Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Camping and Church Services

For some people, just being in the great outdoors is practically a religious experience in and of itself.   Not everyone attends church regularly and some of those who do opt to take a vacation from church when they go camping.  For those of us who normally participate in organized religious activities, camping can interrupt our schedules. Some people welcome the break just as they welcome the break from work. However, many people enjoy their weekly spiritual nourishment.  If you desire to attend church while camping you can usually find an appropriate congregation to visit near your camping destination. It may take a little advance planning and research, but with today's Internet resources, it shouldn't be difficult to find a suitable candidate compatible with your particular beliefs.  If you're not already familiar with expected dress codes, call ahead to avoid embarrassment or rejection, as some locations can have quite high expectations. Most facilities are glad to welcome travelers but I have seen some whose dress code might be a deterrent for the casually dressed traveler. You probably won't be turned away, but you might feel uncomfortable.  However, we've even been warmly welcomed in our riding gear on occasion.

What if you can't find a familiar congregation to visit or you're boondocking out in the middle of nowhere  where there are no places to go? Well, you have several choices: 1) skip church and continue your other planned camping activities like any other day, 2) visit a different denomination if there is one nearby, or 3) have your own family services. If you choose to just go on with your normal activities, you need no further planning, except perhaps scheduling some extra time for repentance for missing church services. Visiting a new denomination might be interesting and educational. However, you need to be prepared to set aside your own prejudices and accept the normal practices of the congregation you visit. It would be a good idea to research their creed and doctrine a little before time. That way you can avoid a situation in which you would be especially uncomfortable and be prepared for differences from your preferred church. Sometimes having your own family services in or near camp can be rewarding. A simple scripture study together and/or perhaps singing some favorites hymns can help you focus on spiritual matters and give you and your family a rest from daily activities. It may also be a good time for a "family council" where you discuss everyone's needs, activities, and schedules.  You might hold your services in camp or select a favorite and fairly private spot in nature where you can gather and enjoy the bounteous beauty of the land.  A favorite meadow, mountain top, stream, or waterfall may provide an ideal environment for a spiritual experience.  When dirt biking in remote places in the Mojave Desert we often opted for a mellow family rides on Sunday instead of joining fellow riders on more aggressive rides.  This allowed us some extra family time and we could openly share spiritual moments during breaks along the way.

Over the years my family and I have experienced all three alternatives. We have visited campground congregations, arriving on our dirt bikes, where we were openly welcomed in our riding gear. We have had times when we dressed up in our "Sunday best" and drove to a nearby town to attend regular church services there. On weekends when we didn't have any services available, we usually limited our activities to mild, family rides instead of long, technically challenging and often competitive rides with our fellow riders. Even when I was serving in the lay clergy of our local congregation, we maintained our holiday weekend dirt bike outings, with the approval of my superior. One of my fellow riders had previously been a minister over a youth group in a past life. We found that very often the two of us were the closest to church or God that any of our fellow riders ever got. We did not press our religious views on them, but neither did we hide our commitment. My friend once announced that he'd "Conduct Easter sunrise services from the top of a kick starter!" for our spring break outing over Easter break. Even though he didn't deliver a sermon, the simple acknowledgement of the significance of the holiday was greatly appreciated by believers without overpowering the less religious. Over the years several of our non-religious comrades came to us for advice and comfort in times of crisis, so just being available to them was a form of providing religious service.

If you are normally a religious family, setting aside some family worship time during your outings will help you maintain a sense of consistency. If you are not normally religious, you may still find it worthwhile to take a break and spend some time just enjoying the beauty of nature and doing a little reflection or meditation. We often adjusted our activities. Instead of taking long, technical rides with other avid riders, we often planned shorter, family rides combined with short periods of family communion. That way the kids still got to ride but were a little calmer and we got to spend more quality family time together. You don't have to turn it into a preaching scenario that often turns off teenagers.  Keep it light and fun and relevant.  I've seen over-restrictive rules and over zealous preaching backfire many times.  And keep it short.  I recall a story attributed to Mark Twain.  He was attending a service by a famous and popular preacher.  After about 10 minutes he was quite impressed and took out a $5 bill to put in the collection plate.  As the preacher went on and on and on he put back the $5 and took out a $1 bill.  By the time the collection plate came around he allegedly said he stole a quarter out of it!

If you have Internet access or cable TV, you may be able to view appropriate religious services on TV or on your computer online.   Some denominations also have their own channels on Netflix and other on demand providers.  It isn't quite the same as being there, but  you may still benefit from well prepared sermons and beautiful music.

I have seen non-denominational services offered in some campgrounds. These can be an interesting and rewarding experience and an opportunity to meet new people. Being non-denominational, don't expect to find your own particular brand of doctrine or sermons, but you should find some level of spirituality and a chance to recharge your personal religious reservoir in the company of fellow believers. The very existence of so many religious factions demonstrates the differences, but in most cases, believers of all faiths have more in common than they might realize if only they can see past their personal prejudices.

Hallelejah!