I am a strange Christian. At least that's how I've felt for much of my ten year tenure as a Jesus follower. First of all, I'm Jewish. A fact my very Jewish father likes me to remind me whenever we have the occasion to chat. When I tell him about my adventures as a worship leader and pastor in the deep South (I'm from New York) he likes to hold a dramatic pause and say, "Cameron? Do you know- you're Jewish?"
For this reason and others I've struggled some adjusting to life as not only a Christian but a pastor. I've thought myself an oddball, a strangeling; someone whose story did not really fit into an outline the church was ready, or willing to hear.
The Writer's Retreat at Laity Lodge changed that for me. I was desperate to attend. In fact I stalked Steven Purcell, the director, via email, mentioning this fact too many times to count. Saying that I NEEDED to be there, and I NEEDED to be in Lauren Winner's workshop. I stumbled upon Lauren's book about six months earlier and for the first time since my oddball baptism on Coney Island, I felt an almost electric connection to the body of Christ. Here was a woman, also Jewish, also a writer, who had fallen in love with Jesus in much the same way I had. And she'd written a book about it. And it was published! And people liked it!
I wrote 10 pages for Lauren's workshop. It was hard. I hadn't written like that since college. And most of the way through I tried talking myself out of it. But I kept thinking, "I'm going to meet Lauren Winner! My story can't be crap!"
That workshop changed my life. I know it's a cliche, but there's no other way to say it. I dragged out my strange story, into the light of that little group, in the presence of one of my hero's- and I didn't get booed. In fact, they liked it. Lauren even liked it. All I wanted to know was one thing: Should I keep going?
Since that weekend at Laity Lodge my personal essays have been published in a handful of online journals, and I've written an additional 80 pages -after the ten I started with for the workshop. I'm writing a book. I'm actually writing a book, I'm telling my strange story. And you know what, it's good.
I've spent the last six years serving church's and it's been incredibly fulfilling- but the idea of "extra money" is almost giggle worthy in our house. I would love nothing more than to attend the writer's retreat again, but frankly the only way I could do it would be with a full scholarship. In fact, I was offered a partial scholarship to attend another writer's retreat this year, one I desperately wanted to attend. But I just couldn't make the finances work.
So all that to say- please oh please consider me for the scholarship. I would be ever so grateful. I am at another place with my writing now, a little further down the road- and I would love the opportunity to connect with other writers and editors- and try and glean what the next step is for me and my writing.
Lauren said something to me at last year's retreat. Something that I will never forget. "But what if the church freaks out about my stories? What if the church is offended, disgusted, disinterested?!" I pleaded.
Lauren pushed her cat eye glasses up the bridge of her nose and said, "Cameron, you are the church."