In the year 1977, Fr. Stevan Stepanov had the spark of an idea and established the 1st St. Elijah Church Camp. He wanted to spend more time with the children of the church as a priest, to teach the children about our faith, customs, singing, history and language. Camp started out small with humble beginnings and, as with all things, has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. Nonetheless, the spark took hold and has been a constant for the children of St. Elijah.
This year, our 40th year, Fr. Branislav Golic embraced this activity and set the theme of this year’s camp to be “With FAITH and LOVE”, referring to the invitation before the Holy Communion - "with faith and love, draw near". All of our lessons, crafts and activities for camp incorporated this theme.
Camp started on a beautiful Monday morning, June 12, 2017, with nine eager campers. We met in church for morning prayers and Fr. Branislav introduced the week’s theme. He explained the most important aspect of every worship service, especially of the divine liturgy, which is an active participation of all attendees. Father then explained the basic elements of the divine liturgy, offering of our gifts to God, listening to the Word of God, partaking of the Word in the Holy Eucharist and giving thanks for all.
Georgette Osman came out of retirement for this year’s camp and brought her creativity and talent to the craft and activities portion of camp. The children made succulent planters this year. They decorated the planters with the theme Faith and Love, and Georgette tied into the theme. God created everything on earth with love; plants, animals and us. And like the plants and animals, we are all different and we must always have faith that God will provide us with all of our needs if we have love.
Following lunch prepared by Lynn Popovich and the succulent planting, the children were treated to a round of miniature golf and slushy at Windmill. There were no holes in one, but quite a few hazards, bunkers and traps were encountered. And as the day’s activities ended there was much debate regarding the weather for the next few days, the major concern being the rain forecast for Wednesday, since our plan was to go to the Chapel pool. Our schedule couldn’t be changed, and Georgette quoted one of Fr. Stevan’s favorite lines during camp, “God is Serbian, all will be as it should.”
Tuesday started off bright and sunny as well, the children gathered in church for morning prayers, and then went downstairs for naphora making. Georgette instructed the children on how to make naphora from start to finish. Each child made their own naphora which was used for liturgy on Wednesday.
As the dough was rising Fr. Branislav continued the lecture from day one concentrating more on the central message of the Divine Liturgy, which is a commemoration of the Last Supper. As the children sat around the table, Fr Branislav read the Scripture passages on the Last Supper and as the story unfolded, children followed, broke bread among themselves and consumed it with some grape juice. The emphasis was put on Jesus’s words “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The children understood that the Divine Liturgy is in direct connection with, and the continuation of the Commandment of our Lord to do this in memory of Him.
After lunch, brought to us by Julie Taylor, we took the children to Stray Cat studio in Beaver Falls for an afternoon of pottery making. Children enjoyed working and playing with clay and each student made his or her own creation. After we left our works of art to be oven-baked and glazed, we came back to church for prayers. As the day was fun, no one wanted to leave and therefore we enjoyed the afternoon playing soccer in the back of the church. Both teams won!
On Wednesday, our third and final day of camp, we gathered in church for Liturgy under cloudy skies. Prior to liturgy, Fr. Branislav showed the children how the naphora is prepared for liturgy at proskomidia. After taking the whole naphora and cutting out the sections that represent Jesus, Mary the Birthgiver of God, and the saints, each child brought their own naphora, made the day before, and Fr. Branislav cut out pieces that represent them and members of their families that they remembered in prayers.
After the gospel and the epistle readings, in a form of a sermon, Fr Branislav explained the message for that day. To emphasize the theme of the week, "with faith and love, draw near" all children received Holy Communion. Special thanks goes out to Kathy Loverich for singing the responses at liturgy.
To reemphasize the quote “God is Serbian”, after liturgy the skies cleared, the Sun shone, and we headed to Chapel Pool, with a special thanks to Susan Hayden for procuring the venue and assistance with the children. All but us were worried about the weather. No more than five minutes after leaving the pool, the skies turned gray and thunder was heard requiring all to leave the pool. “God really is Serbian”.
After the pool, we again gathered in the breezeway of the church where we enjoyed some cookies and summarized this year’s camp theme. The camp was concluded with a desire to have it again next year and the campers expressed their desire to make it last longer. We all look forward to meeting again next year!