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Singing and creating to prepare for totality

Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center hosts an intergenerational event around Monday’s eclipse

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

Dr. Sarah Leer, Transitional Youth and Young Adult Developer for the Presbytery of Arkansas, is enraptured by the eclipse along with Janet Hayes and Paul Vasile. (Photo courtesy of Janet Hayes)

From April 6-9, Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in partnership with the Office of Christian Formation of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, hosted an intergenerational Creation care event culminating in three and a half minutes of the total solar eclipse on Monday.

“People came from all over, driving from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama and, of course, Arkansas,” said Janet Hayes, mission specialist for the Office of Christian Formation. Hayes described “a fabulous intergenerational event with participation from all ages,” centered in singing, inspiring worship and participation, including a nature and singing hike and evening song circles. Attendees chose from workshops to learn more about Creation care as well as camp activities like canoeing, fishing and archery, as well as eclipse crafts and cookie decorating.

“We wanted to have an event that aligns with our mission,” said Joel Gill, Ferncliff director. “So, we thought that having an intergenerational Creation care-focused event culminating with the total solar eclipse and marketing the event primarily to Presbyterians and Presbyterian congregations around the country would be a great way to share our space and welcome people to this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

The weather in Little Rock, Arkansas, couldn’t have been better for viewing Monday’s solar eclipse at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Guests were treated to the amazing spring weather and the beauty of Ferncliff. “The weather is amazing and clear skies today!” said one participant as he prepared to take his seat on the vast grassy knoll with the other eclipse viewers.

“This is a cool way to see the eclipse,” said Jane Ann McGee from Dallas, who noted that experiencing Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center drew her to the event. “I really enjoyed it all, but one thing I particularly enjoyed was the worship experience,” she said, noting how skilled Paul Vasile was “in leading us and bringing us together.”

Paul Vasile led participatory worship and singing circles at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center. (Photo by Janet Hayes)

Vasile, the executive director of Music that Makes Community from 2016-23, was invited to the Ferncliff event after meeting Miatta Wilson, associate for the Office of Christian Education, at an intergenerational worship conference in 2023. “A highlight has been the opportunities for intergenerational singing and worship,” said Vasile. “Each morning, we’ve woven our voices and instruments into a beautiful tapestry of praise.”

Vasile also described a Sunday evening Sing Circle and Jam Session where children and adults shared their songs in “a playful and worshipful time.”

“It has been meaningful to connect with folks from around the country and to hear stories from their contexts,” said Vasile, who lives out his calling as a musician and worship leader through transitional ministry and consultation with church and community music programs. He expressed the hope that the gathering offered him: “It definitely enriches my sense of what the church looks like right now.”

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