We have several traditions on the first evening. After a long day of meeting teachers and friends, getting moved in and settled, campers spend the evening program playing get to know you games like “A Big Wind Blows” or “Two Truths and a Lie.” This is tradition number one, and it’s a chance to be silly and start to know who the others are with you for the month.
The second tradition comes with our first collection. Every evening (and morning) of camp we have a short period of quiet in the Quaker worship tradition that we call “collection.” It’s a time to be together in silence as a community. Evening collection is preceded by a song — something simple, often a round or a chant – and at some point it became tradition to sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” at the very first collection. It’s a great choice because so many people know it already, because it’s pretty easy to learn, and because the message of peacefulness is so central to what we believe here.
To me, the key moment in “Dona,” and the first time I feel like camp has officially begun, is the first time we get to three-part harmony in the round. Group one begins with a single line, then group two joins in, and those are both beautiful in themselves. But it is the very first chord, the first “Do-“ when everyone sings together on three different notes, that feels so very important to me, and tonight, as it has before, brought me to tears. It’s ok that we’re not all singing the same note – in fact, what we’re after is singing different notes, together. That harmony, both literal and figurative, is at the heart of FMC.