Camping out - Madonna Magazine

Camping out

Alice Carwardine 26 August 2021

We should go camping!,” says mum. “No. Absolutely not,” says dad before he launches into the following story that explains why he was put off camping for life.

My family is very very big. Mum is one of 12. I have something like 26 cousins, and I’ve now lost count of the number of children they have had. When I was little, we all gathered for a family party. The whole family camped out that weekend so that we could enjoy the celebrations from Friday to Sunday. But on the first night, a big storm hit.

The family had set up two big gazebo tents to put the food and drinks under for the party. Part-way through the afternoon, it started to bucket down with rain. When it started to rain, the family had to squish together under the two tents to stay dry. Agitated kids, wet and tired adults mixed with food that was now wet, turned a great party into something of a nightmare.

My dad, who is only a hair over five foot, was reaching up and holding the collapsed corner of the gazebo. Half of him was drenched to the bone, cold and shivering. Since he had begun to hold it, the water had pooled on top of the gazebo. Only his hand was holding the dip up high enough to stop it from overflowing.

My wonderful, tall, helpful grandfather noticed my dad, struggling to keep the roof of the gazebo in-tact. He waded his way through the sea of cramped relatives over to him and said ‘here, let me hold that for you.’ As he grabbed hold of the collapsed corner, he managed to bump the pool of water that had formed on top and tip it straight down onto my dad’s head, completely covering him in freezing cold water! Leaving grandad completely dry. ‘Ooops,’ he said. As my dad cursed and shivered some more as he shook off the water. He decided to wait out the rest of the storm in the rain arguing that because he was wet already, the rain wouldn’t make much difference. It meant that he didn’t have to feel cramped and squished in with my other taller relatives.


I was reminded of this story when reading about the Season of Creation (1 Sept-4 Oct) theme for 2021. This year the symbol for the Season of Creation is a tent, and that was what prompted me to think of the story.

To mark the season of creation, participants have been asked to transform their home into a tent as a sign of hospitality. Although, hopefully a tent that holds up better than the one at my family’s party.

In Genesis, Abraham offers hospitality to three travellers and welcomes them into his tent. The season of creation asks us to remember that our time on earth is temporary, similar to the experience of camping in a tent. Our tent should always be open to helping others, but hopefully without drenching them in water. And at the same time, we must remember that sometime later, someone else will use our camping site. So, we do need to look after it in any way that we can.

But for a symbol that invokes images of a temporary home, the theme implies something more permanent. This year, the theme for the Season of Creation across the globe was ‘A home for all, renewing the Oikos of God’.

For those not fluent in Greek, oikos means ‘home’ or ‘household’. In a way, the theme is calling back to the title of Pope Francis’ document ‘Laudato si’ – On care for our common home,’ by asking us to renew the home of God.


When caring for our common home, we must remember that our time on earth is temporary, just as is our time in a tent. Just as with tents, and just as with our lives on earth, in many ways our houses, the physical building structures such as units, tiny houses, our cottages and our mansions are also, temporary. They are vulnerable to things such as fire, water and air. Many ancient home structures have been buried for thousands of years. But our ‘home’, the whole of creation, the Earth, is permanent.

Unlike how our lives are fleeting and temporary, God’s life with us is permanent. God made his home on Earth when he sent his Son Jesus to live among us. The Incarnation of God in Jesus, or as John 1:1-18 explains, when the Word became flesh, God made his home with us. I remember reading Elizabeth Johnson’s explanation of the Incarnation in her book Ask the Beasts. She says that with the incarnation God ‘pitche[d] a tent in the midst of the world, becoming personally part of its history’.

Of course, when talking about the incarnation which is ongoing, God is still pitching his tent here with us now, forever.