into centuries-old traditions to deepen the Christian spiritual formation of our youth at Echo.
Alongside more established traditions of M.O.G. Talks (M.O.G. is an acronym for “Men of God”) and a guided Bible study on godly character traits, director Tom Bowyer added in days for his guys to cultivate silence and to read Scripture followed by quiet meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Campers will be guided through a widely used Christian practice dating back to the third century called Lectio Divina (LEK-tee-oh di-VEE-nah), which is Latin for “divine reading” or “sacred reading.”
“In addition to approaching the Bible as a resource to be mined for stories, teachings, or nuggets of truth, the practice of Lectio Divina approaches Scripture as the living and active word of God—as something that masters us rather than something we master—a place one can encounter Christ in the text, and as a result, be moved, changed, and called to action,” said Tom Bowyer, Echo Valley Director. “Our guys each took home a bookmark encouraging them to use this tool in the 50 weeks after camp as well.”
Echo Valley Director Karla Heath has spent the last few years fine-tuning a similar curriculum for Rooted—called Ponder—in collaboration with its creator, Michelle Travis. This method of approaching scripture encourages girls to turn over and over the meaning of each individual word in their mind, then to discuss those meanings with their Rooted group. Connecting personal stories, artwork, music lyrics, nature, thoughts, and feelings to each word of a verse brings greater meaning and understanding to the words and character of God. Then, these words and verses become language to pray for themselves and for others.
“We wish we could give parents a window into the months of preparation that go into the planning, writing, designing, and counselor training of M.O.G and Rooted,” said Karla. “In the past three years, we’ve spent a lot of time shifting Rooted curriculum and materials to match the heart behind this time each morning at camp—to equip these young women to confidently encounter scripture and communicate with God by themselves outside of camp, by introducing tools to encounter scripture and pray in community and with guidance at camp. These tools—pen to paper, dig and discuss, look and listen, ponder and pray—are thoughtful and open-ended prompts placed into the hands of the girls, trusting that the Spirit will guide them into truth.”
Spiritual formation is at the core of LLYC’s mission. And every summer, campers experience significant spiritual growth. In fact, nine out of ten campers surveyed said that they left with a more confident and stronger sense of their own faith, and 92% of surveyed parents also said they noticed their child had grown in their faith while at camp.
Roundup talks, M.O.G. and Rooted, late-night Cabin Time sharing: these programmed times are each woven into a larger tapestry of relaxed, unprogrammed time—kids being outside in creation, surrounded by the affirmation of counselors and friends, away from technology and devices, offering the potential for solitude and reflection, a rare gift our camps are able to give freely.
The instructions below are adapted from Verbum Domini, released by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.