October 2016 Youth Night at Gretna Glen, where church youth groups can come enjoy free fun, fellowship and faith lessons on Sunday evenings.
October 2016 Youth Night at Gretna Glen, where church youth groups can come enjoy free fun, fellowship and faith lessons on Sunday evenings.

Our camps—changing seasons and young lives

By Bishop Peggy Johnson

It is the darkest, coldest season of the year, but that should not stop us from thinking about the months to come when spring will bring new life, warm sunlight and…CAMP!

Carson Simpson Farm

Carson Simpson Farm

We are so richly blessed with four fantastic outdoor havens of Christian ministry right here in the Eastern PA Conference: Camp Innabah, Carson Simpson Farm, Pocono Plateau and Gretna Glen. These diverse, wonderfully scenic Camp and Retreat Centers provide Christian learning, fun fellowship and life-changing adventures for children, youth and even adults, not only during summer but year-round.

While these jewels may shine brightest in the radiant sunshine of summer, they are no less beautiful and almost as busy in the fall, winter and spring, as they host exciting, indoor-outdoor retreats for all ages. Just take a look below at the schedule of outstanding events at our three year-round sites, and then go to their websites to register now while there’s still time.

Our camps are especially a valuable and essential vehicle for guiding young people to live Christian lives. Here is where we make young disciples for Jesus Christ, opening their minds, their senses and their hearts to learn about God and explore their faith. Many have even discerned a call to ministry right there, amidst the majesty and miracles of God’s creation.

Camp Innabah

Camp Innabah

Camp is also a place where we teach care for creation and model Christian community.  Very few conferences offer the breadth of camping experiences that we have in Eastern PA. Many that once did have since closed camps because of costs and dwindling support.

Indeed, our camps simply cannot exist without the support of our churches. We need ongoing monetary support and ongoing prayers. But we also need volunteers to work as camp counselors and aides, maintenance helpers, promoters to speak to churches, and recruiters to invite more young people to come see their lives change right before their very eyes.

Our hard-working, dedicated and gifted camp directors are asking that every congregation identify someone who could serve as a “Camp Ambassador.” These ambassadors would receive information about upcoming events and schedules. They can then share information with their local church and encourage members to take advantage of camp and retreat activities.

Many times information does not get to people in the pews, and as a result, there are lost opportunities for service and enjoyment of our Camps and Retreat Centers. When you designate a Camp Ambassador for your church, please send their name and contact information to us at the Connectional Ministries Office, in care of Felicia Anderson at fanderson@epaumc.org.

Pocono Plateau

Pocono Plateau

I offer you a final challenge: Identify a young person—maybe two or three—whose families have limited means. Find someone in your church or in your surrounding community. Find a way to get them to camp. It can be a life-changing experience and thus, a worthwhile investment.

Sometimes it may require helping parents fill out the application, or providing the funds, or actually driving the young person to and from the camp in order for them to get there and back home. Many children and youth don’t go to church any more; but we can bring “church” to them through our camping programs.

If every one of our churches would introduce one such child to camp, we could reach 415 more young people for Christ this summer. Isn’t that exciting?  And there is no telling what the fruit of our efforts may be—very possibly a future pastor, youth minister, teacher or camp counselor. Maybe even a future bishop. It has happened many, many times before.

So right now, in the midst of winter, start thinking about the joys of summer camp and the young life you can help change. The possibilities are endless.

(From left) The Rev. Sally Ott, who left her position as Camp & Retreat Ministries Development Coordinator to return to the pastorate in November, meets with camping ministries veteran Carlen Blackstone, who will help with development tasks in the interim, and the Rev. Christopher J. Kurien, Director of Connectional Ministries. John Coleman photo

(From left) The Rev. Sally Ott, who left her position as Camp & Retreat Ministries Development Coordinator to return to the pastorate in November, meets with camping ministries veteran Carlen Blackstone, who will help with development tasks in the interim, and the Rev. Christopher J. Kurien, Director of Connectional Ministries. John Coleman photo


Camp & Retreat Ministries Winter and Spring Events

Gretna Glen
  • Free Youth Group Nights: Feb. 19, March 19, April 23—Sundays 4 to 6:30 PM
  • Youth Winter Blast Retreat: Jan. 28-29—Saturday, 10 AM to Sunday 1 PM
  • Multicultural Youth Retreat (Actively Discovering Human Diversity—Grades 8-12): March 3-5
  • UMC Confirmation Camp: March 31 to April 2 and April 7-9— Friday 7 PM to Sunday 1:30 PM
  • Spring Work Day: April 22—Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Gretna Gritty Mud Run: May 13
Camp Innabah
  • Youth Winter Retreat: Jan. 27 -29 (Grades 7-12)—Friday 7 PM to Sunday 1 PM
  • Challenge Camp Winter Retreat: Feb. 3-5—Friday 7 PM to Sunday 1 PM
  • Women’s Retreat: March 17-19—Friday 7 PM to March 19 1PM
  • Spring 5k Trail Run/Walk: April 8, 9 AM
  • Community Easter Egg Hunt:  April 8, 11 AM
  • Spring Work Day:  May 6, 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Spring Open House: May 20, 10 AM to 3 PM
Pocono Plateau