Somehow it seems a million miles away. Many moons and many mornings. My hope is that it still stands. My hope is to see it again one day. I would love to teach the course, Winchester 101.
Winchester is where I honed my coaching. Winchester is also where I honed my learning. There was a rebel uprising in Winchester, but this story is about the beginnings of my education.
Somewhere in Virginia, off some country two lane road, you may still find a nice piece of property. If my memory serves me, there was a pond, a dormitory style building with a common area, and a ballfield.
The Southern Baptists probably still own it. More specifically, Columbia Baptist church, just outside of Washington DC.
I was looking for a place to spend the summer playing foosball. I asked my local church if there were churches in Florida that would help me find a job and a place to stay. The plan was to funnel those in need to that particular church.
To my credit, I had just invented what was called “Summer Missions”. To my surprise, this was already a thing.
Applications for the program through the denomination were long since due, but there was a rumor that a youth minister from Columbia Baptist church was interviewing for five intern positions.
This was long before cell phones and happened to be the youth minister was the professor and designer of the Winchester 101.
Though no one at the student center knew me (my time was spent away from religious extras), they set me up to meet the man from DC. I made my way across campus and opened the door to what was known as the Baptist Student Center.
My only remembrance of the process, was when Mark (the youth minister) asked me if I was currently involved in a relationship. I replied that I was on and off again with a girl from high school.
I never knew if that was good for my chances or did not play well.
Mark’s wife called our meeting serendipity. I believe it was also.
I was admitted into the summer school where Winchester 101 was about to begin.
Bunk Beds, Bitching, and Backbiting
That summer, I was a counselor at my first camp at Winchester. I had not known anyone prior to the summer.
We arrived with a few van loads of middle school kids and began to unpack. Boys on the left, girls on the right.
There was a problem after about twenty minutes and we all had to switch sides. Girls on the left, boys on the right.
After settling in, we were about to head to the common area for supper, and there was another problem. Boys on the left, girls on the right.
I remember everyone losing their minds. Everyone except Mark, who seemed to take it all in stride. It was not that Mark was a saint, but it was that he arranged all of this shuffling around in the first place.
Nobody knew about the plan except him. Brilliant.
I am certain there was some Bible verse about not complaining that we were all urged to consider afterwards. I learned it at some point.
My lesson was to watch and consider how different people handled the news of “one more change in plans”. More importantly, my lesson was in watching this genius of a teacher, keep a secret, implement a little suffering, and teach a more valuable lesson.
Mark may not know this, but as it turns out, I learned more about what it meant to be a quiet, humble, and patient teacher, than anything out of a book. Even the Bible.
Mark would want me to say “disciple” here, but I shy away from such terms. But if I were honest, Mark pointed me to Jesus with every breath, and though it may not be the Baptist Jesus, Jesus is my guru to this day.
Jesus is my guru and Winchester 101 is my way.
A couple of years later, I returned to the camp in Winchester with another group of kids. This time I was “the guy”.
After leaving to pick up some milk, I returned to find that a group of elementary students had overrun the staff and were vowing to spend the night outside.
I got my stern voice installed and my serious look, and shamed everyone back into their beds, but inside I was laughing and wanting them to remember the power they had inside them. They learned a lesson about complaining also… that you can do something about the situation.
Both lessons are important.
What About Today?
I moved on from religious life as defined by organizations. I still enjoy the people from all traditions and those not in a tradition.
My lessons are learned in sermons preached by birds and my hymns are sung as the wind flows through limbs of trees. I read a lot of thinkers and a lot of sacred texts.
When people ask me what advice I have, I simply say, “your thoughts are things, how you look at thing can change that thing, and you are better than you know.” I learned it all from various sources, but I lived it for the first time when taking Winchester 101.
You will find this picture on the Facebook page. You will find a lot of drawings and thoughts as a supplement to this blog.
Have a great week.