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Linwood Corps Camp

Linwood Corps Camp

By Wayne Derham

The year was 1990, Germany was reunified, the Hubble telescope was launched, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the first web server was created. Although these are momentous events, some may say that what was brewing in Eastern Christchurch would be just as life changing. As the country celebrated the 150th anniversary of Te Tiriti in February, the people of Linwood Salvation Army went camping at Spencer Park.

The origins of this first camp are murky, but legend has it that on a glorious Monday the previous year the adventurous ones were on a picnic at Orton Bradley Park. This wasn’t a big deal, as Linwood prided itself on being a family-oriented outdoors corps (church). Picnics over summer were a long-standing ritual, held at various places all over Canterbury.

On this particular day, one Fiona Mangos (nee Johnston, now White) suggested that it would be a great idea to have an all-weekend picnic, nay camping adventure. With the blessing of the corps officers, Pearce and Winnie McNabb, the planning began, and one year later Corps Camp was in full swing. Not knowing where this was heading, the most was made of our time together. By the end of Waitangi Tuesday, it was decided we would do it again the following year.

We saw out the first challenge—our first officer change. Eight officer-changes later, was this year’s camp, the 35th consecutive camp, all held at Spencer Park in early February, over Waitangi weekend.

The camps have only got stronger with the recent advent of Mondayisation proving a boon for weekend camping. Over the years many formats have been tried: fully organised events, completely unorganised events, retreat mode, indoors, outdoors, hot, cold, wet, dry. The only constant has been FUN; if we aren’t having fun, then why bother. There have been outdoor big screen movies, commando raids, water slides, night walks, colour runs and more. For the last dozen years, the camp has concluded with an actual bun fight, sharing (throwing) the uneaten stale buns with friends and family.

Special guests have included a visit by Willie Wonka; and this year the church service was led by Christchurch’s own Elgregoe the Magician (master of illusion, not real magic). The Sunday service always has its own quirk, whether it be based around hanging clothes on a clothesline, like God clothes us, or country music. But the most is made of being outside, not having to clean up, and there being no rules or expectations. In recent times, the service has been followed up by a catered meal, kindly sponsored by a corps member and cooked by fellow Salvationist Nelson Ching, WHO’s the Caterer.

There have been many memorable moments over the years:

  • torrential rain, which floated Sheila Moreton out of her tent;
  • the debut of a ghillie suit in the commando raid; and the Viet Cong-like refusal of one participant to admit it was over, forcing the whole camp into a search party;
  • evacuation watch, with a fire in the surrounding forest, meaning an all-nighter of helicopters and monsoon buckets;
  • Jim Ellis taking a tent just for his model boats, which he worked on during camp, for several years in a row;
  • current teenager Zach Derham who was dedicated at camp as a three-month-old;
  • one year an escaped prisoner was sighted in the area around the ablutions block we weren’t using.

Many a Linwood child has learnt to ride a bike or drive a car at camp, which was very easy for the first twenty odd years, as we had free rein. Until, that is, the big bad Baptists decided to do a trial camp, particularly since their first big Easter camp was on the horizon and they wanted to test out the facilities—then continued coming back each year there is a long weekend. More recently (like this year) Grace Vineyard has come camping on the years that Waitangi Day falls on a Tuesday or Thursday.

But the one constant has been the faithful Linwood crew, three of whom have stayed at all 35 camps! Camping has been a great way to kick of the year, introduce a new theme, greet new people and induct new corps officers into the Linwood crazy, such as the current corps officers, Majors Jo and Ross Wardle, who have been on the receiving end of a few water bombs, buns and colour runs.

How long will the tradition continue? Well, we’ve already booked for 2025.

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