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From the 2021 Camps Farthest Out

On the Mountain with the Lord and His People. From June 27 to July 3, 2021, I had the joy of attending a CFO retreat at Shrine Mont, in the foothills of the Great North Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a beautiful location.

A drama skit being performed.

The CFOs (Camps Farthest Out) were established by Professor Glenn Clark in the 1930s to be a place where Christians met, learned effective prayer and enjoyed each other in various spiritual and recreational activities within a summer camp atmosphere. Prof. Clark was deeply influenced by the classic Christian work, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He modeled the CFO around the idea of Christians experiencing the presence of God in meditation, prayer, and creative activities such as drama skits and painting. That was a great insight. These camps were also intense opportunities for seeking God, asking and experimenting with effective prayer, especially healing prayer. This is particularly interesting when we recall that this was an era when cessationism reigned supreme in mainline Protestantism doctrine, when healing prayer and the miraculous were not present.

Image: Shrine Mont CFO

Unlike other Christian retreats, the camp schedule allowed for a several hours of free time for rest or recreation. A splendid idea. I have written a detailed account of the origins and development of the CFO in my work, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions.[1] A reader of this book wrote to me­­ on Facebook and said, “These folks were like a ‘Christian underground,’ fighting against the cessationism.” Yes, this is true. There were, in fact, several other groups during the 1930s-1960s that did the same thing. Take for instance Cecil Day’s Disciplined Order of Christ and the Order of St. Luke (OSL), which focused on bringing effective healing prayer to the mainline churches. This “underground” largely succeeded. Healing prayer has spread beyond being a Pentecostal thing and is a ministry done in many churches, even in some that are still stubbornly cessationist. Much of what was taught at the CFO became standard to charismatic churches, such as inner healing and deliverance prayer.

Looking SE at the Great North Mountain.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

These groups suffered from their successes, as it is no longer a pioneer thing to pray for the sick or do deliverance prayer, and you don’t have to go to a special camp to experience that type of ministry. There are fewer active CFO camps than at their peak (1960-1970) but the Shrine Mont Camp, established in 1952, has survived and thrived to this day. It is a family CFO. That is, much effort is spent to provide programs for children and teens. Other CFOs cater to adults, with little to no provision for children.

From the Shrine Mont CFO website: “Shrine Mont CFO is a place apart from the routine of everyday life where we practice the presence of the living God in community. Camps Farthest Out refers to Christian gatherings in locations in the United States and Canada, and through CFO International, in countries throughout the world.
“As our founder Glenn Clark described it, ‘Camps Farthest Out are dedicated to the purpose of discovering the wholeness of that abundant life which Christ promised – that life which is our rightful heritage whenever we dedicate our body, mind and soul completely to God in play, work and worship.’ CFO can best be characterized as a spiritual training ground, a time to practice experiencing the presence of Jesus, the love of the Father, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Campers have the opportunity to ask God to lead them in times of creative expression, giving the Holy Spirit the chance to minister to us.
“Our camp promotes a lifestyle of prayer rooted in the Trinity, passing on spiritual heritage to the next generation, and growing together as we experience the fullness of Christ’s love. In the rush and stress of the world today, our camp aims to create a safe place where campers can come together in the quiet spaces of God’s creation and hear His voice. We joyfully extend an invitation to you to join us in discovering the presence and kingdom of God together.”

I attended the Golden Isles (Georgia) camp for several years in the 1980s. It was a primarily-adults camp, and I really enjoyed the fellowship of fellow adults praying and doing creatives together. But I discerned a special grace at Shrine Mont. It has become a trans-generational camp where grandparents, adult children, grand-kids, and great-grand-kids can come together for a week. Laughter, joy, and love were in super abundant supply.

Shrine Mont follows the classic CFO schedule. There are two talks, one in the morning and another in the evening. This year’s speakers were Pastor Scott Hobbs of the Victory Church, North Carolina, located on the same barrier island where the Wright brothers flew the first fully-controllable aircraft. Pastor Hobbs spoke of revival and how true revival should be a place of homecoming for unbelievers.  The other speaker was Sen Buell, a layperson from California, who spoke on the gifts of the Spirit. His knowledge of the Bible would put many pastors to shame.

The creative activities, such as drama skits and devotion in motion, using the body to worship, were especially good. One devotion in motion activity was to write a few words about how you survived COVID and walk through a “tunnel of love” as others prayed for you. There were creatives for drama and music. I chose the painting creative and I am glad I did as some of the paintings, other than mine, were really good.

I would urge every reader of this piece to go to a CFO next year. There is something really unique and special about them. Shrine Mont is great, and you don’t have to have children to come, but other camps may be nearer to you.

 

CFO national website where you can get the location of a camp near you and dates is:  https://cfonorthamerica.org

 

Notes

[1] William De Arteaga, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015). [Editor’s note: See also “Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal,” Part 1 at PneumaReview.com and the reviews of Agnes Sandford and Her Companions by Jon Ruthven and Martin Digard.]

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2021

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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