In one of our last issues of the Beacon Lights there appeared an article concerning the 1970 Spring Retreat. The writer of that article seemed to be concerned about some of the activities or lack of activities that took place at Camp Rogers. To allay any fears the readers might have because of this negative criticism, it is only proper that the record be set straight.
The writer of the previous article on the subject, Mr. M. Kamps, makes the statement that the purpose of the Retreats is to provide Christian fellowship and spiritual edification for our young people. The young people, and especially the Federation Board have always had these qualifications in mind in planning any of our activities. I believe that all of our Retreats, our major activities, and certainly our Conventions have always included these important ingredients. However, I do think that there is a marked difference between Christian fellowship and spiritual edification. At the 1970 Spring Retreat, as at our Conventions, both of these elements were present, as our parents and peers had every right to expect. Is not playing volleyball, and walking by the lake with fellow Christians, Christian fellowship? And is not having proper discussion of the religious topics that were chosen and having communion in prayer spiritual edification? One can only answer that they most certainly are. I am sure that the writer of the previous article presumes incorrectly that Christian fellowship and spiritual edification are one and the same, and that they should come to light in the same way.
The fact that we young people heard three of our own young men play their musical instruments seems to be a point of criticism by Mr. Kamps. I do think that this sing-along, as it was called, might have been scheduled for some later time during the Retreat, and not immediately after opening prayer. That, however, does not seem to be the main question. Five songs were listed in the previous article, and these were played for us by the three young fellows on their instruments. Now practically all the songs we sang or heard are ten years old, more or less, and could hardly be called contemporary music. Most of them are folk songs, not “hillbilly love songs,” and not rock and roll music. Of course there was some hand clapping and whistling from the audience, but we were dealing with mostly younger young people, and this is to be almost expected. One really cannot expect to keep youthful enthusiasm from showing itself, especially at a retreat. This Retreat was worked for, sponsored by, and promoted by the young people, especially the Federation Board, it must be remembered.
Mr. Kamps also mentions that the time was rather poorly used at our Retreat. The Federation Board has never attempted to state just how much time is allotted to either spiritual edification or Christian fellowship at any activity. I am quite sure that if one totaled up the time spent engaged in Christian fellowship and the time spent engaged in spiritual edification at any past Retreat or Convention, he would see that “Christian fellowship time” is predominant. This fact is merely a matter of practical application in making out a schedule for nay activity of this type.
There were only two one hour discussion group sessions scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. it is true. However, each of these sessions included a short statement by a seminary student before it began, and most groups out-lasted the one hour of time allotted to them. In between discussion group sessions we played football and volleyball, couples strolled about together, and many young people were down at the edge of the lake. There young people were not merely expending their boundless energy, but were engaged in Christian fellowship. Let us not forget that this is a very VITAL part of a Retreat.
I would like to reassure Mr. Kamps that what he feels is an imbalance of related activities and the purpose of the Retreats is not going to destroy our Retreats. We should have faith in God and in our young people in this regard, and not be afraid for the future of our Retreats.
The young people and their Federation Board are certainly indebted to Mr. Kamps for his suggestions about improving our Retreats. However, I would take issue with the assumption that the Federation Board has not sought advice in planning its activities. The advisors are always supposed to be at the meeting, as is the youth coordinator. The advisors are only human, and cannot be present at all the meetings, and so are not always up to date on the latest developments. This situation will be somewhat improved, I am sure as time goes on.
The Spring Retreat of 1970 is now history and has turned out to be a little controversial. It is my belief, and I think the belief of most of the participants at the Retreat, that it was a success, and that the events planned were good wholesome events.
The Retreat also demonstrated that the correct attitude must be taken by the planners and the young people alike to insure its God-give success.
I would like to comment on the article “Spring Retreat” by Marvin Kamps in the August-September issue of Beacon Lights. First of all, I highly question the timing of this article. Nearly six months have passed since the Spring Retreat and if the opinions Mr. Kamps holds are important to him and if he wishes to help the young people improve their retreats, why were not these opinions voiced at the retreat, or at least very soon after? After all, this is why retreats are held, to allow young people and their chaperones to express and exchange ideas. This would have been the best and most effective way for Mr. Kamps to bring his ideas through to the young people. Also, it seems as if Mr. Kamps was totally uninformed as to what this retreat was to include. Is this not a perfect place for misunderstandings to arise? If he was to chaperone, he surely should have inquired beforehand as to exactly what it was he was to be chaperoning. When complaints are issued so may months late, it would seem to me that they help very little to keep open these vital veins of communication between young people and their leaders.
Also, I would just like to say that I am a strong believer in these retreats. Never was I under the impression that there was too much free time. If anyone wanders around the grounds and listens to some of the discussions outside of the main discussion groups, he would have to agree that these free times are on the whole, very well spent. Many young people have opinions, feeling, and questions about many things in the Prot. Ref. Churches that they wish to share with others and these free times are such excellent times for such discussions. I have heard these kind of discussions lasting well past one and two o’clock in the morning. Besides all of these discussions need not be related strictly to issues in the Prot. Ref. churched. Young people are confronted with many problems and questions which they are so often and afraid to share with others. I am sure there are many young people who have left the secluded atmosphere of a retreat with a large sense of emotional relief in just knowing that there are many others who face the same problems and questions. And how else can Christian love grow deep and strong unless we are truly willing to share our lives and learn to listen and understand out of a concern for our brother in Christ?
As far as the music at this retreat is concerned, I think it is not really such a major issue. Such songs as “Five-Hundred Miles” are basically easy and fun songs to sing. They need not detract from the atmosphere of a retreat. Next time, let’s make sure we are agreed on this issue before we go to the retreat and if we are not then let’s talk about it. These retreats have a very important part in our young people’s lives and I only hope that we continue to sponsor them. Mistakes go along with them as they do with everything in life. But please, let’s not destroy what we have managed to gain by allowing mistakes to draw us to a standstill!!
Ed. Note: Mr. Kamps’ “Open Forum” article was originally intended for publication in the June-July issue, but, due to the great distances separating Editor and author, had to be delayed. Calvin Reitsma
In response to the recent article concerning the Spring Retreat, we, The Federation Board would like to express our opinions. We agree that the purpose of a retreat is to withdraw from the world for spiritual edification and Christian fellowship. We admit that the songs sung after the opening prayer were out of place. We also think that another discussion group or other related activity would have been desirable.
However, we are under the impression that Mr. Kamps’ article was somewhat negative in approach, and we would like to recall some of the positive aspects of our weekend. Friday night a large number of young people gathered around the piano singing hymns, ending the day with praise. Saturday’s events – playing volleyball, walking and talking with other young people – continued to serve the purpose of a retreat. Saturday evening our retreat ended with an enthusiastic hymn-sing which everyone was reluctant to conclude. It was an appropriate ending the Spring Retreat.
We would like to thank Mr. Kamps for his sincere concern and helpful criticism. It is our earnest desire that our future retreats will serve to unite our young people through spiritual enrichment and Christian love.
The Federation Board
The Federation Board expresses a special “thank you” to the retiring staff members – Jeanne Gritters and Jim Van Overloop – for a job well done, and a hearty welcome to all the NEW staff members.
The Federation Board
Carol Dykstra, Secretary
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 7 November 1970