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Big Tent opening day offers big fun for adults and children

Community building activities and children’s program underway

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

PC(USA) Co-Moderators Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson join participants in putting together a 513-piece puzzle … of the Co-Moderators. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

ST. LOUIS – Before the opening plenary of Big Tent 2017, participants came together for a time of gathering and community building. But it was anything but the usual meet and greet.

On a hot St. Louis afternoon, Presbyterians from across the country met in College Hall on the campus of Washington University for what organizers called a time of transition, “from getting here to being here.” There was a space for the introvert and the extrovert, an activity for the cerebral and the silly.

Mel Tubb, one of the organizers, said the group tried to come up with fun and creative ways for every individual to leave behind where they came from and get into the spirit of Big Tent. There were tables with giant Uno cards, Big Tent bingo and glider racing.

In a quieter corner, there were large adult coloring pages, donated by Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and a wide array of colored pencils to stimulate creativity. The finished pieces will become part of worship services over the next two days.

Co-Moderators Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson headlined the most popular table, or at least their likenesses did. In the center of the room was a giant 513-piece puzzle of the two Co-Moderators with a group working intently on putting it together. Edmiston sat at the table smiling and looked up from her phone. “I just tweeted that someone said, ‘Here, I found part of your face.’”

Across campus in the Mudd Building, dozens of children of attendees were getting into the spirt in their own way, with help from Mound Ridge Retreat and Mission Inc. The retreat and camp is located in Southwest Missouri, near Cook Station.

“We tried to bring the camp experience indoors for this event,” said Christy Foster, executive director. “In keeping with the theme of reconciliation, our themes for Thursday and Friday center around peace talks. It’s experiential Christian education.”

The children range in age from 2 to 17 years old, with age-appropriate activities for all. The morning begins with “spark,” activities that get the kids up and moving. There’s a “fuel” stage with lots of physical activities and then a “simmer” stage before the children are returned to parents.

Although the children can’t build an actual campfire to sit around, they are creating a visual fire by dipping their hands in brightly colored paints and placing them on a banner. “The more hands that come together, the greater the fire, the greater the impact,” said Jordan Harper, one of the program managers. Harper began attending camp at Mound Ridge when she was 9 and now works there at 23.

“It’s so much fun to see the kids come out of their shells,” she said. “They sometimes come in very shy and a little timid and it isn’t long before they don’t want to go home because they are having so much fun.”

On Saturday, the group will participate in activities like “buddy boarding” where they walk together and keep their balance, not against one another but against the clock. It’s a team-building activity that fosters bonds that last throughout their three days together.

And some of those relationships may just last well beyond Big Tent. Participants will create envelopes with their names and addresses to share, encouraging the children to become pen pals the old-fashioned way.


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