Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Young adult finds that her PNC friendships continue

Still carry on discussions on faith and values at camps and retreats

By Mary Stamp

Dana Weir of Port Townsend recently joined in the Work Camp at N-Sid-Sen, where she began attending camps since she was a child in Newport.

Dana Weir at Pilgrim Firs
Robbie Gilchrist, Dana Weir and Brian Kay led a discussion on art and spirituality at Pilgrim Firs high school camp in 2010.

Her friendships have continued from years at Pacific Northwest UCC camps and retreats, the former conference Youth and Young Adult Council (YYAC), and national and regional youth events.

These friends have been like family,” said Weir, one of about dozens of youth and young adults who keep in contact and continue to be involved with the conference. Some are still assisting as camp counselors at both N-Sid-Sen and Pilgrim Firs.

When the friends meet, they continue their discussions about faith, philosophy, theology and the role of the UCC, she said.

Weir, who graduated from Newport High School in 1997, became active through years of camping at N-Sid-Sen and quarterly meetings of the former YYAC when she was in high school.

She was among four who went to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.—Signe Hill of Edmonds, Harmony Welcher of Seattle and Brian Kay of Carnation—drawn by a camp friend, Becky Weaver of Spokane, who was studying there.

After graduating in 2001, Weir worked a year at an after-school program before she did graduate studies in spiritual traditions and ethics at Marylhurst.

“Becca Harviston-Kottler who went to Lewis and Clark College, Signe, Brian and I moved to Portland after college and kept our circle together,” she said. “Signe worked for an international student exchange program and completed a teaching degree at Pacific University. Becca earned a masters in public administration,” she added.

When Robyn Cummer, who was in the Tolt youth group in Carnation, moved to Portland, they reconnected with her while she finished a master’s degree in journalism.

Weir said her friendship with Kay deepened during college, and they are now married. Kay worked eight years with Oregon state parks. He and Weir married in 2006 and now live at Port Townsend, where they have reconnected with other UCC friends, Sean Brackett of Olympia and Rachel Teigen of Seattle, who also married.

Weir teaches art and preschool in Port Townsend, and Kay is an administrator at the Marine Science Center. Becca Peterson and Nick Runte, who also married, remain active with Pilgrim Firs, renewing ties through their continued involvement, said Weir, who with Kay, led a 2010 workshop for senior high camp at Pilgrim Firs.

When I go to camp, I feel it is my community. It’s where I belong,” she said. “The friends were a support community during and after the death of Brian’s mother, PNC treasurer Kathy Youde, last November. Camp friends offered shoulders to cry on and a community,” Weir said.

The friends now also keep connected through Facebook.

Senior High Camp
Dana and friends lead discussion at Pilgrim Firs.

At a retreat two years ago at Pilgrim Firs, they talked about the role of the UCC for 18-to-30-year olds. They continue their discussion at camps and in personal gatherings.

“The community I was part of when I was young is still central to my growth as a person of faith,” she said. “It gives me a sense of belonging that carries into adulthood. We have a unique bond and understanding.”

At camps, Weir said she explored her religious experience and beliefs.

“The UCC allowed me to explore rather than be stilted by some doctrine or orthodoxy,” she said. “I was encouraged to discover my own spiritual life and how it relates to the rest of the world.”

That faith, she finds, is reaffirmed every time she goes to camps or retreats or to be a speaker for senior high camp. After she goes, she comes back home “committed to be a better citizen, more compassionate and centered.”

Her community involvement centers around her work as a teacher and artist, advocating for the environment.

“When Brian and I say we met at church camp, most people assume it was an evangelical or fundamentalist camp with a rigid theology,” she said. “It’s hard to explain that there are forms of progressive theology that are alive and have along history.

My generation wants change and reform,” she said. “We found the most profound expression of that at camp.”

Most of the group continue to be involved in UCC churches, but do not necessarily go every Sunday. Weir and Kay have attended a new, small UCC church group that is meeting at Port Townsend.

“We talk about what young adults are looking for in church—why camp is a draw but churches struggle to keep young adults attending,” she said.

Camps are out-of-doors, a place to reflect with opportunities for artistic expression, music and spirituality through music, time for silent meditation and prayer outside the walls of a church.

I love the UCC. It’s my heritage. I like the formal services, but I also would like more time for silence, meditation and contemplative practices,” she said.

To find that, Weir participates in a small group that does a monthly Taizé contemplative service in Port Townsend.

“I often go on walks and hikes,” she said. “I like to be outdoors in the wilderness and in touch with nature. It feeds my spiritual life.”

Taize art
Taizé art panel by Dana Weir

Weir said her art also reflects her spiritual life. She has done a collage using texts from Taizé songs and biblical phrases.

Art has potential to connect people of vastly different belief systems and traditions,” she said. “Image and word bring people together. People come to galleries searching for images to connect with.”

In teaching preschool children at Firefly Academy and elementary children at Swan School, she finds them constantly open to discovering relationships within the world around them.

“So much of daily life in this culture is about separateness and lack of familiarity with what is around us. Early childhood fosters a sense of belonging and connection that serves children well the rest of their lives,” she said. “As a teacher, I never stop learning. Children are teachers in a collaborative process,” she said.

For information, call 503-975-8991 or email

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © Summer 2011





Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share