Camp Capers Cancels 2020 Summer Camp
With sadness, we announce that Camp Capers’ summer camp programming has been canceled, due to increasing spread of COVID-19. Rob Watson and I, along with Johnson Jeffers, Camp Capers Director and Alida Garcia, Camp Capers Program Director, met with the summer staff yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, July 1. Registered campers and their families were notified early that same evening.
Since March, Camps and Conferences personnel have monitored the pandemic carefully, remaining in conversation with camps in the Hill Country and across the nation. Camp Capers adopted guidelines and protocols for their overnight youth camps that closely adhered to the best guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Camp Association, and state health officials. During this time, Camp Capers also made the difficult decision to cancel the first half of the summer, and then to limit attendance in July to older youth. We were confident camp could happen safely, holding camper registration at half-capacity and with fewer staff members. Then the situation in Texas began to change dramatically and dangerously in the month of June. Today, there are no signs that conditions will improve in July, and so we have made this hard, but right decision.
For almost two weeks, Camp Capers’ staff members have self-quarantined on site, training and preparing for the reduced, yet still premier Senior High and Junior High Camps. The summer staff prepared in all the usual ways to love and serve the campers, while also learning new protocols to minimize risk and protect the young people entrusted to their care in the midst of this pandemic. They have served with great enthusiasm and joy, while contending with their personal worries and the uncertainty of whether we would be able to offer camp.
Recognizing the isolation that our children and young people have experienced in so many ways during this pandemic, we worked very hard to provide an opportunity for the much-needed freedom and community that is a cornerstone of camp life. The young adults serving on the summer staff committed fully to realizing this ministry, even as the odds increased that the modified summer camp programming might not be able to move forward. Their hearts are hurting, as are our own. Most of the summer staff grew up at Camp Capers. They know first-hand the difference a week at camp can make in a young person’s life and were preparing for work they long dreamt of doing. Their remaining days at Camp Capers will give them opportunities to reflect on their disappointment and their hope. They will play like campers, and we will celebrate the community they have formed with a closing Eucharist at St. Francis Chapel.
Throughout this disorienting season, the diocesan Camps & Conferences staff have remained committed to their shared ministry, approaching difficult questions and decisions through prayer, research, and earnest discussion, in collaboration with their peers and public health experts. Please be especially mindful of them in your prayers. We want you to know who they are, and they are named at the end of this letter.
We are grieving what has been lost, not only for the campers and the staff, but for the whole diocese which is blessed and strengthened by all God does at camp. And at the same time, we are so very, very proud of the summer staff and year-round staff for our diocesan camp programs at Camp Capers, Duncan Park, and Mustang Island Conference Center, and we are grateful for the courage, faith and joy they freely give to all who come to these holy spaces for renewal and revival. Their ministry is a sign of health and hope for the Church, and an example of the tenacious love of Jesus.
So, now what? We hope, by God’s grace, to turn this present sadness to joy. We will plan and prepare new opportunities for a family camp style program at Camp Capers. The Mustang Island Family Camp staff will continue welcoming families for modified weekends on the island; Duncan Park will host private reservations through the fall. And we will look for ways to use the talents and gifts of the Camp Capers 2020 Summer Staff at camp and elsewhere. Many of them already dedicated long hours to assemble 2,400 “Camp in a Box” kits to send to vulnerable children involved in an Austin-based Communities in Schools program. And we will count on the clergy and people of West Texas to continue to support our camps and to participate in the programming offered by all three camp and conference centers, when possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic often feels like an unrelenting series of setbacks and disappointments, and the loss of summer camp is heartbreaking. But better days are coming, and when we consider the persistent love of God, evident in our camp staff, hope is renewed.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas
Director of Camps & Conferences