This past summer we made a concerted effort to better articulate and live out Sky Lake’s long-held core values of invitational Christian discipleship, connecting with God’s natural creation, and commitment to living in intentional community. To help campers better understand this last core value, we developed the Hemlock Community Values program.
The Eastern Hemlock is a sturdy coniferous tree which can be found in abundance at higher elevations in eastern North America. Hemlocks typically tolerate moist soil, ravines, steep hillsides, and lakeshores. They’re slow-growing and regarded as one of the most shade-tolerant species of all trees. There are plenty of other trees in a forest to use for building projects, but anyone who’s ever built a campfire at Sky Lake knows that there is no better source of kindling than the died-off, lower branches of a hemlock! But the most important aspect of why we decided to base our community values program upon the hemlock is this: while an individual of this species can survive on its own, the most mature hemlocks thrive in small stands.
Each day at camp we focused on a different, specific characteristic of living in community: on Sundays it was the value of learning; on Mondays, interdependence; on Tuesdays, compassion; on Wednesdays, faithfulness; on Thursdays, wholesafety; and we rounded the week out on Fridays with a focus on gratitude. As we were developing this program, we considered a large variety of characteristics of a healthy community, but these six really stood out to us. Why? Because they were the ones most woven into the fabric of Sky Lake already!
This summer we also chose to rename our weekly get-together of the Sky Lake community to “Hemlock Community Gathering” and added something new to the mix: the presentation of a Hemlock Community Values plaque to one member of the community who exemplified these characteristics throughout that particular week.
We always had an idea that Sky Lakers were amazing, but this summer proved it! Hands down the most challenging task the core group of staff responsible for overseeing this program had was not developing the program itself, but rather limiting awarding the plaque to just one member of the community each week. What made it even more challenging was that there were so many top-notch nominees from which to have to select. In the end, the priceless look of genuine humility on the face of each recipient was worth it.
The Hemlock Community Values program is definitely a “cairn” that we’re glad we started to build here at Sky Lake this summer for we strongly believe that these very characteristics are something from which the entire world can benefit.
Over the coming months we plan to share a little more about each of the individual characteristics. Be sure to stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter, Around the Campfire!