Jan 16, 2024 | John W. Coleman

“How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose,” wrote Thomas Wentworth Higginson in 1861, “if there were no winter in our year!”

Our three year-round Camp and Retreat Centers are getting a head start on the big chill, welcoming especially children, youth and young adults from Eastern PA and Greater New Jersey to come discover and enjoy “lessons of faith and beauty” during their many winter and spring events.

Titles like “Winter Blast” and “Winter Jamboree,” along with Confirmation Retreat themes like “Are You Ready to Embrace Your Faith?” and “My Methodist Identity” promise an ideal mix of sense and sensibility, as participants explore the diverse dimensions of God’s creation and generosity both inside and outside.

Pocono Plateau Camp and Retreat Center

Pocono Plateau Winter Jamboree

There’s no winter hibernation for Pocono Plateau, whose 750 acres will be bustling with retreats, especially during Presidents Day weekend in February. The Children’s Winter Jamboree Retreat for 3rd–to 6th-graders and the Winter Blast Retreat for Youth will both happen February 16 to 18. And both promise tons of fun, indoor and outdoor, including games and recreation, Bible learning, campfires with ‘smores and yes, so much more.

Meanwhile, the Plateau will host seven-hour Winter Day Camps Feb. 16 and 19, while school is out, and two-hour Plateau Youth Fellowship Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., for church youth groups (6th to 12th graders). The three Youth Fellowship Sundays are scheduled for February 11, March 10 and April 14.

“We offer time for games, adventure program activities, snacks and devotions,” says camp director Carmen O’Shea, describing the events as “great for church youth groups and parents looking for something fun to do with their kids.”

Spring begins March 19, and Pocono Plateau will be ready to host an Easter Family Retreat  March 22-24, featuring the stations of the cross, an Easter egg hunt, crafts, games and Palm Sunday worship, all in the peace and sacredness of the camp’s mountaintop. A Spring Day Camp will follow March 28 and April 1; then the Confirmation Retreat April 19–21 (Learn more); and finally, the fun, fascinating and fearless annual Father & Son Dangerous Retreat  April 26 – 28. Learn more.  

Learn more and register for all events. Contact the program manager with any questions at program@poconoplateau.org or 570-676-3665.  

Gretna Glen Camp and Retreat Center

Gretna Glen will continue its traditional, monthly Free Youth Event Sundays. The next ones are January 21, February 18 and March 17, all from 4 to 6:30 p.m. They invite youth groups to come enjoy the outdoors (and indoors if necessary) for play, worship and fellowship, joining together as part of a larger church community. 

“Gretna Glen is excited to partner with you and your youth ministry,” says camp director Apryl Miller. “Our Free Youth Events are designed to give youth groups of all sizes a large-group worship experience. Plus, games, outdoor fun, interesting speakers, interactive worship and a snack will be provided by the Gretna Glen team.” Be sure to let them know you’re coming by contacting guestservices@gretnaglen.org.  Learn more.

Gretna Glen will also host its weekend Youth Winter Blast February 2-4, for ages 13 to 18. Their theme for this event is “Rooted,” signifying our call and gift of divine grace from God that can plant and nurture our spiritual lives deep in good soil to last for generations.

“It’s a way to get away from the busyness of everyday life and just be at camp with friends, old and new,” says Miller. “Throughout the event we will play awesome group games, have renewing worship experiences and reconnect with nature. There’s something for everyone, and a great chance to see camp in the crisp winter air, with the wood stove cranking out the heat.”

A Young Adult Retreat will follow February 23-24, offering attendees the winter beauty of the camp and “a weekend filled with food, fun, friendship and new challenges to experience in community together.”

And the 24-hour Children’s Spring Blast retreat March 22-23 will gather 6-to-12 year-olds to enjoy brisk, spring time weather, music, games, food, Christian nurture and memorable experiences as children of God.  

April’s calendar begins with Gretna Glen’s annual, weekend Confirmation Retreat April 12-14, where confirmands will seek to answer the compelling question, “Are you Ready to Embrace Your Faith?” Learn more and register now for this faith-building and potentially life-changing event.

Finally, at Gretna’s Spring Work Day, April 20, families, youth groups and individuals can come work together on service projects, such as construction, landscaping, cleaning up around the camp. Visit Gretna Glen’s Events page to learn more about all their exciting retreats and activities.

Innabah Camp and Retreat Center

Check out Innabah’s brand new website that illustrates the beauty, wonder and excitement of this favorite camp and retreat venue. Visit their Events web page. Then sign up for the Crafty Connections Retreat February 9-11, a good time to recharge one’s creativity in the stillness of winter during a cozy weekend getaway. Or take advantage of the Children & Youth Retreat February 2-4, for children in grades K-12.

Innabah’s 10th annual Spring Challenge Trail 5k race happens April 6, a perfect time to run, walk, romp and hike around its scenic, rolling hills and dales, alongside French Creek. Start the day with the popular pancake and bacon breakfast and the race. Then stay to enjoy the free Spring Fest, including an Easter egg hunt, games, wagon rides, camp tours and more.

While so much is happening at these three active camp and retreat centers during this winter season, so rich in lessons of faith and beauty, all four camps are preparing for an even busier Summer Camp season starting in June. They are registering summer campers, hiring staff, seeking volunteers, planning programs and preparing their sites to welcome record numbers of campers from across Eastern PA, Greater New Jersey and beyond.

But first, all four camps, including Carson-Simpson Farm Christian Center, will welcome everyone to their annual Open Houses in May and June, where visitors can get a peak and a feel for the summer enjoyment and enrichment experiences soon to come. Watch this space for more information about May events and Summer Camps, coming soon.

Read more about the two Confirmation Retreats in April at Pocono Plateau and Gretna Glen.