Forget campfires, water sports, or arts and crafts. The 17 Charlotte teens who signed up for this summer camp went to Friday prayers at a mosque. Greeted the Sabbath and got a kosher meal at the Jewish Community Center. Did yoga with a Hindu instructor. And filed into pews at a predominantly black church Sunday morning for a worship service that – with all the preaching, singing and hugging – stretched into Sunday afternoon.
The high schoolers who attended Mecklenburg Ministries’ Interfaith Service Youth Camp, which started Thursday morning and ended Sunday night, were as diverse as their itinerary: black, white, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’i and several varieties of Christian – Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist.
But by Sunday morning, when they arrived at Little Rock AME Zion Church, the campers were using words like “family” and “brothers and sisters” to describe themselves.
“On my way to the camp, I was thinking about how we’re all different,” said Ryan Carter, 16, a member of Christ Lutheran Church. “But after getting to know each other, we abolished some stereotypes and came to see all the similarities.”
Samantha Singer, 16, who attends the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, said members of her congregation routinely explore other religions. But actually living with people of other faiths for a few days, she said, opened her eyes – and some of the others’.
“We saw that not all religions are that different,” she said. “They have one common goal: Helping the community.”
So, on Saturday, the campers lunched with homeless men and women at the Urban Ministry Center. Then they met with residents of Samaritan’s House, a place where people with no home of their own can recuperate after being released from the hospital.