It was the CITs job to plan and run the Sunday evening vesper service. Our group did not like the word “sermon”, so we chose to prepare a “message”. We drew straws to determine who would read this “message”. I drew the short straw. My fellow CITs assured me that we would all write this document together and I would just read it on Sunday evening. My heart was not really into this task, but I knew I could read it if I had to do it. So I practiced reading it through twice before “showtime”.
After Sunday dinner, the entire camp lined up to walk into the chapel (a really beautiful spot surrounded by trees). We were then informed that the camp director had not yet returned to camp from her day off and we could not begin without her. We CITs began to worry because the sun was setting and we had not brought flashlights (and I had not memorized the “message”). The campers did not have flashlights either.
We were finally able to begin the vesper service. We were hurrying through the program before it got completely dark. It was my turn to read the “message” and the only light I had was from the candles around the altar. I was reading, but not listening to what I was saying, when I noticed a tiny blue flame burning across the top of my paper. I was obviously leaning too close to the candle. I chuckled under my breath as I continued to read the words that had no meaning to me while I extinguished the “fire” with my fingertips. As I read, I wondered if anyone else had seen the flames, and if this evening could get any worse than it already was. Then it occurred to me that the “message” was written on both sides of the paper and the flame may have destroyed the words on the other side. I got to the bottom of the first page and noticed the sentence continued on the back. “Oh, no!”, I thought. “I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I can’t fake it. I can’t just stop in the middle of the sentence and then look for a new sentence. Or would anyone notice if I did?” Luckily, the words were still there at the top of the next page and I could mindlessly continue. I was very glad when that vesper service was finished!
Forty-six years later, while anticipating the 2015 Onanda Reunion, I found the “message”, with burn marks on the top of the paper. Even today, I do not have any idea what I had been reading!