The sun is still rising over Patterson Hall when the morning bell rings, just as you remember it. The air is cool from the night before but, already, you can tell it’s going to be a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a hike to Wind Tunnel or a climb up to the top of Wolfpen. Soon, campers in groups of twos and threes, are walking up the road on their way to Morning Prayer followed by breakfast. Later, on the way back to their cabins for morning inspection, more than a few of them enviously are looking at the swimming pool. They know where they want to be in the afternoon. In the distance these campers look so very familiar to you, even though you have not been a camper yourself for ten, or twenty, or thirty, or even forty years.
The Cathedral Domain is like that: timeless.
This past summer, my wife, Andrea, and I had the chance to spend a night at the Domain during the start of a new Senior Conference. While the early arrivals played Four Square, others were getting settled in their new homes for the week, the familiar banging of the screen doors echoing across the camp from St Andrew’s Cabin to Christ Church, from Calvary to Trinity.
This was a “rebuilding” year for Senior Conference; an amazing 22 campers graduated in 2015. But while their numbers might have been smaller than usual this year, the spirit of these campers was something that anyone who has ever been to the Domain—whether to Girls’ Camp or Boys’, to Junior or Senior Conference—would recognize in an instant. You could see it as they lined up for dinner, talking away as they picked up the same metal trays Glenn Adkins brought to the first camps. You could see it when Cindy Sigmon led the “Ice Breakers” event afterward in the Great Hall. You could see it when these same campers set off on an evening hike to the Bat Cave where this year’s clergymen held a Eucharist to show how early Christians, persecuted and outlawed, worshiped our Lord in secret. “The kids,” one counselor later told me, “really opened up to that.”
The overarching theme of this year’s camps played on a more contemporary event: the Summer Olympics. Campers’ T-shirts sported the Olympic logo; a pole outside the Dining Hall displayed arrows showing the number of miles from this special place on the Mountain to Olympic cities around the world; one night of camp even featured an “Olympics Parade.” But the theme had a twist. Above the Olympic rings on the back of each T-shirt was printed a verse from First Corinthians: “Run the Good Race.” Because that, really, is what a week at the Domain is all about: preparing those who spend a week there for the challenges they face when they leave that place on the Mountain behind.
Some will come back after their last year at camp. Virtually all of the counselors at this year’s Senior Conference were themselves former campers. One happily called herself a “Domain Lifer”; another had made the trip all the way from Alexandria, Virginia just for the chance to share again in an experience that has shaped countless lives for the better. While the Cathedral Domain was founded to serve the needs of the people of the Diocese of Lexington, its reach has no boundaries. Step inside at the beautiful dining hall and you will be astonished at flags from around the world hanging from the ceiling. Each one represents campers or counselors from nations on every continent of the globe.
The Cathedral Domain is indeed timeless. The memories and the friendships made there last lifetimes. But running and maintaining camps such as the Domain are expensive operations, far more than they were when many of us were campers ourselves. As a member of the American Camp Association, for example, the Cathedral Domain meets up to 300 national standards for health, safety, and program quality. While the Diocese of Lexington continues to support the Domain, it cannot do so alone. And while volunteers help staff the camps, none receiving a penny in pay, their time and talent can only go so far.
That is why I am sharing my story with you today.
When I was at the Domain many years ago, a favorite camp song reminded us that once you experience God’s love, “you want to pass it on.” We need your help to pass on to a new generation the experiences you once had, experiences that change lives forever. Please offer a gift for your memory of a special relationship formed on the mountain.
Your contribution to the Cathedral Domain ensures that children whose families cannot afford it are given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Domain, like the Christ we believe in, is open to all. In practice, that means that over 20 percent of the children and teenagers who come to the Domain are in need of some form of assistance and can only do so thanks to your generosity. A contribution of $495 ensures one child a full week at one of the Domain’s camps; $255 covers the costs of a child attending a mini-camp. Whatever amount you can give, large or small, will allow us to carry on the work of a place that is irreplaceable,
not least in our hearts.
Thank you for taking time to read this story. And come visit the Mountain sometime, especially if you haven’t been for a while. You won’t be surprised that you want to stay, even as you have to go. And thank you, also, for your generous gift!
The Cathedral Domain means so much to so many generations, and continues to impact families such as the Matthews. Won’t you join us in helping to continue reaching future generations by making a donation today?