Reflections on the Reason Rally, Part 2

[The following is a follow up to the earlier post from Camp Quest NorthWest volunteer Bridget Lombardo, reflecting on her experiences from her trip to the other Washington for the Reason Rally earlier earlier this month. – Mike]

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His Flying Noodliness pictured with the Washington Monument.

I feel the need to put mention that, as was expected, there were a handful of protesters in attendance at the Reason Rally, each to their own degree of irritating. After my last shift as a volunteer ended I changed out of my shirt indicating my status as a volunteer and walked around, interacting with a wide variety of people, including three young women who were passing out Bible tracts. I saw what they were doing from a distance and thought “Why? Why are these people so compelled to interfere with our ONE day?”

The thought became so consuming that I needed to ask. They explained that they felt it was their Christian duty to let us know that Jesus loves us. I told them that we are told this on a regular basis; A good number of us were raised in the church, we hear it every day, and in some parts of the country we can’t escape it. Religious individuals are allowed to meet as a community and worship as often as they want, in any way they want. It’s built into our Constitution. No one is denying them that right. No one is telling them they shouldn’t exist or gather as they choose. What is the religious compulsion to interfere the moment a group of atheists forms?

I posed this hypothetical situation for them, in an attempt to get them to understand: “Imagine you are entering your place of worship and there are people standing outside, holding signs and handing out information about why you are evil and shouldn’t be allowed to exist as you are. Imagine that you have to fight your way to the door. Where do you think I would be in that situation? Do you see me as a protester, or would I be defending you?” They all I imagined I would be protesting. “Nope, I would be defending your right to worship, because no one, and I do mean no one, has the right to tell anyone else how or who or what to worship. The moment someone is telling others how to worship, or preventing them from worshiping, we’ve entered a theocracy, and it goes against everything I stand for. And I can guarantee that the majority of the people here would agree with me.” I was lucky to have a few eavesdroppers chime in their agreement. “We just want that same kind of respect from the religious side, give us our one day to gather without protest.”

Two of the women tried to continue to argue. However, I noticed a spark in the eye of the third woman right before she walked away. Maybe she saw the error of their ways (this is what I like to hope), or maybe she just got sick of talking to me (this is really the most likely situation). Either way, I hope I had an impact and they all think twice the next time they have an opportunity like this one.

As this encounter indicates, being secular in this country is never easy, especially when religion is so heavily invested in politics during an election year, and it’s important to find the community that supports you, which is another reason why camp is so valuable, to give the campers and staff alike a place to exist in a world devoid of the constant religious presence. A safe place to explore their philosophies and to learn the kind of arguments they will hear and how to counter them, and more importantly, what kinds of arguments aren’t worth engaging.

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Camp Quest NorthWest Summer Update

The 2016 Camp Quest NorthWest session is fast approaching. There are two board meetings scheduled before the start of camp. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, July 19th at the Round Table Pizza in Burien at 6:30 PM. This will be followed by a final camp planning meeting on Tuesday, August 2nd at the same time and location. All volunteers are welcome to attend!

We are still looking for volunteers to fill positions at camp, including male cabin counselors. We are also looking for someone with a medical background to act as an assistant and/or backup to the camp medic. Visit the Staff page for more information about how to apply to join us at camp!

As a reminder, volunteers will be expected to arrive at Camp Kirby after 1:00 PM on Saturday, August 13th. Campers are expected to be dropped off at Camp Kirby between 1:00 and 3:00 PM on Sunday, August 14th. Camper pickup will be between 10:00 and 11:59 AM on Saturday, August 20th. Volunteers will depart Sunday Morning, August 21st.

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Reflections on the Reason Rally, Part 1

[The following is a post from Camp Quest NorthWest volunteer Bridget Lombardo, reflecting on her recent trip to the other Washington for the Reason Rally earlier this month. – Mike]

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View of the Lincoln Memorial during the 2016 Reason Rally

I’m writing this from the airport as the sun rises over our nation’s capital. Sleep deprived and completely wired, much like the end of camp, I want to take the time to reflect on my weekend adventures and share a few with all of you.

As it was my first trip to DC, I spent quite a bit of my weekend seeing sights and going to museums. The memorials and monuments were equally inspiring and heartbreaking. My personal favorite was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It made me wonder, if he had lived, would he have continued fighting for the civil rights for all as he said in so many of his speeches despite his religious background? What kind of an impact could he have had in the fight for LGBTQ rights? Would he have joined the revolution, or would his religion prevent his intervention? I would love to have had the opportunity to find out.

But more than just being a tourist, the real reason I flew across the country was to help Camp Quest volunteers from around the US help run the family tent at the world’s largest secular rally, the Reason Rally. I’m not sure at this time the specific numbers of people who attended the rally, but it was significant and we had a steady flow of visitors to the family tent throughout the day. It was very hot and humid for this poor northwest native, but the positive energy of the people around me made the day fly by. I was surprised as to how many families I spoke with who had never heard of Camp Quest, but rest assured they left with more information than they ever expected. Not surprisingly, none of the attendees I met were from the northwest region since I can attest to how long this flight is. There were a couple of friendly faces among the volunteers though. It was wonderful to see both Mary Barzack and Ben Frey, both of whom had volunteered for Camp Quest NorthWest at previous sessions. We also had a few of the speakers pop into the family tent, including Laurence Krauss and Shelly Segal. (I even got a hug from Shelly!)

The rally was held at the foot of the Lincoln memorial, in view of the Washington monument, right by the reflecting pool. The importance of these landmarks definitely added to the grandeur of the event, but it was the people and the community who made the event so profound. Realizing that at all of the people in attendance (well, except for the protesters, but more about that later) were there for a shared purpose, a common goal, was simultaneously humbling and empowering. It was a reminder that I am not alone, that it is not just the people in my corner of the world who are fighting for the basic rights of all citizens.

As I rode the train back to my lodging after the event I thought about all of the children I saw throughout the day and how polite they all were, how thoughtful and considerate. I had this overwhelming feeling of hope for our future, along with the realization that this is just the beginning. All of the adults who spoke at and attended the rally are just a part of the first generation of the secular and Atheist activism movement. The movement is only going to get stronger as the next generation, kids who will be more likely to be raised in a secular home, come into their own. This is why Camp Quest is so valuable, not only to the freethought community, but to the world as a whole; to give the future generation the space and tools necessary to grow and continue the fight against irrational belief.

I can’t wait for this year’s camp session even more than before. Getting a glimpse into how our movement is progressing has given me so much more motivation to continue improving Camp Quest, for my own peace of mind, for our campers’ mental well-being, and for the benefit to the rest of society. I said it many times this weekend: my first week of camp changed my life for the better, and is the best thing I’ve ever done. I have more and more hope for the future as I see our young campers grow into their rational thoughts and compassionate behavior.

But I can’t do it alone. We are always looking for more volunteers to help out for our week-long camp session beginning August 14, 2016! If you’re interested in joining this amazing team of dedicated volunteers, submit your application today!

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February 2016 Volunteer Update

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CQNW volunteers Chuck, Meg, Bridget, Phil, Mike and Paul.

Camp Quest National Leadership Summit

The 7th annual Camp Quest Leadership Summit was held in Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend. Volunteers Chuck, Paul, Mike, Bridget, Phil and Meg represented Camp Quest NorthWest with our largest contingent ever at the national summit. They return having shared and received lots of great ideas for future camp sessions, long term planning, and the future of CQNW. We look forward to sharing those ideas with you over the coming months!

Camp Quest NorthWest Planning Retreat

Registration for the March planning retreat is now open. The dates are set for Friday March 18 through Sunday March 20th  at Camp Kirby. Team building and planning activities are scheduled to begin Friday evening after dinner and continue all day Saturday. A CQNW board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sunday morning.

The planning retreat is open to all new and returning volunteers. You are welcome to register and attend regardless of whether or not you plan to be on staff this summer. Visit the registration page and take a few minutes to complete the included questionnaire. Please take a few moments to give thoughtful answers to these questions, as they will be instrumental in developing the camp program this year. Also, please plan to have your registration completed by March 11th in order to give us time to complete the meal planning for this event.

CQNW Board Meeting

The next CQNW board meeting will be Thursday, February 25th and the Round Table Pizza in Burien from 6:30 to 9:00 PM. We hope to see you there!

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January 2016 Volunteer Update

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Performers at the 2015 CQNW Washington Talent Show

Camper Registration

Wow. That was unexpected.

In case you’re just getting caught up, camper registration for Camp Quest NorthWest opened on the morning of January 1st. By that afternoon the camp was fully booked, and by the end of the weekend there was a waitlist that was longer than ever. The CQNW board and registration team are humbled by the appreciation and commitment displayed by this level of demand.

Staff Registration

If this level of demand is any indicator, our need for volunteers is greater than ever. Staff registration is now open and can be found on the staff page on the CQNW website. We encourage volunteers to get their applications in as soon as possible.

Programming Committee

Camp planning is underway but we’re still looking for volunteers to contribute and provide feedback about camp programming. What is programming, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Programming includes all planned activities that happen at camp. From small group instruction to all camp activities, from morning calisthenics to the evening campfire, it’s all within the scope of camp programming. If this interests you, please consider joining the programming committee. Send an email to programming@campquestnorthwest.org to join and I’ll add you to the group. All are welcome!

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Volunteers Paul and Kayla at the 2015 Planning Retreat

CQNW Planning Retreat

We’re also in the process of preparing for the 2016 CQNW Planning Retreat, which will be held March 18-20th at Camp Kirby. Both new and returning volunteers are welcomed to attend. The retreat is also open to others, including friends and parents, who are interested in helping to develop the programming for Camp Quest NorthWest 2016. Details are being finalized, but typically the retreat begins on Friday evening and ends Sunday morning, with the bulk of the planning and other activities scheduled for Saturday. Information about how to register will be available soon!

National Leadership Summit

The 2016 Camp Quest Leadership Summit will be in Charlotte, North Carolina this year from February 19th-21st. Registration is currently open and available at a reduced rate until January 27th. [Correction: The deadline for the reduced rate was January 20th.] You can also book your hotel stay here.

CQNW has limited funds available to assist with travel expenses. If you’re interested in receiving a full or partial scholarship to assist with attending, email board@campquestnorthwest.org or be prepared to make a request at the January 20th board meeting.

Next Meeting

Our next board meeting will be held at the Round Table Pizza in Burien on Wednesday, January 20th at 6:30 PM. All volunteers and interested parties are welcome to attend!

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