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PNC camp roles change over years: time to discern

Summary of reflections on camps by Conference Minister Mike Denton

The PNC’s relationships with the camps has changed in recent years. Over the last 30 years, about two-thirds of the conference-owned UCC camps have been closed. Only one other conference has two camps. Many were in places folks wouldn’t go. PNC camps are in beautiful places where people want to go for vacation.

Once the PNC considered selling one camp when it was subsidizing them, but then we recommitted to the sites and several churches committed to weeks and weekends. Individual donors stepped up.  We worked to make the camps to be self-supporting.

Recently the PNC adjusted its commitment.

• Ten years ago, the camps kept their own financial records. Now it is mostly done through the conference office and the Stewardship Committee.

• Ten years ago, the camps were treated as organizations separate from the conference, but slowly we have clarified how we are mutually accountable to and supportive of each other.

• Ten years ago, the camps operated independently. Now, the camp managers are in regular communication, planning, strategizing and supporting each other’s programs. Now they have shared about best safety practices and about creating a space and programs that include faith formation.

Once little from Our Churches Wider Mission went to camps, but that has changed.

Part of the adjustments have also come from demographic changes. Churches have fewer children and youth, so fewer come to weeklong summer camps. That was going to become unsustainable, so instead of two camps doing the traditional programs, they are consolidated at N-Sid-Sen.

Pilgrim Firs programming for youth, is at various times of the year for shorter periods. It is the launching site for intergenerational work camps, which are harder for churches to plan.

Once church use of camps was supplemented by non-church groups.  Now the majority of camp income is from non-church groups. Many of those groups have a greater sense of ownership and dedication to the camps than our churches.

Recently, some of our most significant gifts have come from non-church related groups that rent the camps.

Our camp managing directors Mark Boyd (N-Sid-Sen) and Wade Zick (Pilgrim Firs) are stepping up and asking hard questions. They are not to step up alone and come up with all the answers. We have to discern what we’re being called for together.

In the coming months, PNC individuals and churches will be invited to discern the role of the camps in our conference life, as well as discern their involvement in the camps; what they can give to camps for maintenance issues and upgrades; what ministry the camps may offer to the world as we seek to deepen our relationships, do justice, serve through loving kindness and walk humbly with God.

Several decades ago, our conference committed to a brave and risky covenant to fill part of our call to ministry through our camps.

What are we being called to in this time and place?


Pacific Northwest United Church News © April-May 2018


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