Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

~ Romans 12:12

As Covid-19 began, and even when the Crow staff began to realize that a global pandemic was going to have an impact even within the “Camp Bubble”, we still talked in optimistic tones. Perhaps we were trying to comfort ourselves - “It won’t be so bad.” After all, this is the summer when we put in a brand new grass field, and Daniel is taking parental leave, and we still don’t have our water sorted out. No one wants to miss a summer at camp, but if you have to miss a summer, this is the best summer to miss!

We talked about catching up on some deferred maintenance. We talked about all the little to-dos that never get “to done”. (I once read a story that mentions “a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake” and thought, “that reminds me of trying to do repairs at camp during the summer.”) 

We can also be catching up on prayer, and we can be praying in advance. Careful, thorough, thoughtful prayer requires really good communication with our constituents. So there is plenty to do, even in the midst of all of the chaos caused by this CoronaVirus.

Last week all the speculation ended. Dr. Hinshaw essentially told us “if you have been waiting for word from the Alberta Government, here it is: you need to cancel.” It now is clear: Alberta Government restrictions will remain in place for the balance of the summer of 2020.

So that is that. 

Camp has to be cancelled.

We will be notifying everyone this week that all camp programs for the summer of 2020 have been suspended.

And yet we still believe that Crow, its staff & volunteers have a job to do - even this summer. At this moment, it feels like we are in the breath between, “The King is dead” and, “Long live the King”.  We are mourning the summer that might have been, but still looking with excitement, and anticipation, toward the ways that Crow can safely serve the community within the guidelines that have been established. Those guidelines are: restrictions on group sizes; 2m physical distancing, and guidance on non-essential travel.

Let’s touch each of these in turn: 

Group Sizes: It makes sense that a “gathering” must have no contact, or possibility of contact, with any other “gathering”. Crow is in a privileged position in this regard: there may potentially be one “gathering” at Mountainous Site, and a second, separate “gathering” at the Lake Site. At this point, we are not anticipating any on-site programming at Lake Site, or Mountainous Site, for the summer of 2020. The only exceptions that we are presently considering are maintenance crews and possibly discipleship programs with ~12 or fewer participants, like PIT Crew and WELS.

But aside from the Mountainous Site and the Lake Site, there remains possibility of a gathering in the Great Outdoors. ‘Round here, we might call that kind of gathering “an outtrip.” Or "backcountry clean-up day." "Dayhike!" Or even... "A walk in the woods."

Outdoor gatherings and outtrips would need to be modified somewhat to ensure physical distancing. For instance:

  • We would not permit anyone younger than Sr. Camper age (14; born in 2006 or earlier) to participate in any program without a parent/guardian. We can’t reliably/safely manage Jr. or Intermediate aged campers while maintaining physical distancing;
  • Group sizes would have to be capped at a maximum of ~8 campers, to ensure adequate supervision. We can more easily manage Sr. Campers in smaller groups; 
  • We’d have to change many of our standard outtrip practices: for instance, cooking (no shared utensils, or bowls) and sleeping (solo tarps only).

There will be many other changes, but we have two months full months to field-test best practices for social distancing on outtrips, during COLTS training.

Physical distancing: Any summer activities must ensure a minimum of 2m distance between all participants. There is only one possible exception: family groups, who have been quarantining together. So the bulk of 2020 summer programming should be:

  • Self-supported, with only a “sign-in/sign-out process”; and,
  • Built around the “family group”, rather than the “cabin group”.

So, for instance:

  • Crow could post potential self-guided hiking routes, with very clear directions, to allow self-supported family hiking activity;
  • Self-guided silent discipleship/meditation/spiritual discipline workshops, which are by their very nature isolated.
  • “Virtual camps” or “Camp-in-a-box” for families. Honestly, that’s not something we have ever demonstrated any aptitude for, and it is very hard, and also it is kinda the opposite of our mission statement (because it’s not ‘in a camp setting’)... but it is perhaps better than nothing?

With slightly more interaction, we could consider safely managing:

  • Guided family day hikes/activities;
  • Backcountry cleanup days all summer;
  • Family activities (archery, or canoeing, perhaps - and rock climbing, if we can figure out how to sterilize a climbing wall);
  • Things like geo-caching or letterboxing adventures, or scavenger hunts. We will need to be cautious that folks somehow “sign out” a given route, so that we know that there are not five families racing up the same track toward the plane crash.

At the upper end of self-supported family programming, we would consider:

  • Family outtrips in family units (sleeping together under the same tarp) guided by our COLTS.

Non-essential travel: We should watch this carefully. When Alberta re-opens Provincial Parks for recreation, the government are (in effect) saying that they will tolerate intra-provincial travel. At that time, we can likely safely open to Lethbridge and Calgary families. Until then, local participants from the five towns of the Crowsnest Pass only!

As for Spiritual development: 

  • I am not keen on the idea of recording sermons or creating digital content from the camp ourselves directly. I do not think we are particularly good at it (it is kind of the opposite of our speciality); there are other ministries that do it better.
  • Instead, consider partnering with local churches for DVBS-type programs or with specialized ministries with expertise.
  • However, we are very good at teachable moments, and we could look to see if we can build versions of these to accompany self-guided hikes, and outtrips. 
  • We are also very good at campfires, and perhaps we could consider putting on a digital campfire periodically, inviting participation from program directors and speakers.

All of these ideas leave a lot to talk about: we'll need to stay in close contact with Alberta Health Services as we make our plans. We’ll need to work out registration, because we can’t have people just ‘drop in’, no matter how neighbourly we aspire to be. We’ll need some iron-clad mechanisms for ensuring that our groups remain small and thoroughly spaced-out (old camp joke there). 

A lot remains to be resolved, and what we are planning today may be reversed or refuted by new information tomorrow. If I had to sum up our thoughts, or directions for today, I would say, “We’re going to try.” We’re going to try to find new ways of serving our community, of being integrated while remaining physically distant, of deeply committing to newness of life. We’re going to try to honour and glorify God with our lives, even when camp cannot run. 

I missed the chance to invest in Amazon at the initial public offering. I wasn’t there for Connor McDavid’s first game in Edmonton. But I am here at Crow, in the middle of things, and at the start. I am here for the very beginning of a new thing within an old thing - a new thing that has potential to succeed and improve a place that we already know so well, and love so much. I am very excited.

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ~ Romans 12:5

Apr 28, 2020 By David Graham