Camp is Singing

By Chad Hershberger

If you’ve been to Camp Mount Luther, you may have heard the “Announcements” song. It has become a large monstrosity and takes copious amounts of time. You may have thought that the “Announcements” song always was as long as it is today, but many pieces were added over time.

I remember back in 1985, when I was a ten-day camper, my counselors Marianne Blatchley, Tom Ridenhour, Vicki Snyder, and Amy Stewart led songs after meals. At breakfast, they ended songs with the familiar opening Announcements chorus. Then, at the noon meal, the four counselors and their campers taught an “extended” version of the song, adding seven more lines. Stewart added a third verse at suppertime called “We Sold Our Cow.” In the early 1990s, a few Counselors-in-Training added the verse, “Rooty toot toot.” In succeeding years, staff and campers added verses so that many dread singing the song now because of its length. But, the evolution gives the song its own unique identity.

That’s also what I think singing has done for CML. It’s part of our unique identity. We do a lot of singing at camp. So much so that I recently had a parent tell me her child thinks we sing TOO much. Singing has been important in our tradition but also is an important part of God’s story.

When I talk to summer staff about song leading, one of the first questions I usually ask them is “Why do we sing?” I get lots of answers but the most important one is to give God glory. Singing is one of the many ways we praise God. My youth choir director when I was growing up reminded us all that everyone has a voice and can sing. Some may think they can’t sing but they may just be tone deaf and hear notes differently.

Singing is inherent in all of us. We can use singing for constant praise during ice cream making, moving from place to place in camp, longer hikes, evenings in the cabin, or just to pass the time. It’s a useful tool to praise God!

It’s also useful to remember the past. Music is a part of our faith tradition, and it helps us tell stories: the Israelites sang after their deliverance from Egypt; David sang in time of trouble and rejoicing; Mary and Simeon sang songs of thanksgiving; John, on the island of Patmos, heard the glorious songs of the angels in his vision. All throughout scripture we hear God’s story through song.

Singing creates memories. What are your earliest music memories? I can distinctively remember lots of instances of elementary school music class, holiday sing-a-longs, and my fifth grade musical. I can also remember riding my bike after being at camp and singing camp songs to recall my good memories of CML.

At camp, we can also use music as a mnemonic device. Music helps people who sing together remember their story; it also helps people remember scripture (which is often set to music). It reinforces Biblical themes! We try to sing songs each day that remind us of our Bible stories that day.

One area that we could probably do better at is using music to teach about different cultures. We should strive for diversity in our music as God’s song is sung in many languages. We’ve used some tunes from South Africa, Latin American, and other places around the globe. I’m sure we could find even more!

Finally, I really like using music at camp to build community. Music helps people become one in identity and purpose; it’s communion with each other and Christ! There are so many songs we sing (Aroosta-Shaw comes to mind) that allows us to be silly together and be one by the music and motions we share. Even singing a hymn at worship together can be a powerful way to feel connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’m glad that music is such an important part of life at Camp Mount Luther. Reach out to us on social media or and tell us what your favorite camp songs are and how they have made a difference in your life.