By Logan Rimel
For seven summers in a row, I’ve gathered with the other directors and counselors of The Naming Project for a week at Bay Lake Camp in Deerwood, MN. Since summer 2012, I’ve been blessed to be a part of this faith-filled summer camp for youth ages 14-18 of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and a director there since 2017. Each summer, the counselors and directors work to create a space where LGBTQ+ and allied youth can explore the intersection and interaction of their faith, identity, and community.
The Naming Project summer camp began in 2004, from the recognition that many Christian summer camps are not safe or affirming spaces for LGBTQ youth. We know that summer camp can be a holy place and a transformative experience, though, and we don’t want LGBTQ or allied youth to miss out on the chance to experience the silliness, transcendence, and deep community relationships that camp can offer. The mission of The Naming Project is to create places of safety for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities where faith is shared and healthy life-giving community is modeled.
If you’ve ever been to a Christian summer camp for high schoolers, you’d probably recognize a lot of The Naming Project’s schedule and programming. In many ways, we’re just an average Christian camp. Morning prayer, Bible study in large and small groups, camp games and activities, arts and crafts, evening worship, and campfire songs all make up an average day. Where The Naming Project departs from the expected is in the queering of some of these activities. Free time activities can involve a nail painting station for campers of all genders; “open mic night” usually involves many different kinds of drag; “morning movement” both gets the body moving and often coalesces into a choreographed dance; one campfire during the week is known as “Dolly night,” where we take a pontoon boat out, watch the stars come out, and listen to Dolly Parton.
Another camp standby, Bible study, takes on a particular salience for this community, against whom the Scriptures have often been used as a weapon. Biblical literacy is a necessary armor for the youth at The Naming Project, and we do historical exegesis as well as personal devotional study. The week usually follows a rhythm – beginning with the assurance of their individual belovedness before God, moving to questions about neighbor-love and community, then finally asking what God’s solidarity with us inspires in terms of our solidarity with each other.
I’ve stayed involved with The Naming Project for as long as I have for so many reasons – because I see God move every summer, because the campers are hilarious, because the food at Bay Lake Camp is amazing, because I get the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the life of campers who might not otherwise know queer adults, because I think it would have made a difference for me if I’d’ve known about this camp when I was coming to terms with my own trans and queer identities as a teenager. We hear that last one often, actually – “I wish I’d had this when I was their age!” That’s why we’re really excited to announce our first-ever Adult Camp, taking place this summer on June 12-15.
If everything above sounded like a blast to you, please consider joining us this summer on the island. No need to be LGBTQ – allies are more than welcome. The theme for the inaugural adult camp is ‘Believe the Truth,’ and we will explore the beautiful truths about who we are, who our neighbors are, and reveal the truth of God’s love for the rest of the world. Camp-goers will experience large and small group conversations, personal quiet time as well as campfires, crafts, swimming, games, and summer camp fun. Adult Camp will also serve as our main fundraiser for the year, helping us to make Youth Camp (July 26-31) accessible to any youth who wants to attend. If you know of any youth who would benefit from this affirming and life-giving experience, please send them our information!