Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Whatever happened to Camp Quest?

Quite a few of our young people from church are at various Christian holiday camps at the moment either as members or leaders. As I was thinking and praying about these camps I remembered all the fuss made a couple of years ago about Camp Quest, a secular summer holiday camp supported by the British Humanist Society and the National Secular Society. Camp Quest attracted lots of publicity and was heralded as a great step forward for ‘free thinkers’. I blogged about the first Camp Quest back in 2009, Hunting the Unicorn, and raised a couple of questions about how ‘free-thinking’ these camps might be.

Anyway, I headed over to the Camp Quest website to see what they were up to this year. I was interested to see that a Camp Quest was running in Danbury, a couple of miles down the road from my parish here in Essex, though I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything about it locally. I say was because when I went to the details for the camp I discovered it had been cancelled. I then went to the details for the other two camps. The one at Malvern takes 32 young people and has spaces left for 5 and the one at Somerset can take 36 and has 17 spaces left to fill. The camps are now underway.

I genuinely hope that the children who are attending these camps have a good time. However, I can’t help wondering, given all the publicity and the much hyped attractiveness of this opportunity for ‘free-thinking’, why Camp Quest hasn’t proved more popular?


Richard Brown said...

I'm not surprised. If Camp Quest was over-hyped, that's no more than the over-hyped National Secular Society. How many members the NSS has is very difficult to find out, but it's probably no more than 3000, and that minute number represents the sum total of all those liberals prepared to put hand in pocket and subscribe to something they believe in.
However, that doesn't stop the BBC falling over themselves to consult them at every opportunity, tiny minority though they may be.

Mark Bennet said...

Perhaps it is because an ideology of pure ideas has very limited resources to form community or to motivate community. Ideas mediated communally, rather than checked individually according to rational principles, would be rather suspect. Where is the narrative of community which says that camps are a good thing? How does the Selfish Gene inhabit a world of communal camping? I think the questions here run deep, and question the secularist account of human flourishing.

stripes said...

Why not more popular? I can think of 2 1/2 reasons, all of them fairly prosaic.

1. CQ is a very new venture - first run in 2009 according to the website. They haven't had the years - generations in some cases - of support that Christian-run camps have had. There's very much a culture in many churches, including ours, to support "your own" camp. People can be relied upon to give up a fortnight every year to help run the camp. Perhaps also there's more likely to be confirmed financial support from the organisers - CPAS, SU, whoever, than the BHA or the NSS.

1 1/2. The venues hosting the camps are unlikely to take bookings unless they know they can cover costs, and without a proven track history (see 1) perhaps that is more difficult to ascertain.

2. As you'll know from experience, participating in the running of these camps is jolly hard work. I've just returned from a week's camping at the other half's sailing club, where our kids and 80 others took part in cadet week. Tens of people, some parents but not all, gave up a week's leave to camp, teach, run rescue duty, supply first aid and so on, usually without having the opportunity to sail themselves. I think that's one heck of a sacrifice. In my experience, sceptics are as diverse a bunch as Christians, so perhaps the number actually willing to make that sort of sacrifice represent quite a small proportion of the whole.

Tell you what though, the "beyond belief" strapline gets on my nerves. As though belief was a silly teenage phase you grow out of. Mutter mutter...