We drove the 200 miles up to the ski town of Red River last Saturday morning and stayed until Monday afternoon. They hold the Red River Family Encampment there the last weekend in June every year. This year was the 31st encampment. It is a gathering of mostly Church of Christ members from New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado. This year there were 1,800+ in attendance. It runs from Saturday through Tuesday with the beginning session Saturday afternoon and continuing two sessions a day Sunday through Tuesday. We attended the Saturday afternoon session, two on Sunday and the Monday morning session before returning home Monday afternoon. During those sessions we heard 6 sermons, attended 4 classes and joined in a lot of congregational singing. The encampment is a wealth of spiritual encouragement. Talented speakers and teachers are invited from across the country to present thoughts on a common theme. The theme this year was taken from the old hymn – I Love to Tell the Story.
The picture is a view of the Monday morning session from inside the main tent. The singing this year was led by Keith Lancaster who founded the group, Acapella many years ago. Churches of Christ traditionally have only used congregational singing without instrumental accompaniment for worship. The result is that just normal members get pretty good at singing four-part harmony to a wide variety of hymns. The singing during these sessions with 1,800 strong blending their voices was incredibly beautiful – so beautiful I had to hold back tears on a couple of occasions as I sang along. The encampment is self-supporting – a collection is taken Sunday mornings which along with some other contributions and sales of CDs pays for the expenses on a year by year break even basis. None of the speakers, board members, workers, or administrators take any compensation. It is operated so simply that the quality of the program presented amazes. It’s a testament to the value that can be provided by volunteers who believe in the good they are part of providing.
The main tent was close to full with 1,800 in attendance. At the end of each morning session we break into a dozen classes on a variety of subjects taught in smaller tents by teachers from around the country.
Red River is a small town in north-central New Mexico about 30 miles north of Taos; or 100 miles north of Santa Fe. It sits at an elevation of 8,500 ft in a canyon with the Red River running through one side of the length of town on its way to join with the Rio Grande River. Historically Red River was a mining town, but the economy now is driven by a medium sized ski resort and summer tourism. You don’t think of New Mexico as snow country, but Red River gets 200 inches of snow in an average year and the peaks of the Rocky Mountains rise to nearly 11,000 ft from the edges of town.
You can see just a bit of a ski run in this picture – the mountain and the ski runs rise much higher to the left of the picture as this ridge runs up to the peak. It was a joy to be in town this weekend. There were constant smiles and hello’s as we walked the streets – the restaurants were busy, but any slow service was met with patience and a contentment by all we witnessed. I heard no politics discussed by those in attendance or mentioned from the speakers. The faith that the 1,800 in attendance had in common was witnessed in a way that a God who is good would approve, I think. I know that faith is viewed by some of my friends as something that plays out in many Christians in divisiveness and eccentricity over a set of hot button issues. I suspect that might be true in some – but the message taught and received and manifested this weekend was one of the goodness of God, and how those of faith can reflect that to all they know. We attended this encampment in 2005 – 2007 and then moved to South Carolina for eight years. This weekend was a restarting of a tradition I hope. The experience this weekend certainly makes me want to return.