For a long time I didn’t think I was a very creative person because most of the creative people I knew were artistic and crafty—the sort of people who love Pinterest. I, on the other hand, can get an anxiety attack from the very idea of having to do a craft project. (There is a website for people like me, check it out… pinterestfail.com)
Your pastor might not admit to it, but I know I am not alone. There are a lot of us pastor-types who can craft words and mold ideas with the very best of them, just as long as you don’t ask us to make something using pipe cleaners! So it often happens that during the summer, pastors hand the reigns of the church to the craft-masters – those kings and queens of VBS and church camp — while we pen-and-paper types take our vacations or get sent off to GA to show off our knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Fortunately, this summer I was lucky enough to see how the other half lives. The very same week my verbose brothers and sisters were off to Detroit, I was on my way to Harrisonburg, Virginia, the home of Massanetta Camp and Conference Center to hang out with a few hundred middle school students. My time there was full of skits and crafts, singing and silly games. Yes, I was even handed pipe cleaners on more than one occasion and I did manage to keep my cool! These energetic associate pastors and creative camp veterans showed me that I might not be as hopeless in this crafty world as I thought. We shared ideas easily and gave encouragement generously. We found that there was little that couldn’t be solved with a little bit of caffeine and some help from a friend. I was reminded that creativity is not so much about an innate talent for crafts as it is about a spirit of collaboration and the ability to be flexible and adapt quickly—it was quite a lesson for a decent and orderly person such as myself.
Of course, still being a wordy-type pastor, I followed the proceedings at GA closely while I was at camp. I was a bit surprised at first to find that my camp colleagues seemed only mildly interested in the meticulous inner workings of PC-Biz. Instead they were focused on the opportunities to impact the future of the church right there in front of them in the form of over 600 middle school students!
So let me talk to my loquacious brethren for just a moment—I know you are creative too, and you know that I’m being a little bit silly for effect. Still, those common stereotypes so often applied to us solo or head-of-staff type pastors about having our heads too often in a book rather than in the real world rang pretty true when I looked around at camp and found I was the only one of us there! There were associate pastors and youth directors, elders and volunteers—but no other head pastors. I know you are busy… but quite a few of you found time to be at GA. If our future as a denomination really is just as much tied up in the creativity and silliness of summer camp as it is in the bowties and parliamentary procedure of GA – and I believe that it is – shouldn’t more of us be at camp? Shouldn’t our sessions be asking us, “Why aren’t you going to camp this year?”
Don’t get me wrong, going to GA is still at the very top of my Presbyterian bucket list. In the meantime, though, I will keep on finding ways to learn from my more creative friends – even if it means committing to a week or two of being out of my element every summer. Next summer maybe you can even come and join me.
CAITLIN THOMAS DEYERLE is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where she lives with her husband James, their cat Calvin, and a very rebellious puppy named Molly.