“My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation, I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.” (ELW 760)
Hymn texts have come to life in a new way since our world changed in early 2020. A new year is upon us and if we listen closely, we may hear that far-off hymn hailing a new creation. How can we, as church musicians, bring about a new creation? What gifts can we give our parishioners, communities, and cities?
Working with children and youth has always been a passion of mine. There is nothing better than teaching a child to match a pitch or hearing your youth choir lead an evening prayer service. Now, more than ever, our children and youth need to find their unique voices and artistic talents for their own joy and for the strengthening of our communities.
Each summer our congregation hosts a week-long Music and Arts Camp for children and youth (grades K-8). What I love the most about this week is the joy that children get when they participate in a wide variety of visual and performing arts. Some of these children have never been in a church or sung in a choir. Many have hidden artistic talents or musical gifts that have never been uncovered.
A day at camp begins with morning prayer for all ages in our nave. We then divide into class groupings and rotate through electives and a core curriculum that includes choir and an art medium. The campers choose among six electives, which vary each year. Our kindergarteners and first graders have shortened class periods and only participate in the electives that are age appropriate.
Some of the electives that we have offered over the years include African drumming, calligraphy, creative writing, drama, handbells, photography, Japanese weaving, clay creativity, ukulele, and yoga. This summer, if our church is reopened, we are planning to add gamelan.
The week ends with an hour-long program on Friday evening where the children share their musical and artistic creations. Each year, we are blown away by what they have achieved in one week’s time! As you know, children thrive when they are challenged. Having a program on the last day really motivates them and is the highlight of the week.
I encourage you to consider offering the gift of a music and arts camp to your community. After nearly a year of isolation from the pandemic, we need the arts to build community, nurture our spirits, give us joy, and bring about a new creation!
If you wish to lead a faith-infused creative arts camp, this guidebook has outlines for four themed camps, each one week long.