At the beginning of this month, during the first week of August, people from around the country gathered in the beautiful forest of Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset, Pennsylvania to celebrate the Laurel Jubilee: 50 years of Laurel Camp. “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year.... It shall be a Jubilee for you.” (Leviticus 25:10) Due to the Covid protocols we had in place to keep the campers safe, we held all of our worship services outside. It ended up being a silver lining on the dark cloud of the pandemic, because having worship outside turned out to be delightful. The weather was beautiful, generally between the mid-50s to the mid-70s.
We set up chairs on the grass under the trees facing the stone porch of the Rec Hall where we would normally hold our worship services inside. The musicians assembled on the porch, and volunteers built a stone altar on the stone steps. I began our first worship service on Sunday by blowing a ram’s horn trumpet as described in Leviticus. For our evening vespers services, we hung Christmas lights from the porch stretching out to where the attendees sat for worship. It created a magical atmosphere for outdoor vespers. We hung the Laurel quilt under the eaves of the porch, and the porch lights shone through it like a stained-glass window.
For the Israelites, the Jubilee was a time of changes and “clean-slates,” and so we took this opportunity to try out a few changes to camp. The Jubilee was also a celebration of liberty and freedom, and so we incorporated more freedom into the daily schedule this year. This year, campers were able to choose their chores, morning program activities, and small group style. Campers could also choose which evening vespers they wanted to attend, instead of being divided by age group. There were a number of things we did to make this year special. We all learned the song “Jubilee” by Bill Staines, and it became our theme song for the week. One of our music directors brought bagpipes to camp, which sounded amazing echoing through the forest. We had a special Evening Circle on Thursday in which we did square dancing, an old Laurel tradition begun by my grandfather Jack Rose. On Tuesday, I read aloud an eight page history of Laurel camp that my grandfather Jack Rose wrote before he passed away last year. We had special Laurel T-shirts made, with roots extending down from the Laurel Leaf logo, to symbolize the rich history we were honoring this year. A Laurel book, full of memories and pictures, was published by Tryn Rose Seeley for this year’s Jubilee. A CD of favorite Laurel songs was produced by Maret Genzlinger. And there was special Laurel pottery made by Kay Alden. The tradition at Laurel Camp is to open the Word on Sunday afternoon when camp begins, then leave the Word open all week, and close it on Friday when camp ends. To honor the many generations of Laurel campers who have benefited from and contributed to this wonderful spiritual community, we had the oldest person in camp (in their 80s) open the Word at the beginning of the week, and the youngest person in camp (a three-year-old) closed the Word on Friday. It was a wonderful week, honoring both past history, and also looking forward toward things being new and potentially different in what will hopefully be the next 50 years of Laurel Camp.