Last week we attended the annual Song and Story Fest of the Church of the Brethren.
Camp Brethren Heights, in the forest and lake country of central Michigan, welcomed the gregarious gathering.
They had prepared to meet our every need: food service, meeting rooms,and some dormitory sleeping space were available in this main lodge. Many Port-a-Pots had been located in strategic places around the campgrounds. The little red tent was prepared for registration and information.
But, before I go on with my tale, you need some information, too! "Just what is this 'Song and Story Fest'?" I can hear you asking. It's not easy to describe, but I'll try. Song and Story Fest is a week-long family gathering and celebration held the week before the annual business conference of the Church of the Brethren. Wherever Annual Conference is located, Song and Story Fest is held at the closest Brethren camp. The only agenda of the week is having fun and assorted musicians, poets and storytellers lead in that endeavor. But perhaps more pictures will help you understand!
Housing for the week is simple and varied. The camp's cabins or a family's tent provided shelter from the weather and the mosquitoes!
Some folks chose their own locations to set up camp.
The waterfront swimming and boating area on Jehnson Lake was a popular place, especially with the children.
The chapel, with its beautiful view of the lake, was the setting for some of our workshops. Daily devotions became a creative process as we "acted out" the scripture texts for each day.
"Three Cross Hill" was a favorite meeting spot.
Even the hiking trails through the forest provided lovely views of Lake Jehnson and the nearby summer cottages.
Campfire was one of the highlights of each day. Even when the "fire stick" didn't do its thing, matches worked fine!
The kids, under the guidance of a few brave adults, really got into the "rhythm circle" that called us to campfire each evening.
There, story tellers entertained and informed us with tales from Brethren history, talking animals, reconciliation of conflict, environmental tragedies, and heroes such as Johnny Appleseed.
Musicians, too, lent their talents to enrich us. The sounds of violins, guitars, banjos, a keyboard, drums, a mandolin, spoons and tambourines echoed through the woods and into our hearts.
VietNam era songs, such as Alice's Restaurant, were revived and and delighted us all over again.
Morning and evening concerts were another highlight of each day. Here, under the "big tent on the hill," we sang and danced and laughed and clapped our hands and stomped our feet to the beat of an amazing variety of musicians.
Bill Joliff, Quaker songster, delighted us with several new songs as well as inviting us to sing along on old favorites. His son Jacob, a mandolin player par excellance, joined him on several numbers.
Jacob also plays with Mutual Kumquat, a talented bunch of up-beat young 'uns. They offered up "good music" with a distinctly modern beat. Rhonda and Greg Baker shared their own unique and gently disturbing songs. Tim and Byron Joseph entertained us with songs, both old and new, about peace and social protest. LuAnn Harley and Brian Krushwitz took us on a musical world tour, including Hawaii, Iraq, Mexico, Holland, and other countries.
But, as all good things, Song and Story Fest, too, had to come to an end. After nearly a week of such fun, fellowship, mosquito-dodgin' and guitar-pickin',praying, clapping, and creativity, it was time to move on to other things, including Annual Conference, the business gathering of the church. Having just spent a week with the heavenly harmony of the community of saints, it was time to deal with the dilemmas of the church on earth! As we went on our way, we were reminded of the bittersweet truth of a cynical old poem:
"To dwell above with saints I love. Ah, that will be the glory!
To dwell below with saints I know. Now that's a different story!"