With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, the inaugural Camp Saint Sophrony was successful. It brought children from many churches across the archdiocese together for a week of fun in an Orthodox Christian setting.
Sixty-seven children from 24 different churches across the UK spent a week at Heatree Activity Centre in the Dartmoor National Park.
Protopresbyter Theodoros Polyviou attended as the priest of camp. Fr Dcn Panteleimon Maxfield served as archigos. They were supported by Panayiota Maxfield, Alexia and Christos Papalexandrakou, Konstantina Maragkou, and Kyriakos Theophilou as coordinators. Nine other leaders assisted with caring for the children. Christopher Butcher, a professional chef, led the kitchen team. Sister Magdalene joined for three nights to help with teaching.
The camp’s theme was service and the Lord’s instruction that “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant”. Within this overarching theme, the children learned about the parables of the talents, Good Samaritan and the Last Judgement. They also learned about palliative care, ministering to the homeless, and ministry work in Sierra Leone. Each camp leader was responsible for instructing the children in hagiography. Sister Magdalene taught the children about the life of Saint Sophrony. Children gave presentations or sketches on the lives of Saints Paisios, Alban and Christina.
Morning and evening prayers were read daily as a whole camp or in small groups. His Grace Bishop Raphael officiated at ahierarchical liturgy on Sunday, 24 July. On the feast of Saint Panteleimon, we celebrated a Divine Liturgy.
The days were action-packed. There were outward-bound activities such as climbing, high ropes, canoeing, rock scrambling, and walking. There were also craft activities such as wood carving, iconography, painting, and drawing with wire.
A highlight of the camp was the Highland Games on Sunday, 24 July, where the children competed in ‘houses’ named Lions, Angels, Eagles and Oxen (after the four evangelists). There was some exciting back hold wrestling by the senior campers and tug of war, grass sledging, wheelbarrow races and rock throwing. We took the children to the beach and a local water park on Tuesday.
We entertained the children around the campfire in the evenings with singing and shows. On the last night, there was a barbecue and a dance with English and Greek traditional dancing. We took the Middle and Senior camps onto the moor to gaze at the stars, which are exceptionally bright on Dartmoor due to a lack of light pollution.
The camp’s success was due to the generosity of individuals and organisations with their time and sponsorship. Heatree Activity Centre provided a 30% bursary. The churches of St Haralambos, St Nectarios, 318 Godbearing Fathers, St John of Kronstadt and the Archdiocese funded 16 free and five discounted places. The St Athanasios clergy brotherhood provided a donation. The leaders gave hundreds of hours of their time into planning, preparation and delivery.