It has been an exciting off-season already, with an absolute tonne on the go. All through the summer, the full-time staff are pushing things back - “Oh, we’ll get to that in September! Surely, in September, when things quieten down a bit, we’ll have time.” Then we arrive in September, ground down to a mere nub, and remember all that stuff that has been put off from before. So this September includes:
Replacing the irreplaceable Danika - September is indeed the best time of year to hire someone new, but it is always stressful to run a “hiring competition”, and… even though Danika is going to be living right over there [indicates toward the motel], there are some melancholic feelings.
Finishing the water treatment plant - Alberta Environment has given us until 1 October to resolve the long-standing (like, long, long standing) issues with water treatment here on site. To put it mildly, it’s a high-stakes project. Big Meeting Monday, 16 September. Very pressurizing.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety” ~ Psalm 4:8
Drop-in Yoga classes
Closing out the bursary program; sending cheques to the ~15 bursary program participants, and writing reports to let their home churches know how the recipients were used at camp: where they had success, and how we think they can grow. It’s a critical task for integration, but it is a lot of writing and visiting with churches, too
Reporting back on the summer successes to stakeholders, like local churches who contribute; all those who have been praying for us; and individual thank-yous to everyone who volunteered this summer - that’s 400+ post-cards to write!
Putting together board reports, and newsletters to tell the stories of what all we did out here this summer
The annual Full-Time Staff retreat, scheduled for 30 September - 3 October, our deep-dive evaluation of camp. The purpose is to assess what worked and what didn’t, and set our sights for the summer of 2020, which, if recent history holds, will be here before we know it, and will be the Best Summer Yet!
Combine all of this with rentals and weddings (congrats, by the way, to Evan and Amber Reno!) along with the chaos of back-to-school… it’s a busy time!
These are consequential decisions we face - about water treatment, and programs, and hiring. These decisions will colour the future of the camp for years. I feel well-supported and very confident, as we make these choices, that God has made us ready and God will be our guide. I confess some nights that I feel a certain tension in my stomach, but I pray “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” ~ Psalm 4:8
Perhaps, as you read through the list, your eye caught on Drop-In Yoga classes… And maybe you squinted at the screen and muttered to yourself, “Yoga?” Maybe you said, “That can’t be right…” Maybe you said, “That’s cool!” or maybe you had the opposite reaction: “Yoga and the Bible Camp - those do not belong together. This is really upsetting.”
We’re making decisions all the time. There have been a few that I have regretted. My purpose in this Blog Post is to tell you how I arrived at the decision to host Yoga classes at Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp. And from the outset, I want to be clear - this was a decision I made. I mention that because… the nice thing about decisions that I make is that… I can un-make them. If we get something wrong, we can do it again.
"[People] are always saying, 'You can't put the clock back.' The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any hour. In the same way society, being a human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed. There is another proverb, 'As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it'; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again."
~ GK Chesterton (emphasis added)
We’re planning on giving Yoga a try at Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp. But if that is the wrong plan, tell me: I will listen, and we can revise together. But before you pick up the phone, or bash out a constructive email… please let me tell you how this decision arose, and why we decided the way that we did.
Crow’s facilities are utilized very well from May to August. After that, things quiet down. We’ve made a concerted effort to plug into the community in a bunch of ways:
We’ve arranged to host a Christmas market,
Forest Kids preschool programs have been meeting on our site;
We share space with the local church Youth Group.
And we would love to do more: we’ve had conversations with the High School, the Cross-Country Skiing association, and others. We are doing this, not because we want to feel better about the building being used, or to earn a return on any sort of investment. We are doing it because we think it is important to become integrated into the Crowsnest Pass. We want to be a part of people’s lives. We want to be an outpost of the Kingdom of God on earth, and we want to be visible.
Which brings us (unexpectedly) to Yoga.
As camp looked for ways we could integrate into the community, an opportunity arose. Someone who I go to church with - yes, a Christian! - is also a Yoga instructor, and it seemed that this might be an opportunity to do those things we’d talked about: connect with people, bring people in, and share what we have with them. I thought it was a great idea. Here we have a person (a sister in Christ, no less!) who had a skill, and is willing to share that skill with others, and introduce Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp to the community in a positive way! “People like Yoga,” I thought. “People will drop in to our place to do Yoga, and we’ll move closer to our goal of being deeply integrated into the community.”
I didn’t give it another thought, until Tim Ryckman texted me…
“Should I be worried about Yoga at Camp?”
I said, “Nah. This is a Christian woman who is leading, and we wanted to connect with the community and someone was willing to lead the class. This feels like a Win/Win to me.”
Tim said, “I assumed that was your reasoning. I’m sure it will have a little bit more backlash than you may expect.”
Truth be told - I didn’t expect any backlash. I was hoping that perhaps “Backlash” is a Yoga pose that Tim knew about… but I doubted that. All of a sudden… I was nervous. I don’t want a backlash. I only want to be welcoming to my neighbours. No backlash, please.
But when I went looking for it, I saw a backlash brewing. A nascent backlash, perhaps, a very polite & generous backlash. But a backlash nonetheless. So, in the interests of preserving unity, I made the decision to cancel Yoga classes for the time being. We took down the ads. We told the teacher we weren’t going to start on Monday as planned. We did this to honour the concerns of people who we respect, and to make sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves.
It may have been naive of me to not expect any backlash. I’m not a Yoga guy. I don’t know much about Yoga, and most what I do know, I picked up mostly from one podcast - which you can listen to here. Here’s what I know - or what I thought I knew:
Yoga (as we know it) is not an ancient Hindu religious practice with a thousands-of-years-old history. In fact, Yoga as we know it:
Is roughly the same age as Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp.
Does not have not an unbroken connection to the ancient Indian past -- it’s largely a 20th century invention.
Bears very little resemblance to anything anyone in the ancient history of India would recognize.
Took elements from British Army calisthenics and a Scandinavian gymnastics system from the 19th century, modified in India by a fellow named Iyengar in the mid-20th century.
Was popularized to the United States by Indra Devi (born Eugenie Peterson), a charismatic Russian lady who sold Yoga to Hollywood celebrities like Greta Garbo and Eva Gabor after World War 2
As an exercise system, and in terms of ameliorating depression and anxiety, Yoga is very useful. A lot of people get a lot of benefits from it. It’s a good way to meet people.
So in my mind, at least, Yoga is just not a big deal. It’s stretching, and calisthenics, and breathing exercises and a lot of Hollywood marketing. But.. on the other hand… Yoga - as far as I can tell - does help people! If you are struggling with depression and anxiety, Yoga is demonstrably useful. If you have back pain, or if you are stiff and inflexible, or if you are injured or out of shape, stretching, calisthenics, and breathing exercises may help. That’s just common sense, of course, but it seems like the science also backs this up.
When I take all of this under consideration, I arrive at the conclusion… “I have nothing to fear from Yoga.” And I am always looking for ways that I can reduce the number of things that I am afraid of… “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 If I can get by without being afraid of Yoga, that’s what I prefer.
The last thing I will say is that I know - personally - many Christian people who have benefitted from Yoga. When Jesus is examining a teaching, or a teacher, he gives fairly clear instruction: “by their fruits will you know them.”
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
~ Matthew 7:15-20
And I know bunches of people who carefully, prayerfully, diligently, practice their asanas. Folks like Amy Chapoton (née Toyota), Michele Schulz, and Laura Reyburn, and Wanita Koebel (née Demman) and Cory Robinson (née Robinson). I see their lives, and it is reassuring - because their lives are bearing good fruit.
So… in summary:
Camp wants to do something good for its neighbours. We want to welcome people in, and integrate with the community better.
Someone we know - a Christian - is willing to share her skills with us, and help us meet people from the Crowsnest Pass who wouldn’t otherwise come visit us
Yoga is a modern invention, combining good old fashioned calisthenics with a fair dose of Hollywood marketing. The supposed “ancient religious history” of Yoga is really a paper-thin facade, and nothing of substance. Yoga isn’t, as far as I can see, something that we need to be scared of
Yoga stretching can help people. It can help people with back pain, mobility issues, injuries, depression and anxiety.
We have many Christian friends who include Yoga poses in their exercise, and find it beneficial
It is important for me to say, I do not want to pick a fight with anyone. I want to live at peace with all of you. Crow is the place where we learn to get along. I will not be a leader who insists, “My way or the highway!” I want to find ways that we can listen to each other, take each other’s concerns seriously, find ways to support each other and edify each other.
I am not certain what this means when it comes to Yoga. Does it mean we should cancel Yoga classes, out of respect for people who think Yoga is scary, dangerous, and sets a bad example for those listening to us? Or does it mean that people who are opposed to Yoga should keep their concerns quietly, knowing that Yoga is beneficial for others, helping them deal with pain, and anxiety? I genuinely do not know, but I would love to hear from you. If you’ve read this far, you deserve to have your say!
I’ve already let you know what I think: Yoga doesn’t much matter one way or the other. But I do think that being united is very important. In CS Lewis’ brilliant book The Screwtape Letters, written from the perspective of a Senior Demon instructing his young nephew on how to disrupt the church… we get this warning:
“The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under.”
~ CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The Enemy would love nothing better than to see us all distracted, or worse, fighting with one another. We won’t give him the satisfaction - I assure you.
So here’s the plan: we’ve cancelled Yoga for the time being. On Saturday, 21 September the Board of Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp will meet, and I will discuss with them how we are going to proceed, and whether Yoga is the sort of thing that we should embrace, or abstain from. So! If you have comments, thoughts, or concerns, please email them to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave them as a comment on this blog post, or send them to our board chair, Mr. Michael Oosterhof at email@example.com
Thank you for your graciousness as we muddle our way through all these tough questions!
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
~ 1 Peter 4:8 ESV