In the week proceeding the Memorial Day weekend (and squeezed between Letters deadlines) the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center moved into its new home on the other side of the CAMP courtyard. Though construction workers and painters and CAMP Rehoboth volunteers were still swarming all over the building, the time had comewe had to move. Six days later we hosted the first official CAMP Rehoboth event in the new Community Center spacethe annual HEART of the Community art preview party.
Sometime during that event, as I stood out in the beautiful afternoon sunshine reminiscing about the early days of CAMP Rehoboth, I suddenly experienced one of those little memory explosions that seem to flash sometimes through the brain, revealing in an instant a whole new perspective on some aspect of our lives. I felt as if I had suddenly taken a step out of the present and was able, for a brief moment, to peer all the way back down the long corridor that is the life of CAMP Rehoboth.
In the fall of 1990, I clearly remember another moment that struck like a thunderbolt. Steve and I had just completed our third Sundance and had spent the summer in Joyce Felton's apartment behind the Blue Moon. One day I noticed the property at 39 Baltimore Avenue for what felt like the first time. I say felt, because Baltimore Avenue had been an important part of our lives for a decade, and I had walked by that same property for many years. But there it was, emptyand with a big "for rent" sign out front. In that moment something in the back of my mind clicked and I considered for the first time that Rehoboth could be more than just a summer place for us and that it might be time to think about leaving New York. A few weeks later, Joyce was visiting us in NYC, and when we talked about moving to Rehoboth full time, that property came to mind.
And so, with the first ideas of CAMP swirling around in my head, Steve and I rented the entire propertyapartment, stores, and courtyardand set about trying to get something started. It was a foolish venture, of course, and very expensive, but before we gave up the master lease we at least got Lambda Rising into one of the stores and a small caf was begun in half of the space that is now Lori's Caf. Most importantly, CAMP Rehoboth was organized and occupied the tiny space that today is the other half of Lori's.
A couple of years later, CAMP Rehoboth moved into the slightly larger space in the back corner of the courtyard and remained there through the rest of the 90s. In 2002, CAMP Rehoboth purchased the property at 39 Baltimore Avenue, and this past January, the adjacent property at 37 Baltimore Avenue, as wellwhich, of course brings us to the present, and our current renovation and upcoming construction plans.
What happened in that revelatory moment I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, was the awareness that CAMP Rehoboth is growing up to be exactly what it was meant to be. Over the last 15 years the organization has moved through various stages of developmentmuch as a child grows to adulthood. In a way, the original vision of CAMP Rehoboth is like human DNA, containing all the information a body needs in order to grow up. All that remains is the time to grow up inthe time to fully become all that we are capable of being.
Next year, CAMP Rehoboth will turn "sweet 16," and perhaps we will celebrate with a whole new kind of "coming out" party. We are a unique community with an organization unlike any other. We have connections all up and down the east coast and beyond. Our vision for the Community Center is to be the "heart of the community," but just how far our community is capable of reaching remains to be seen.
I've felt for a long time that CAMP Rehoboth was some kind of training groundyears ago we even had "Boot CAMP" t-shirts madeand that it was preparing us to deal with the world around us in new and different ways. Maybe it's simply teaching us how to grow up and take creative responsibility for the world around usfor the community in which we live.
GLBT people make great mediators, artists, and teachers (to name a few) because of our unique place in the world, and because of our ability to see from a viewpoint that is not limited to the cultural definitions of masculine and feminine. We have gifts to share with the world around usall humans do, of coursethe hard part is sometimes just accepting that, and allowing it to happen. A part of the mission statement of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center is to make it a gift to the greater community around us. Perhaps a part of our own growing up is also just to accept that and to allow it to happen.
In the next few weeks, new signs for the Community Center will show our house and heart logo over the vertical stripes of a rainbow. In a way it creates an up arrow with a heart in it, and seems a good sign that we are indeed growing up into our dream of creating a more positive world for us all.
In a little book that contains my poetry, there is an unfinished fragment written shortly before CAMP Rehoboth came into existence. Sitting here in our new CAMP Rehoboth "home" next to the Blue Moon on Baltimore Avenue,
I can't help but marvel at how well it seems to capture our current situation....
Somewhere over the rainbow and beyond the moon A house awaits with open doors and windows wide
There dwells the spirits of wondrous stars a family full of light Music/Laughter dancing feet The gentle words of spoken hearts...
(unfinished, Rehoboth Beach, September 3, 1989)
Murray Archibald is President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth.
The illustrations are details from the 2005 Heart of the Community paintings by (from left) Terry Isner, Ward Ellinger. Murray Archibald, and Ronald Butt and Liza Fleming.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 6 June 3, 2005