Notes from Camp

This summer, Father Ed is spending four weeks as a Chaplain at Philmont Scout Reservation – the national ranch of the Boy Scouts of America, in New Mexico. These posts are his daily reflections from Philmont.


Day Twenty-Nine – One generation to another

August 7, 2019

Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another;
you established the earth, and it abides.                                                  Psalm 119:90

I was impressed.  I shouldn’t be – I’ve known most of these guys since their 1st or 2nd grade when they were Cubs.  And now, after 10 days, they are sporting scruffy beards and mustaches.  I noted that I have watched them grow into manhood.  And not only physically but maturing as adult leaders in their thought and expression.

You would think they would be exhausted and quiet, ready for a good night’s sleep before they head home tomorrow morning.  But as we sat around ... Read more

Day Twenty-Eight – The feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

August 6, 2019

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.                                                                                        Exodus 34:29

He was this cute kid:  African-American, dark curls, about 5′ tall, must be at the most 14 (you can be 13 here if you’ve completed the 8th grade).  And his face literally shines – his eyes, his smile, his laughter

I met his Crew their first day at Base Camp, and somehow I became their mascot.  I encountered ... Read more

Day Twenty-Seven – Thunder and Lightning

August 5, 2019

The clouds poured out water;  the skies thundered; *
your arrows flashed to and fro;
The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind;  your lightnings lit up the world; *
the earth trembled and shook.                                                             Psalm 77: 17-18

I’ve mentioned the rain storms we’ve been experiencing, and while I haven’t seen Troop One for a couple of days, I hope they have not been hit.

It is amazing, but I guess not surprising, that the thunder clouds cling to the mountains.  New Mexico is known for “Where the Mountains Meet the Plains,” and that is exactly where Base Camp sits.  To ... Read more

Day Twenty-Six – Hunger and Thirst

August 4, 2019

They were hungry and thirsty;  their spirits languished within them.                    Psalm 107: 5

I was driving a young patient down from camp on his first day along with his Dad.  AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) we call it.  They had not acclimated to being at just over 6,000 ft having come from the ‘lowlands’ of California.  When I picked him up, he was curled up asleep on a mat on the back country camp office porch.  He even slept on the way back to Base Camp – with my driving!  I knew he was sick.

Dad asked about the Infirmary, what to expect ... Read more

Day Twenty-Five – Well…

August 3, 2019

Make and vow.. and keep it..  and bring gifts.                                                      Psalm 76: 11

When Troop One arrived last week, I welcomed them to my third home (maybe second – New Hampshire and Philmont claim equal standing).  We all knew their itinerary for the next 10 days, and they insisted that I had to climb Mount Baldy (the tallest mountain here at 12,500 feet) with them, which I have climbed several times before.  But with last year’s fall and recuperation, I didn’t promise anything.  “I’ll try.”  So, I went to the Trading Post and bought a knee brace to try it out for ... Read more

Day Twenty-Four – Negative Jesus, Positive Points

August 2, 2019

Jesus said to the outsider (Syrophoenecian/Gentile) woman, “It is not right to take the children (of Israel)’s food and feed it to such dogs.”                                                        Mark 7:25-3

We don’t like it when Jesus is mean.  New Testament scholars consider these episodes of the Gospels as, well, Gospel Truth, because they are ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus.  We want Jesus – and Chaplains – to be sweet and pleasant and encouraging.  We hate it when it turns the other way and we have to play “hard cop.”

I mentioned a few days ago that Philmont has rules and for good purpose.  We tell units over ... Read more

Day Twenty-Three – Land Conservation

August 1, 2019

They were like men coming up with axes to a grove of trees…
They set fire to your holy place… and raised it to the ground.                             Psalm 74: 5,6

Some years ago the Ranch authorities realized that letting forests go their own way was not the best so they started selective timbering around some of our camps.  With this amount of acreage there’s only so much you can do at a time, of course.

With last year’s fire, and the lesser fire in 2002, the need to ‘weed out’ some of the timber has become more necessary.  Conservation crews have been working ... Read more

Day Twenty-Two – The Crew Leader

July 31, 2019

rule your people righteously…
That the mountains may bring prosperity to your people.                                          Psalm 72

I’ve hinted about him (or her) before – the Crew Leader.  The Psalmist referred to King David and his son Solomon, but for 12 days, a youth has become the ruler of righteousness, and may he rule the Crew with justice, wisdom and strength of character.

First day, the Crew Leader along with the Advisor meet with Logistics to learn some of the rules and helpful advice and a thorough going over of the itinerary, including marking the Crew map – a colored square ... Read more

Day Twenty-One – Trail Food

July 30, 2019

Jesus told them to sit down on the green grass…  and taking the five loaves and two fish he looked up to heaven, said a blessing and broke the bread…  They all ate and were satisfied.                                     from  Mark 6 30-46

I tell the Scouts, after 10 days of Meals Ready to Eat (“MREs”) you will never complain about food at home.  Although MREs have gotten better over the years.

The Crews are given packaged meals which include a ‘main course’ (just add boiling water, stir and wait 8-10 minutes – of course it helps to accurately measure the amount of water – ... Read more

Day Twenty – Not required, but necessary

July 29, 2019

If you’ve not been following the story in our daily readings for Morning and Evening Prayer, King Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s bestie, have both been killed.  David is made King of Judah (the southern country centered around Jerusalem) while another son of King Saul is made King of Israel, the northern kingdom.  Saul was killed on the field of battle as was Jonathan where many died.  The people of Jabesh-Gilead quietly did what was right.  In solemn ceremony, they took the body of the King and his son and performed the ritual burial.  They could well have left ... Read more

Day Nineteen – Oh, sure!

July 28, 2019

Those who go through a desolate valley will find it a place of springs…
They will climb from height to height
and the God of gods will reveal himself…

God help Troop One!  No sooner have they gotten off their bus ride up to their drop-off point to ... Read more

Day Eighteen – God’s dwelling-place

July 27, 2019

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD…                   Psalm 84:1

There are three original Back-Country Base Camps (still in use as three major staffed camps with exciting programs).  This was before the ‘new’ Base Camp was built down at the bottom of the mountains.  Each of the three originals have 2 chapels (one has the third for Jewish observances, but with only one Jewish Chaplain it is difficult to hold services in two places at once.)

The problem is the chapels are often neglected and the ... Read more

Day Sixteen – The feast of St. James, the Apostle

July 26, 2019

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?

In today’s Gospel reading, the mother of James and John ask Jesus to place the boys on his right and left hand in the kingdom.  In the parallel version the boys themselves ask, “Who is the greatest?”  And the disciples argue about it.

He is a nice quiet kid that the Scoutmaster “volun-told” he would be the Chaplain’s Aide for the trek to Philmont.  He wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but he read the description of the duties of a CA, and when he got here, attended the brief CA’s instructional meeting.

Talking ... Read more

Day Fifteen – Personality Types

July 24, 2019

49 Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life.
51 The proud have derided me cruelly, but I have not turned from your law.                  Psalm 119

Sometimes it just drops in your lap.  Well, not quite.  But sometimes God is beyond merciful and is gracious.  Logistics staff like me – I don’t know why!  But they tried to call my cell-phone yesterday afternoon.  My battery was dead, plus I was up near Mount Baldy (you’ll hear about my favorite mountain next week, I’m ... Read more

Day Fourteen – Seed on and in the ground

July 23, 2019

And Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises…  and the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how.                                                             Mark 4: 26-27

40,000 acres.  That was the destruction of the Ute Park Fire last summer at Philmont.  Much of the southwest section of the Ranch was destroyed.  Old camps which haven’t been used for years have been restored, itineraries redirected out of the burn area and life continues.

Read more

Day Thirteen – Infirmary and Tent City

July 22, 2019

The Lord sustains them on their sickbed *
and ministers to them in their illness.                      Psalm 41

My assignment this week is to work with the Infirmary with which I’m very comfortable as I served a residency at Hershey Medical Center (a Chaplain residency, that is) and continue to do work at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

One thing I find somewhat unusual here is the number of, especially youth, who request to see a Chaplain when they are our ‘guests’ in the Health Lodge or have progressed to Infirmary Tent City – where you are better, but not ready to climb mountains again.  ... Read more

Day Twelve – God moves in mysterious ways

July 21, 2019

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.                                     William Cowper, 1773

I was a little ‘ticked’ at our supervisor who called at 11:30 asking me to take some folk up to Baldytown (a staff camp at the base of Baldy Mountain).  “I can’t, Paul.  I’ve made arrangements for after lunch to take a father and son up there.  I need to have a counseling session with them, and that will give me a good 45 minutes to talk with them.  Maybe Kenny can take your three.”  So ... Read more

Day Eleven – Living Water – or – Water for Life

July 20, 2019

Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God.                       Psalm 42

Dehydration is one of our most common ailments out here.  “Hydrate, hyrdate, hydrate!” is our mantra.  You don’t realize, often until it’s too late, how crucial water is.  It is very dry here, and sweat is seldom noticed as it dries almost immediately.  We recommend that you drink at least four Nalgenes (the standard water bottle in these parts) each holding a litre of water.  I think it should be more, but then, do as I preach, not as I do.  I am the ... Read more

Day 10 – Notes NOT from Camp

July 19, 2019

It will come as no surprise that I visit Sante Fe when I can for the arts.  The Sante Fe Opera, Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings and lots more.  Sante Fe is one of the most artistic cities in the world.  Though I’ve never been there, I could imagine it rivaling Vienna or Paris, both of which are much, much larger.

In a previous visit, I found the downtown Episcopal Church.  It  took forever for me to find downtown, but when I passed Holy Faith, I knew I was close.  So I went around the block, found a parking space in front and ... Read more

Day Nine – Rules and Procedures

July 19, 2019

Jesus said to the Scribes of the Law, “The Sabbath was made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath.”

A couple of years ago, I was a Chaplain for a major Scouting event, where we discovered the motto was, “Theoretically;  Possibly;  Liable to change at any moment without advance notice.”  And I kept thinking, have you never done this before?

On the other hand, I am always impressed at how efficient Philmont is and how smoothly the Administration and staff work.  Yes, we have our glitches, but even when the Ute Park Fire threw the Ranch into a whirlwind last year, Admin ... Read more

Day Eight – Be Prepared

July 17, 2019

Truly, I am on the verge of falling, and my pain is always with me.
I will confess my iniquity and be sorry for my sin. Psalm 38

Oh, how well I know! I can sympathize with any or all of those I bring down from the mountain.

After 8 or 9 hours of carrying a 35-40 pound pack (WHY did I bring that heavy camp “backpacker’s” chair!?!) in the hot sun – that’s when the accidents begin. You’re tired. It’s hot. You’re almost out of water. You don’t know how much farther (I’m never good at guesstimating distance – ... Read more

Day Seven – Frenemies

July 16, 2019

In the past few days Old Testament readings for the Daily Office (Morning & Evening Prayer – ask me about these things later, if you don’t know), King Saul and David (of the Goliath sling-shot story) are at odds. (1 Samuel 1, 18, 19) Basically, the old King Saul is becoming filled with what we might now call dementia. Saul’s retinue suggest that they bring in David to play the harp to soothe the king’s fits. It turns out that David is the spark to Saul’s dynamite. The king and he who will be king. Two leaders at odds. Conflict.

Conflict ... Read more

Day Six – Death in the Family

July 15, 2019

I am assigned to Logistics this week. Logistics are in charge of, 1st of all, making sure incoming Crews have their itinerary, know where they are going for 10 days, how to get to each camp, and what activities they will have at each camp. Logistics also (we pray) know where every person is on the Ranch (about 3,000 every day between staff and hikers) at any particular time.

The Chaplain who is assigned to them is at their disposal to fulfill any need along the above. They are also the communication heart (or brain) of the Ranch. Important messages from ... Read more

Day Five – Good Samaritans

July 14, 2019

A Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, “and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.” Luke 10: ... Read more

Day Four  –  The Twelve

July 13, 2019

Jesus saw Simon and Andrew fishing and told them to follow and he would make them fish for people; then sees two others, James and John, and called them…                 Mark 1: 16-20

A typical Crew at Philmont has twelve participants, no more and none less than eight,  So, of course, “The Twelve” makes me think of similarities between the Big 12 and these 12 who come here as a motley Crew:
First there’e Pete and his younger brother Andy;
Pete’s kind of thick headed and impetuous,
and Andy is just the annoying kid, but likeable – he gets others to join ... Read more

Day Three – Jews and Gentiles

July 12, 2019

In the past several days’ Epistle readings (Acts 9-10), St. Peter is made to know that there is no difference between Jew and Gentiles, or as we heard on Sunday Paul’s lack of distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised (again, the Jew and the Gentile).

Our Jewish chaplain made arrangements to hold Shabbat service and a festive Shabbat dinner  at one of our three major (and original base camps) where she would meet a Jewish Crew.  No problem, I said.  I’ll do the Chaplains’ Aide Training today.  And as we approached our usual 7:00pm Chapel Service time (each faith tradition holds a ... Read more

Day Two – God Thunders

July 11, 2019

from today’s Psalm 18:

The Lord parted the heavens and came down with a storm cloud under his feet.
He mounted on cherubim and flew; he swooped on the wings of the wind.
He wrapped darkness about him;  he made dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion.
From the brightness of his presence, through the clouds,
burst hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord thundered out of heaven;  the Most High uttered his voice.
He loosed his arrows and scattered them;  he hurled thunderbolts and routed them.

Read more

Day One – A Road to Emmaus?

July 10, 2019

It was a perfect opportunity.  My favorite Easter story – the two followers encountering the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus.  In fact, that is my favorite of our two Tiffany windows at Grace Church – the one in the Baptistry.

So when the Spirit blew things out of the water this afternoon, and the Chaplain who was to take the Vespers service at one of our back-country chapels was called elsewhere, I was asked to take it in his stead.  Great!  I have the perfect sermon on this Gospel:  two hikers and the possibility of encountering Jesus on the ... Read more

Notes from Camp – Intro

July 9, 2019

Well Friends,

For those of you who weren’t a part of last year’s Ed-Ventures, each time I’m away for an extended period like this, and especially when I’m serving as a Chaplain at Philmont, the national Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico, I like to reflect on the daily readings for Morning and Evening Prayer and something that has impacted me that day.  To begin tomorrow (as I was driving at 5:00am this morning!)

I arrived today at lunch time (2:00 your time) after three days (28 hours) of driving.  And all is good.  From Base Camp all seems back to normal, ... Read more