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Smaller camps conducive to deeper conversations

The shift to campers being at N-Sid-Sen was different from the usual seven day camps that were go-go-go, said managing director Mark Boyd.

N-Sid-Sen sweatshirt reminds people they were missed.

Photo courtesy of Mark Boyd

“Many folks liked the smaller camps that were more intimate and conducive to deeper conversations, especially the youth camps,” he said. 

Mark saw that people sat on beaches and chatted, getting to know each other better with there being more informal times to be together and share who they are.  In contrast, at previous camps, conversations would focus around structured learning activities.

“COVID made people ripe for intensive sharing, delighting in connecting face-to-face as they emerged from isolation,” he said.  “They were asking questions beyond the usual coffee hour conversations.

“We were more creative in how we did things,” Mark said.

For example, the senior high dance was not inside in the dining hall, but outside on the dock.

The big news is that there were no instances of COVID among campers.

Junior high, directed by Stephen Hadden, had all the activities outside adapted to bigger spaces.  Campers in five cabin group “pods” used hoola hoops to make spiritual prayer mandalas around the camp. 

For the closing on Monday, they made a bigger mandala.

In junior high, there were 22 campers, about a third the usual size.  Similarly, senior high camp had 35, which was also a third the usual size, as were two of the three family camps.

Family camps also appreciated the small sizes.  The first one had five families.  The second one had eight families, as did the third.

They spread out in the lodges and cabins.  They were more leisurely.

Family camps needed more flexibility because during those weeks in August there was smoke and heat.

“It did not help to jump in the lake,” he said. “One day they spent in Stillwater distanced because the smoke was so bad.

Meals were all buffet, not family style and tables were cabin groups.

“Campers had the opportunity to go on tours of camp to learn more about the camp beyond the waterfront.  They went on trails and wandered in the meadows.

There were also two young adult camps, one in June exploring where they could go with camp in their future.  The second in August was the class of 2020 that missed camp last year.

The first group wanted to know how to stay connected with camp, said Mark, who led it with Allegra Ritchie. Two connected by returning as counselors for junior high camps and one did crafts for several camps.

“The campers were interested in hearing the history of N-Sid-Sen and the PNW-UCC Conference,” Mark said.  “They wanted to know what happens outside the summer, not aware of how many N-Sid-Sens serves beyond the UCC—Buddists, Sufis from Montana, other churches and groups.

Many did not realize the amount of work it takes to keep up the camp.  They asked what would be needed to serve more people and how to make it more inviting to people of color.

“We realize that one barrier is that we are in North Idaho and there is justifiable concerns,” he said. “Another barrier for some may be the cost, but we can apply for grants to solve that.”

Eight of them toured “the dungeon,” the store room behind the craft room and the pantry downstairs from the kitchen level.

“We will replace cabin 8 this fall with 99 percent of funds covered by insurance.  It will look like the other cabins but have heavier insulated windows and meet current codes,” Mark said.

The tent platforms were  used both for outdoor breakout sessions, for meditation spaces and for tenters.

Financially, Mark knew the camps ran at about one-third the size.  Some expenses were down, but maintenance continued to be needed and done.

“Income was down about half of normal, but September was better than expected.  We lost a dance camp but added three quilting groups of 16 to 20, drawn because they felt safe with our COVID protocols.  Other groups we lost because of the protocols,” he said.

Mark knows the Stewardship Committee is discussing the needs and plans for an appeal.

Related to Pilgrim Firs working to develop a strategic plan, Mark commented that Randy Crowe, his predecessor, left the camp in “great shape” with revolving maintenance plans, aware of the life of the water heater in Spirit Lodge and setting aside funds for a new one when needed.

Part of strategic planning revolves around facilities and maintenance needs, Mark said.

Because he and Wade Zick, managing director at Pilgrim Firs are in regular conversation, Mark said that N-Sid-Sen will benefit from recommendations Kaleidoscope makes for that site.

For information, call 208-689-3489 or visit


Copyright © Fall 2021 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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