Food For Thought

Below is a guest post from George and Sandy Uhl. The Uhl’s have been involved in camping for decades, working on site staff at camp, counseling and serving on countless boards, work groups and task forces. Most recently they were asked to serve on the Operations Task Force that was convened to get Templed Hills up and running again. After many meetings, newly discovered information and lots of conversations, they are convinced that the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the wrong decision in choosing which campsite to keep and which one to sell.

NEWS FROM THE HILLS – OUR OHIO CONFERENCE CAMPS
Over the years, hundreds of children and adults from our congregation have enjoyed the natural and spiritual resources of our Ohio Conference Camps: Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills. Recently, the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference has determined that it is no longer feasible to maintain two camps and voted to sell one of the camps: Pilgrim Hills. The Ohio Conference Board of Directors will be meeting on August 25 to take a second look at the decision to sell Pilgrim Hills. George & I are members of the Operations Task Force that has met a number of times to look at plans for renovating the remaining camp, Templed Hills (TH). The closer we looked at TH, the more disturbed we were to see the deterioration of the closed buildings (Templed Hills has been on “sabbatical” – closed for 4 years). We couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to keep TH and sell Pilgrim Hills (PH) was made without full information. After doing a little research and uncovering facts that prove the reasons for selling PH are not valid, several of the Operations Task Force members (including George & I) have vigorously advocated for a change of plans. The contrast between the two camps in terms of accessible buildings, athletic fields, kitchen facilities, and natural resources is extreme. I have attached a report that I hope you will read carefully. I encourage you to ask questions, share your concerns and let your association minister, association representatives, conference minister (John Gant, jmg@ocucc.org), and conference moderator (Mindy Quellhorst, revmql@gmail.com), know your views. At the bottom of this post you will find an email list for all of the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors is meeting NEXT FRIDAY, August 25th at Dublin U.C.C. beginning at 10AM. We encourage you to email or call your representatives and encourage them to consider reversing their decision.

My motivation to speak out on this issue is based solely on the desire to have a strong Outdoor Ministries program for our youth and adults. The unwise use of limited resources is a moral issue. I fear that there will not be enough money to renovate TH to the standard that will attract campers and outside groups and that in a few short years we will be closing TH as well. Keeping the most viable camp (PH) is what makes sense to me. I hope you agree and I would appreciate your support. Thank you!

In February 2017 the Ohio Conference Board of Directors voted to sell Pilgrim Hills and keep Templed Hills. The reasons for selling Pilgrim Hills were stated as follows:

-The need for an adult retreat center with the aging of our congregations.

-Two major maintenance issues at Pilgrim – the sewage system and the pool, which would need to be addressed immediately and could have price tags upwards of $700,000.

-Templed Hills is easier to access from a major highway and makes it more marketable for new groups.

-The sale of Pilgrim Hills would generate significantly more money.

In April 2017, several of us were asked to become members of the Operations Work Task Force. This group was to determine priorities for renovations and upgrades at Templed Hills (TH). After working onsite at TH and seeing first hand the sad deterioration that has occurred over the last 4 years that this camp has been “on sabbatical”, a significant portion of members of the Operations Work Task Force have had second thoughts about the advisability of spending enormous amounts of money and volunteer energy to bring TH up to a reasonable healthy standard that already exists at Pilgrim Hills (PH). Through research, we have provided some new information that was not available in February, listed the assets of PH compared to TH and asked the Board of Directors to reconsider their decision based on the facts as they now exist. The following is a summary of what we now know. I ask for your support in encouraging a change of plan for the sale of PH. I encourage you to share this information with your congregations and to generate a groundswell of support that will assure the Board of Directors that changing a decision when faced with irrefutable evidence is a prudent action.

To begin with, some serious mold issues have been identified at TH. Buildings that are unheated with water seepage are prime candidates for mold. One of the mold inspectors that visited TH commented that the only buildings not contaminated with mold are the summer Quonset hut-type cabins that have great ventilation since they only have screens (no windows). Although there are currently volunteer groups trying to affect mold abatement, these volunteers have not been trained in dealing with mold and they run the risk of spreading the mold spores instead of containing and eliminating them. If the damp conditions are not eliminated and the buildings are not waterproofed, mold will continue to be a problem. Some people are not aware of the severity of illnesses that can be traced to exposure to mold. It is a fact that one camp employee was hospitalized twice with a severe reaction to exposure to mold at TH and another employee also had health consequences due to exposure to the mold.

None of the buildings at TH are handicap accessible. There are steep hills, stairs and narrow doorways that impede persons with mobility issues from fully using the camp. Adding bathrooms and changing doorways is not a cheap fix. PH already has accessible restrooms in the lodge and in several cabins. At PH there is a lighted boardwalk to more than half of the camp and drivable roads to buildings that are not serviced by the boardwalk.

None of the buildings at TH have been heated for at least 4 years. We expect to find many problems with the boilers and furnaces in the main buildings. TH is run on propane, fuel oil and electricity. PH uses electricity and natural gas, which is significantly cheaper. At PH, oil wells have been identified on the property. In the past, 2 oil wells were active and the natural gas was just vented off. Now that natural gas is more commonly used, those wells and the others that have been identified but not drilled could provide a source of revenue in addition to providing natural gas for camp use. Looking at an Ohio Department of Natural Resources map reveals that all of the properties surrounding PH also have oil wells, some producing oil and/or gas and some identified but not yet drilled. Speaking of natural resources, the PH camp manager has a proposal for a modest harvest of trees that would generate close to $100,000.

The two major maintenance issues that were identified at PH and used as a reason to sell this property are now in fact, really not problems at all. The pool has leaked for years. It was necessary to have a hose refilling the pool all summer, which meant that the water was always uncomfortably cold. It was thought to need to be replaced at a cost of $300,000! Last year, a leak specialist identified the location of the leak and it was fixed. The cost of chemicals was cut in half and the water temperature has been very nice. In contrast, the once beautiful pool at TH now leaks in unknown locations and the pump has broken down – another expensive fix. The other major maintenance issue at PH was thought to be the sewage treatment system. Under the impression that we could not add any additional beds due to the capacity of the sewage treatment system at PH, it was surmised that the system would need to be replaced or upgraded at a cost of potentially $400,000! Consulting with the Ohio EPA, it was discovered that PH is actually rated for 270 beds – 70 more than we have currently have. This means we could expand by adding another building with as many as 70 more beds. In addition the EPA was helpful in identifying potential sources for grant money that could help defray costs that we might incur making some relatively minor repairs to the system at PH.

The Operations Work Task Force has looked at architectural drawings for upgrades to Heritage Hall at TH. The drawings include adding accessible bathrooms on both floors, a deck overlooking the field below and interior modifications that would make the building more attractive and functional. The parking area would be modified after waterproofing and fixing leaks. All of these improvements will cost upwards of $200,000. At Skipper Lodge we will need to add first floor restrooms, major improvements to the kitchen, lower level bedrooms and bathrooms. The heating, electrical and lighting systems will need to be upgraded to meet current standards. It is easy to imagine that the cost of these actions will also exceed $200,000. Similar expenditures will be necessary at Memorial Lodge. In contrast, PH is already a fully functioning camp that does not need these huge expenditures. Selling PH because we might be able to do so for more money doesn’t make sense if we have to spend so much to bring TH up to an acceptable level.

 

The comparison between the camps continues:

PH has several flat maintained fields for soccer, baseball, band camp, etc., a basketball court and gaga ball pit. It also has a 3-acre lake for paddleboats, canoes and kayaks. These are the kind of amenities that every camp needs to have. Athletic facilities are very limited at TH. There is one flat maintained field. The pond is very small and doesn’t appear to hold water very efficiently anymore. It is not suitable for any kind of boating.

To address the expressed desire for a building designed for adult retreats and/or grandparent-grandchild camps, a number of buildings have been identified at PH that could be modified to accommodate these types of groups. There is also plenty of space to construct a new building that could be designed for adults. The adult retreat building at TH is in sad condition: mold, dampness, inaccessible bathrooms, and finishes that have been affected by mold including the carpeting, bathroom vanities and some of the walls.

In conclusion, we believe it is immoral to have volunteers not trained in mold abatement and perhaps not even properly protected themselves, cleaning buildings at TH. We believe that it is poor stewardship of our resources to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a camp (TH) that is so sorely lacking in all that is necessary when we already have a camp (PH) that has the amenities that are only pipe dreams at TH. We urge the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference to meet ASAP and make the logical decision to rescind the former decision to sell PH and instead, sell TH.

Respectfully, George & Sandy Uhl

 

Ohio Conference Board of Directors Email Roster:

Rev. Carl Robinson (SONKA Designated Association Minister) crobinson@sonkaucc.org

Mr. Tom Brownfield (CSEOA) Tbrownfield1943@gmail.com

Rev. Sam Buehrer (Treasurer) sam@sylvaniaucc.org

Rev. Daniel Busch (NWOA Association Minister) dlbusch@nwoa.org

Rev. Michael Castle (SONKA) mike@harmonycreekchurch.org

Rev. Kenneth Daniel (NWOA) kdaniel@uchinc.org

Rev. Becky Erb Strang (NWOA) berbstrang@stpaulnb.org

Rev. Kevan Franklin (EOA) dockSF@aol.com

Rev. John Gantt (Interim Conference Minister) jmg@ocucc.org

Ms. Cathy Green (WRA) (Vice-Moderator) green.cjm@gmail.com

Pastor Colin Jones (WRA) Cojo68@gmail.com

Jay McMillen (SONKA) jmcmillen@shiloh.org

Mr. Jim Meyer (WRA) jimmeyer33@gmail.com

Rev. Mindy Quellhorst (Moderator) RevMQL@gmail.com

Mr. Jeff Roeger (EOA) jfroeger@sbcglobal.net

Rev. Rita Root (EOA/WRA Associations Minister) rita@eoawraucc.org

Mr. Tim Smith (Past Moderator) TimLSmith@aol.com

Rev. Bob Tussing (Secretary) rctuss@sbcglobal.net

Dr. Cynthia Tyson (CSE) cynthiatyson484@gmail.com

Rev. Morgan Wickizer (DOC) saccpastor@midohio.twcbc.com

These two are new members of the Board whose terms start after the Annual Gathering. At least one of them will be at the meeting on August 25.

Ms. Pam Linderson (SONKA) (2019) pamlinderson@gmail.com

Rev. Kurt Wieser (EOA) (2019) chaplainkw@aol.com

Pilgrim Hills Documentary Set to Film this Summer

April 11, 2017 – (Avon Lake, Ohio) The Ohio Conference U.C.C. and Affirm Camp have partnered with a team of filmmakers from Trinity U.C.C. to produce a documentary centered on the last summer at Pilgrim Hills. The film will capture the last summer from a variety of perspectives while telling the history of Pilgrim Hills and exploring the statePHILLS documentary_poster draft of summer camping in our country today.

Think about this: you drive into camp, you pass through the pines, the memories flood back, you roll down your windows, you smile, you exhale… you are here. For the past 60 years, that turn onto the paved road along those pines has served as a welcome to a humble 375 acres of ground at the corner of Coshocton and Holmes Counties called Pilgrim Hills. For so many, this place has become sacred and holy ground and will always hold a special place in the hearts of thousands.

Earlier this winter the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the difficult decision to sell Pilgrim Hills and move all our summer camping programs and retreats to Templed Hills beginning 2018.

For the thousands of people who have walked those trails, had an encounter with God, found their best friend in the entire galaxy, fell madly in love, discovered a calling to ministry, laughed until they cried, poured endless amounts of sweat equity into this place, survived thousands of mosquito bites and sang songs until they had no voice, it is sacred ground. Quite possibly the most important ministry Pilgrim Hills accomplished was by simply being… camp.

This summer a team of filmmakers from Trinity U.C.C. in Canton are set to tell the story of our final summer at Pilgrim Hills, to capture the history of this place and embark on the daunting task of sharing just exactly what this place means to so many.

The Ohio Conference appreciates and joins with Affirm Camp in the preparation of a documentary video to celebrate those 60 years that Pilgrim Hills has played a major role in forming faithful relationships with God, creation and others. In order to make this project a reality we need to raise funds. We believe that this is an investment that all of us will be able to cherish for years to come.

Beginning this week Affirm Camp will be leading a fundraising effort to secure the $12,000 needed for this project. They have already secured $2,500 in pledges for the film.

Our hope is that churches, families and individuals who have been shaped or touched by this place will consider donating to this effort. Help us capture the essence of Pilgrim Hills through the history, the beauty, the laughter, the singing and the memories of so many who have shaped and been shaped by this place. We invite you to join us by making a donation through one of the following ways:

  1. Visit ohioucc.org and click on the DONATE tab. Select “Pilgrim Hills Documentary” from the donation designation drop down menu.
  2. Mail a check payable to Ohio Conference U.C.C. with “PH Documentary” noted in the memo line of the check. The mailing addres is 6161 Busch Blvd. Suite #100 Columbus, OH 43229.

We have incentives for donations of every size including:

Any Amount – Update Emails

No matter what amount you give, you will get update emails every other Friday starting June 2nd! These emails will include on-set photos, sneak peeks, advance notice of screenings, and many more! We realize that some of you can’t contribute monetarily to this project. Your prayers are just as important and are so greatly appreciated.

$25 – Special Thanks Credit

With this perk, you get everything above plus your name in the credits under “Special Thanks!”

$50 – DVD Copy

With this perk, you get everything above plus a DVD copy of the movie shipped, for free, to your doorstep!

$100 – 2 Reserved Movie Premiere Tickets

With this perk, you get everything above plus two reserved tickets for the world premiere of the movie! Premiere date and location TBA.

$250 – Free Movie Preview Tickets

With this perk, you get everything above plus unlimited tickets to see an exclusive preview of the movie! Preview dates and locations TBA.

$500 – Preview and Critique

With this perk, you get everything above plus unlimited tickets to see an exclusive preview of the movie! You will also get a chance to fill out your very own critique or survey of the film to give to the creators! You get a chance to make changes in the film! Preview dates and locations TBA.

$750 – Producer Credit

With this perk, you get everything above plus get Producer credit in the film! Your name will be shown at the end of the film, during the credits!

$1000 – Organization Logo Credit

With this perk, you get everything above plus have your organization logo on any promotional material to the film! This includes movie posters, DVD covers, and any marketing material!

$2,000 – Executive Producer Credit

With this perk, you get everything above plus get Executive Producer credit in the film! Your name will be shown at the beginning and end of the film, plus on the movie poster!

To read more about the filmmakers and see a promotional video for the film, please visit www.affirmcamp.org.

We firmly believe that the best days of outdoor ministries and summer camps are yet to come. We believe that as we find ourselves more and more inundated with screens, wifi and technology, that the need for a space and a place to unplug, unwind and connect in ancient, mysterious ways has never been more relevant than today. Celebrating Pilgrim Hills and the ministry it provided for the past 60 years through this film is both an important part of preserving its legacy and moving us toward that future.

Please consider joining us in this effort in memorializing this sacred, beloved ground and all it represents to so many by contributing today. We thank you in advance for your generous support.

For more information or questions regarding the film, please contact Nate Taylor at nate@avonlakeucc.org or 440.503.2549.

Blessings and Happy Camping,

The Affirm Camp Team & Ohio Conference U.C.C.

 

Prayers for our Conference Leadership

Let’s get to the most important thing first – summer camp registration is now OPEN for the 2017 season. The best way to support our camps is to attend them and use the sites for retreats, getaways, gatherings and to simply quiet your mind for a few moments. Don’t miss out on these life-changing experiences this summer. Visit www.journeythehills.org today!

On Friday, December 9th I attended the Ohio Conference Board of Directors Meeting with our lead consultant from Kaleidoscope, Jody Oates. Jody presented the findings of his study that Affirm Camp commissioned in 2015. We tasked Jody with determining the feasibility of running a summer camp program at Pilgrim Hills and providing us with a business plan for doing so. After determining that the report would be best used by the Ohio Conference, we made a decision to gift this report to the Conference for their use – in whichever way they saw fit. The report was received very well and Jody answered questions regarding the report and his findings in the time we were allotted. We are grateful to the Ohio Conference leadership for inviting us to this meeting and making us feel like we were heard. We are also grateful for their acceptance of the Kaleidoscope report and we hope that it will prove to be valuable to them as we go forward.

We still believe that there is a need and a desire for a progressive outdoor ministries program in Ohio. In this era of instant gratification and the need for everything immediately, we believe camp provides a much-needed alternative to the fast pace of today’s culture. We believe that driving a few extra miles to reach our destination for such an experience is a small price to pay for the value of what a week at camp can provide for our young people. While we still firmly believe that Pilgrim Hills is the best site suitable for the next chapter of our Outdoor Ministries, we also recognize that suitable doesn’t always equate to sustainable.

Next Friday, our Conference Board of Directors will once again gather around a table and face decisions regarding our camps that will not be easy to agree upon or easy to accept. Our prayers are with the Conference leadership as they prayerfully consider the options they have in front of them for our Outdoor Ministries programs in Ohio.

There are literally thousands of people who have a vested interest in our two beloved camps and there are just as many passionate emotions from stakeholders of all ages surrounding the future of these sites. Our hope and prayer is that whatever decision is made next Friday, that the Conference will work to ensure that our beloved Outdoor Ministries is provided with proper leadership and resources to move into this new chapter.

Whether you are from the dirt roads of Wayne County or the well-manicured lawns of Sylvania or the concrete covered streets of Camp Washington in Cincinnati, the power of camp will always hold true. Camp transforms lives. Camp builds self-esteem and tears down stereotypes. Camp develops independence and confidence. Camp matters.

Happy Camping.

-Nate Taylor, Affirm Camp

Ohio Conference to Auction 1/3 of Pilgrim Hills

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”
~ John Muir

That’s not a typo. The Ohio Conference Board of Directors is preparing to auction of 131.9 acres of Pilgrim Hills that they consider “not used for programming purposes”. The acreage has been divided into 4 parcels, two in Holmes County and two in Coshocton County. Below you can see a map of the current camp property including the four parcels on the auction block. One thing to note – the parcels being auctioned off do not include Big Rocks.

Microsoft Word - affirmcamp_ph site map OCT 2016.docx

According to a post on the Ohio Conference website on October 25th entitled Treasurer’s Notes: Outdoor Ministries and Camp Update by Conference Treasurer, Rev. Sam Buehrer, the surveying process should be done sometime in November and then a date for an auction will be set.

We are completely at a loss for words at this decision to not only sell ANY part of Pilgrim Hills, but that our Conference leadership would mislead us by saying they are only going to be selling off “logical parcels” of land in a letter to the Conference earlier this fall. We don’t consider logical parcels of land to be 35% of the entire property that we own. We have questioned our current Conference Moderator on this exact discrepency several weeks ago and have yet to be provided an answer to this question.

The argument that we don’t use much of the acreage that is being parceled off for auction isn’t the point. In 1993 the Ohio Conference purchased roughly 175 acres of property, including the 139.1 being auctioned off, in order to provide a buffer to the camping property so we wouldn’t have the worries of having neighbors on our doorstep. It also expanded the footprint of the camp and gave all of us more space in this beautiful corner of Ohio to retreat to, to unplug and tune out the rest of the world for a few hours and a larger piece of land to have an encounter with God.

We believe we lose a lot more when we auction off any part of our camps. We do a disservice to those who came before us who had the foresight and the vision and the courage to preserve these spaces for generations to come. We believe we lose a part of our identity as well as part of our commitment to our core goals.

“Not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Sometimes the best sermon, the best therapy, the best pep talk, the best laughs…are not found inside a church. Sometimes they are found in the middle of the woods. Sometimes we need to wander to feel alive, to feel close to God. I would hate to see us lose 1/3 of our wandering space.

Many will argue that its contradictory to say on one that hand that we shouldn’t sell any land whatsoever, yet advocate for selling one of our camps entirely. Yes that’s correct and that is truly what we believe. We firmly believe that our best chance moving forward is to divest from one of our properties entirely and focus all of our attention on managing, repairing, developing and loving our remaining property. Moreover we believe that the site best positioned for us moving forward is Pilgrim Hills.  The idea of selling off parcels of each site (there are supposedly plans to sell off similar parcels at Templed Hills, but nothing has been officially announced) is an easy way out. It’s taking the can and kicking it further down the road.

Our camps are being placed in the middle of bigger problems facing our Conference and our denomination and even mainline Christianity as a whole. The church is in a decline and in many instances giving towards levels of church governance is declining even faster. The situation in the Ohio Conference is even more complicated and confusing and frustrating for the average person in the pews. We have a structure with two levels of judicatory that essentially are dealing with identity crises themselves. My fear is that selling off a 1/3 of Pilgrim Hills to put a band-aid on the financial emergency facing our Conference will only provide a temporary fix and in a few years we will find ourselves staring at the same scary financial scenarios and 139 less acres of Pilgrim Hills.

Outdoor Ministries continues to be viewed as a liability instead of an asset. We continue to blame it for our financial struggles instead of celebrating it for the lives it has changed.

It is the position of Affirm Camp that we completely disagree with this decision to sell off any property at Pilgrim Hills. If the decision to ever actually, seriously consider selling goes forward than it should certainly not be completed without the following being done first:

  1. A decision made about the structure in the Ohio Conference. Selling any assets before the decisions are made about whether we are even going to have an Ohio Conference is simply irresponsible.
  2. An attempt at a legitimate Capital Campaign, the development of an Annual Fund and an engagement of our 60+ years of camp alumni to assist in the financial needs of the camp.
  3. Offer the land for sale to your local churches, camp families and camp alumni. Maybe we don’t have to worry about new neighbors at all.
  4. A plan for what the profits from the sale of this property would be used for.
  5. A commitment from the Conference leadership that the profits from the sale of any camp property would directly go towards paying down camp debt or capital repairs and/or capital improvements at our camps and a commitment to hiring an outdoor ministry executive. This ministry warrants and deserves this level of staffing.
  6. A long term vision plan for our Outdoor Ministries. Affirm Camp is offering the work of Kaleidoscope and their long-range feasibility and business plan study for Pilgrim Hills to the Ohio Conference Board of Directors. We will post that final report from Kaleidoscope in it’s entirety on this blog later this week.

As this situation continues to develop we will do our best to keep you informed on what we know to be fact. In the meantime continue to keep our camps and our leadership in your prayers as they face these difficult decisions during these uncertain times.

Happy Camping! -Affirm Camp Team

 

 

Still Affirming Camp

My apologies for the long time – no posts. Life happens. We get busy. We work on other things. The one thing I can assure you is that we are not any less focused on affirming our camping ministries in the Ohio Conference than we were the day this movement started.

Our Affirm Camp has met with our consultant, Jody Oates from Kaleidoscope Inc. twice over the past 6 months and we will be meeting with him again this Tuesday, October 11th in Mansfield. Jody will be walking us through some of their preliminary findings and recommendations. The hope is that we will be able to get a final report from his team before the holidays and present their findings to the WRA & EOA Councils.

As it is the ground continues to shift and move around us as we continue to do this important work. Many of you have probably seen the email from our former Conference Moderator, Tim Smith, on the current state of our Outdoor Ministries. If you have not read this, you can read it HERE.

In this letter to the Conference he shares that things are going well and going so well that the Board of Directors has decided to NOT sell either of our campsites and open up Templed Hills to outside rental groups and to contract with U.C.C.R. (United Camps, Conferences and Retreats) to run the operations at Templed Hills. This decision obviously affects the work we are doing in some ways, but it also provides us with an opportunity to partner with the Conference and use the results and recommendations from Kaleidoscope to lay out a long term vision plan for our summer camp program and for Pilgrim Hills.

I have some questions I am awaiting answers to regarding contradictory statements in the letter from Tim Smith and statements made in the Outdoor Ministries Financial Report presented at this month’s Division of Outdoor Ministries Meeting. I will share anything I learn as soon as I hear it in a future blog post.

In the meantime we are excited to launch a new campaign later this week. Watch for more details coming soon.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Happy Camping! -Nate

 

 

Kaleiodscope Task Force Meets Tonight

Tonight in Ashland a team of camp supporters from across the state will gather in Ashland for the first of two workshops with the leadership of Kaleidoscope Inc. They will gathering to begin the work of putting together a feasibility study and business plan for Pilgrim Hills.

The team consists of the following:

Rev. Kelly Burd – Senior Pastor, Pilgrim U.C.C. Tremont                                                               Rev. Heather Haginduff – Associate Pastor, Trinity U.C.C. Canton                                             Jim Meyer- Ohio Conference U.C.C. Board of Directors                                                                Joyce Oyler – Seminary student at Methodist Theological School of Ohio                              Rev. Rob Patton – U.C.C. Minister and lifelong camper & director                                             Rev. Rita Root – WRA/EOA Association Minister                                                                          Robin Stanley – Lawyer & CE Director at First Congregational Church of Claridon                   Nate Taylor – Director of Youth Ministries, Avon Lake U.C.C.                                                    Seth Vaill – lifelong camper & counselor, co-owner of Just a Dream Entertainment                  Shelley Vinciczky – lifelong camper and longtime camp parent                                              Addie Weaver – Youth Development Coordinator, City of Kettering

Stay tuned for updates throughout this process and please keep this team in your prayers as we continue to work faithfully and diligently towards a sustainable vision and game plan for the continuation of outdoor ministries at Pilgrim Hills.

In the meantime….the best way you can help our outdoor ministries is by going to camp. There is still lots of time to sign-up for a camp this summer. Please visit http://www.journeythehills.org for more information today!

Happy Camping. -Nate

Kaleidoscope Inc. Begins Work

Last April we started a grassroots movement called Affirm Camp to advocate for the continuation of the outdoor ministries program in the Ohio Conference of the U.C.C. Over the course of just a few months we collected over 1,000 signatures to our petition, several letters of support for camp and succeeded in putting camp in the spotlight and convincing our Conference leadership to have serious conversations about how to preserve this ministry.

This winter we embarked on a project to begin a relationship with Kaleidoscope Inc. to provide us with a feasibility study and comprehensive business plan for the possibility of our associations (Western Reserve & Eastern Ohio) to acquire and/or lead Outdoor Ministries at  Pilgrim Hills. The project came with a price tag of $8,550. In less than a month, we raised over $11,500 from local congregations and individual families. Over the past month we have presented the proposal from Kaleidoscope Inc. to the Western Reserve and Eastern Ohio councils for their approval. Both councils approved this project and we have given the green light to Kaleidoscope to begin their study.

As our Conference leadership continues to work on how to put both sites up for sale, we are hoping that the work Kaleidoscope does will provide us with a unbiased look at the feasibility of continuing to do Outdoor Ministries at Pilgrim Hills. Our hope is that the results of this study can be beneficial to the Associations and to the Conference in collaboration.

Jody Oates and his team from Kaleidoscope will be doing a site visit to Pilgrim Hills, looking at the numbers from our programs for the past several years, meeting with camp stakeholders, convening a group to help them formulate their plan going forward, and working as fast and efficiently as possible to provide us with their honest, unbiased feedback on the future of camping at Pilgrim Hills. We have shared our information with the Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hart, and the Board of Directors to keep them fully aware of all the work that we are doing.

The reality is that there are so many moving pieces and x-factors in this process at this time in the life of the U.C.C. in Ohio. Our Designated Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hart has announced he will not be continuing his ministry as our Conference Minister once his contract is up this summer, the Ohio Conference Board of Directors could eventually be listing both camp sites for sale at any day, and they could receive offers immediately. On top of all of this, the Conference, the Associations, and our churches are continuing to have big picture discussions about the future governance structure in Ohio.  As you can imagine this puts the future of our entire Outdoor Ministries program, along with both of our physical sites…up in the air.  This is another important reason that we have taken action to work to ensure that this valuable ministry can be continued.

As confusing as this may all sound, we are confident of one thing and that is the fact that there is still a need, a passion and a deep desire for the continuation of an Outdoor Ministries program in Ohio. We are confident that after all the dust settles we will have found a path forward for our Outdoor Ministries that has a vision and a plan and is sustainable for many summers to come. Your prayers and continued support for our camps is greatly appreciated.

The best way you can help….go to camp. Send your kids to camp. Tell your friends about camp. I can promise you won’t give yourself or your child a better gift than the gift of the camping experience.

As we continue to go through this process we will be sure to provide you all with as much information as possible about the progress of this work.

If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

We are grateful for your continued support and interest in the Outdoor Ministries programs in Ohio. Affirm Camp will continue to advocate for funding, staffing and the absolute best in all areas for our outdoor ministries programs. They deserve nothing less.

Sign-up for camp today – http://www.journeythehills.org

-Nate