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Compass Points: A Love Story – Guest post by Jennifer Hampton

03 Feb 2021 7:56 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

Why Compass Points?

Camp people are my people. It took me a long time to figure that out. For years I thought ‘basketball’ was my community, Carolina Tar Heel basketball to be specific. Then it was volleyball, where I located my identity among a group… then university, then teaching, then young clergy. At one point or another I could say with lukewarm confidence: “yeah, those are my people.” I never really fit in, though. 

I landed my first camp job as a college graduate looking for a place to crash during the summer between my undergraduate degree and beginning work on my master's. It was only meant to be temporary; a summer breathing the fresh mountain air before returning to the academic world in big city life. And I just never left. Summer turned into fall which turned into more than two years before I moved back to the ‘real’ world and reapplied to that master's program. 

While my vocational discernment led me to serve the local church, I missed camp. Camp people understood the unique intersection of theology and play, discipleship and creation care: renewal, shalom, koinonia, and adventure are the liturgy of camp life, and I thrived there. 

When I discovered the Compass Points program I was five years into my pastorate and already feeling the effects of burnout. Taking Eugene Peterson’s call to renewal and retreat seriously, I registered for the first course, bought a plane ticket, and felt the weight of responsibility lift off my shoulders when our plane took flight. Not knowing at all what to expect, I found the class a welcome mixture of academic excellence, professional development, wisdom of the collective, and community. Much like the experience of resident camp, my fellow students and I began the course as strangers and parted as friends, transformed and renewed by our time together. Our shared learning experience and shared passion to see camping ministries prosper was a balm to my soul. The community I found within my cohort challenged me to carry the best of camp back into the local church. I took the courses under the guise of “continuing education,” but it functioned more practically as a source of renewal for me, a reminder of my call, and an affirmation of my own identity. 

Camp people are my people, and the Seven Foundations of United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries are the bulk of my work, even in the local church as a pastor. Now, more than ever, this new COVID-reality of our existence begs more attentiveness to the authentic connections which come so easily at camp: connections with God in sabbath, silence, and prayer; environments of genuine grace; sensitivity to other’s needs; embracing life’s teachable moments; learning from the wisdom of the natural world and soaking up the goodness of God’s creation; breaking barriers and redefining boundaries; doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. 

Compass Points was a path of renewal, healing and inspiration for me. It provided the education, affirmation and community I needed to continue on in faithfulness to the Kingdom of God.

Rev. Jennifer Bingham Hampton moved to Casar, North Carolina in May 2019 to serve as the first Director of Tekoa Foothills. She is an Ordained Elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and has served as the Associate Pastor at Broad Street UMC in Statesville and the Senior Pastor at Sunrise UMC in Lewisville. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke Divinity School, and the Compass Points Certification Program with Columbia Theological Seminary. With son Edwin, and husband Joseph, Jennifer can be found hiking, building fires, floating down rivers, and exploring their home on 117 acres in the foothills of North Carolina.

If Jennifer's story inspires you to consider embarking on the Compass Points journey, learn more at CompassPointsProgram.org or contact UMCRM's Compass Points liaison, Russell Casteel.

The next courses, "Articulating Our Mission, Role, and Value," September 12-15, and "Nonprofit Business Management," September 15-18, are registering now! They may be taken a la carte or as part of the Compass Points Certificate Program series. Register here

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