The Milky Way and beyond …
…a message from Kingswood’s chaplain, Maria Pia Seirup
Have you ever seen the Milky Way? No, not the Milky Way candy bar, but that huge collection of stars, dust and gas that sometimes decorates the night sky?
A quick search on Google reveals that the best places to see the Milky Way in the U.S. are in the National Parks in Utah, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Hawaii. But guess what!?! You don’t have to go so far away to see the Milky Way. On clear nights, you will find the Milky Way showing up at right above our beloved Camp Kingswood!
July and August are perfect viewing months when the Milky Way will be high in the night sky. At Kingswood, Eagle field, the Farmhouse front yard, the beach, and the Stone Ministry are excellent places to go star gazing in addition to your own campsite if there aren’t trees in the way.
I find the sight of the Milky Way softly glowing behind the bright stars to be humbling, awe-inspiring, and deeply spiritual. The beauty of our galaxy reminds me of the love God showers upon us from on high.
Last summer I created a Vespers service at the Stone Ministry to encourage campers to gather together to experience God’s presence among us after dark. Often the stars and the moon, and sometimes even the Milky Way, join us.
Vespers is an ancient tradition of gathering for prayer at sunset. At Kingswood, we gather just after the sun has set at the Stone Ministry. A hush falls over the participants as the fireplace glows with dancing flames and candles illuminate the stones that have been lovingly placed in the structure by the campers over many years. The 20 minute Vespers service opens with soft music, prayer, a scripture reading, and then we sit in silence for a time following God’s command to “Be still and know that I am God.” God knows we all need time to power down and rest. The Vespers service closes with a few favorite songs and then we quietly walk away filled with awe and wonder.
All ages are welcome at the Vespers service. (Esther, my snowy owl puppet, often makes an appearance to help wiggly little ones settle in.) For those with limited mobility, there is an all-wheel drive car shuttle right into the Stone Ministry site. For those seeking an added delightful, but bumpy, adventure, the Hey! Wagon, decked out with twinkling lights, provides shuttle service with stops at the Barn and the Oasis. The starting time for the Vespers service shifts according to the time of sunset. Start times are posted in the Barn.
Gathering with others to experience the grandness of God’s creation can be a profound experience that brings us into closer relationship with family members as well as with new and old friends and creates bonds that can last a lifetime. Camp Kingswood is an outstanding venue where these opportunities abound.
I hope you will come be a part of the Kingswood cosmic experience this summer!
Peace be with you,
P.S. my name often confuses people. Maria-Pia is my first name. I prefer to be called Maria-Pia or “MP.” — [No, my husband, Peter, the Stone Ministry creator, is not Mr. Pia – we share the same last name, Seirup, pronounced “sigh-rup”]
Rev. Maria-Pia M. Seirup is an ordained United Methodist Deacon. She graduated from Yale Divinity School in 2015. Over the past 20years, Pastor Maria-Pia served at Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in various positions, including Children’s Ministry Director, Associate Pastor, and Director of Pastoral Care. She also served several summers as Chaplain to the youth campers at Woodsmoke. In the spring of 2020, Rev. Maria Pia founded PeaceWork, inc., a ministry seeking to stitch together peace through compassionate service grounded in contemplative prayer.