MILROY - Susan D'heedene opens her arms slowly, lifting them above her head then gently moving them down to her feet.
A group of women, some younger and some older than she, follow her movements from their mats, which lay parallel across Hartman Center's chapel floor.
The adult summer camp group just finished a chant in Latin to prepare them for the beginner yoga exercises.
This week, D'heedene and Winnie Kowalik co-directed the Milroy camp's first Body and Soul Camp, which emphasized physical care of the body, meditation, aroma therapy, body prayer and other physical ways to embrace God's spirit.
Camper Katy McDonald, who has cerebral palsy, said she was a little nervous about the camp, especially the yoga. But during the yoga session, D'heedene helped McDonald go through the motions from a chair.
"Yoga is not twisting your body into a pretzel like on a magazine cover," D'heedene explained to the campers. "It's a way to rest the body."
Throughout the exercises, the Waynesboro pastor returned the group's attention to their breathing, a rhythm that she said connects to those of God's creation - like the seasons or the tide.
While yoga may not always be associated with Christianity, D'heedene said one purpose of the camp is to introduce new and bring back old practices of faith that have been lost over the course of time.
Like prayer beads, for example.
Although Catholic churches still say the rosary with beads, many Protestant churches have forgotten the tradition, D'heedene said.
"They're a tactile, tangible way to focus on praying," D'heedene said, adding that every camper made a prayer bead necklace or bracelet.
Camper Ginny Wilkinson, from Danville, motioned to the beads on her wrist, saying that she uses hers as a tool for prayer.
"As I say a prayer, my mind tends to wander," Wilkinson said. "I'm interested to see how I'll do when I'm back to normal life. These will remind us to be more prayerful in daily life."
The necklaces or bracelets are made using five large beads and 28 small beads to form a circle with a hanging cross or symbol pendant. Four large cruciform beads form a cross in the circle, while the smaller seven-bead groups represent the days of the week/creation.
While everyone had the same beads to choose from, ever person's necklace or bracelet was different, said Liza D'heedene, Susan's daughter who works at the camp on the summer service team.
After completing the jewelry, the group shared what was meaningful to them about the beads they chose, and the group blessed their creations, D'heedene said.
Other projects included making collages, coloring mandalas - an ancient form of spiritual art that uses a circle to explore self-expression - and painting rocks.
Looking around the room at the artwork created by the campers, Kowalik added, "They leave here on cloud nine, but this is what carries you."
Art and yoga were not the only mediums from which the campers could experience their faith.
Even food was incorporated into the camp. Instead of the pizza and salad the other campers were eating, the Body and Soul group made their own stir fry, with flat bread and hummus to follow as a later meal.
In a culture where obesity is an epidemic, people need to focus on the reason behind the eating, D'heedene said.
"When we eat, usually we are seeking to fill something in us. It's important to eat well to protect this temple we have," she said referring to the body.
Music, too, was integrated in unique ways through chants and drums.
"'Play' is an important word we use, because God calls us to be joyful," D'heedene said, noting the energy and spirit used while drumming.
D'heedene also taught the group chants and songs from around the world, as a way to prepare the group for deeper communion and awareness of God's presence.
D'heedene said people sometimes ask her why they sing in different languages.
"God calls us to remember all people are God's children," D'heedene said. "When you sing in another language, you know God's love is a whole lot bigger ..."
Building relationships has been a large part of the camp. Kowalik said the intergenerational relationships between the young adults and older adults have brought unique things to the camp. While the youth bring fresh ideas to the group, the older adults bring the wisdom of their years, she said.
"It's really special to have that mix," Kowalik said.
The new camp is not the only one at Hartman Center that focuses on the soul as well as the body. The center also offers hiking camps, sports camps and regular summer camps with games and physical activities as well as spiritual times for growth through devotions, song and quite time for prayer and meditation.
"Kids who come here year after year really establish relationships," said D'heedene, who served as a nurse at the camp before becoming a pastor. "It's so important to the faith of kids - the bigger concept of God and the church. (Hartman Center) is such an important ministry."
Her daughter Liza added, "I've been going here since fourth grade. We used to move every two years, but this was the one place I could always come back to. We've got the whole family thing going on."
The Body and Soul Camp ran from Sunday through today. The directors already are discussing plans for another Body and Soul Camp next year.
For more information about Hartman Center, visit www.hartmancenter.com.