Reflection – Glenalmond

This article first appeared in Movement, the St. Columba’s by the Castle magazine.

I could write a book, a film of the book, and then a book of the film, a TV show, and then a spin-off of that TV show, all about Glen; unfortunately I’ve been told to keep this to a measly Movement-sized article. So sit tight and enjoy the ride as we explore the glorious chaos that is The Scottish Episcopal Church At Glenalmond.

So what is Glen? Well, it’s a youth camp organized by the Scottish Episcopal Church. But it’s not the only christian camp out there and it’s not the only one I’ve been to, so why am I writing an article about this one in particular? The first thing that’s different about Glen is the worship.

Glen worships are the stuff of legend. Funny, weird, moving, and sometimes a little bit scary. If you see a congregation staggering out of a church with confetti in their hair, splashmarks on their clothes, and big laughterlines on their faces you know they’ve just experienced a Glen worship. But what’s really different about them isn’t just the UV paint, the paper aeroplanes or the rather fetching hats. It’s the fact that we, the youth, organize them.

What’s really good about young people organizing the services is that instead of having the word of God spoken at us, it gives us a chance to get up and touch, hear, hold, even taste (that’s another story) the word of God. It also helps us to take these stories and teachings and express them in a different way. A way that will speak to more people and fuel their imaginations. Because let’s face it, if these letters and lessons are imprisoned on paper nobody’s going to want to study them.

That’s not the only thing that’s different about Glen. Another thing that’s different is the house groups. In these house groups we take a look at different stories and teachings from The Bible and we talk about what they mean, what God’s trying to tell us, and how we can apply that in every day life. Of course we have differing views on this but we don’t see it asa bad thing we embrace it. We open ourselves up to other peoples opinions and we’re never afraid to share our own. And the result is it helps us to understand what these prophets and disciples were perhaps trying to say. Even if we don’t completely understand what the message was that’s okay because we can still have our own theorys and interpret it in our own way. For me an important part about being a Christian is discovering new things about my religion and opening my mind to change. And it’s stuff like that, Glen encourages.

But for me the best thing about Glen is the fun welcoming atmosphere. On the way back from Glen 16 as I was wondering how long it was until Glen 17 my mum turned to me and asked

“Do people ever get homesick at Glen?” To which I replied:

“No but when people get home they get Glensick.” This is because Glen isn’t just a place to mess about and talk about God. It’s a family. A big warm, friendly, if slightly disfunctional family. Like a utopian society, everybodys kind to and supports each other,they don’t look for conflict. It’s just so happy and peaceful that going back to the real world full of stress and terror is quite an emotional departure. But it ‘s okay because we know it won’t be long till someone decides that enough is enough and it’s time to have a reunion.

So I’ve done my best  to summarise the wonder that is Glenalmond and it ‘s caused me to go 321 words over my word limit. But everything I’ve just told you shouldn’t just be limited to Glen. We’re living in a world where religion has become the stuff of ridicule with people saying it’s boring, prejudiced, and has no place in a modern society. I say it’s time to prove them wrong. Get young people involed in the services (and not just carrying incense).Discuss The Bible and don’t just shout it at people. Experiment with different prayer techniques. I believe that God doesn’t picture it’s followers sitting in a grey church with no central heating (St Columba’s I’m looking at you). It pictured them going out into the world discussing their beliefs with others and finding new ways to reach people.

Olivia Mackenzie Smith

Photo credit: Provincial Youth Committee