Singing Power: Paul, Silas and Camp Calumet

My son Joel went to resident camp at Calumet for the first time when he was 10.

Joel is a sensitive young man—a dreamy boy—and prone to homesickness.

It was the first time he had slept away from home for more than a night.

He liked the activities, the wide games that had kids running all over camp, and devotions each day.

There was a counselor known as Finn who checked in with him each day to see how he was doing.

But the thing that Joel loved the most was the singing.

The night he got home, he told me about it—

“It’s so beautiful to hear all those kids singing!”

And he was right.

Every morning from the other side of camp, the family camp side where I stay, we can hear the singing.

It comes wafting from the lakeside, lifting melodies in the sweet morning air,

rumbling with the pounding of feet and clapping of hands.

The family camp side has singing, too.

There are morning devotions, Beautiful Savior before mealtimes, and of course,

worship with 200 children and 400 adults in the outdoor worship center.

There isn’t anything like the power of people lifting their voices in song together.

Paul and Silas knew about the power of singing.

We hear about it in our first lesson.

It all started when a slave woman with an evil spirit

began following them and interrupting them constantly.

They couldn't preach, so they healed her of the demon.

But to their surprise, when they cast out the spirit they made enemies instead of friends.

The slave's owners were angry at Paul and Silas,

For the slave's demon was prophetic and had been quite a money maker.

The owners brought them in before the authorities and they were detained --

not on the basis of destruction of property but on the fact that they were Jews in a foreign land.

The prejudices of the magistrates left little room for justice.

Imprisoned and bleeding from a beating, Paul and Silas' mission was as good as over.

But from their cell, Paul and Silas began to sing.

It must have been an unusual sound, for all the prisoners were listening to them.

Their prayerful song was so powerful that it was followed by an earthquake--

all the shackles which held the prisoners fell away and the jail cell door opened.

Their singing had the power to change their reality:

Paul and Silas sang freedom and praise to God, and suddenly they were made free.

Singing still has the power to change the reality in which we live.

One example of this is the role of singing in the civil rights movement in the 1960's.

As protesters were being hosed down and attacked by police dogs

as little girls were killed in a church bombing

as law abiding people were arrested and harassed and threatened

they were singing, "we shall overcome."

It didn't look like it from the outside, but somehow in their singing, a bit of that message came true.

As they sang, they could catch a glimpse of the new reality that they were striving for.

The singing provided the strength and courage and hope to carry on.

And eventually, they did overcome the Jim Crow laws and segregation.

The singing at Camp Calumet has changed lives, too.

People experience a lively faith in the bible studies and worship,

a sense of community in the folks who gather not only to vacation but to connect.

Even those who visit only briefly can sit by Lake Ossipee and experience its peace and beauty.

Calumet is an incubator for clergy; many of our pastors in NE got their first taste of ministry at camp.

Tt is a place where lay people reconsider their lives, make decisions, and even fall in love.

Most significantly, I think, Calumet is a place where young people who may not connect with congregational life

can express a spirituality that is authentic to them.

Do we have any testimonials about how Calumet has changed your reality?

we are going to pass the microphone, and people can share a few sentences about how Calumet has touched you.

Mine is this:

One Sunday morning my husband was invited to lead music for the resident and family camps.

I was preaching—so of course the message was fabulous…

there were 600 people in attendance, folks crowded in at the back on lawn chairs

I gave communion to a middle schooler who had just become a Christian.

There were tears on his face.

But the most amazing thing was the singing.

The kids add hand motions to everything at camp, so the songs were choreographed.

Even though there were still more adults than kids, the young voices drowned out the adults’ voices.

They sang at the top of their lungs, “I will call upon the Lord…” “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary…”

I was moved because they meant it.

These Sundays of the Easter season our readings have explored the role of the Spirit

in the lives of the faithful.

And let me tell you, the Spirit was present that Sunday morning at Calumet.

The Spirit has been present to each of you who shared at the microphone.

And Spirit moves in the lives of those who have never been to Calumet.

The Spirit is not satisfied with the way things are, but is always moving, encouraging what is new,

instigating change.

It’s like a song that keeps adding in new voices.

We’re meant to join in, because we are meant to make a difference.

The Spirit of Jesus lives in you and me so that we can change the injustices of the world

so that incarcerated are not forgotten

so there aren’t children homeless in our town

so that people of other religions have the freedom to exercise their faith.

The Spirit is singing in our lives, changing our reality.

Together we, like Paul and Silas, folks at Calumet, people all around the world

join in the chorus, singing for the greater joy, greater freedom, and greater life

that Jesus is all about.

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