There’s an unspoken kinship felt when 300 camp and retreat leaders get together to go to camp. A caring community is experienced much like what is present on the grounds of our camp and retreat centers when youth come to take part in a week of summer camp.
The Life Enrichment Center & Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park, FL, recently hosted the bi-annual gathering of camp & retreat leaders, the largest and most expansive training event for staff, volunteers and board members within the UM Church. Among those attending were 21 staff members representing all six centers of the Upper New York Annual Conference.
Dynamic keynote speakers included Rev. Harold D. Lewis, Sr., Director, Black Congregational Excellence Center for Congregational Excellence; Rev. Candace Lewis, Executive Director of the New Church Starts (Path 1), GBOD; Dr. Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean of the Boston University School of Theology, and Peg Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the American Camp Association.
Each speaker, in their own unique way, exhorted those present to REFLECT Christ, the light of life; SHINE! Bear witness to the glory of God; and RADIATE, Let God’s light shine through us out into the world.
Jurisdictional meetings, kindred gatherings, and workshops that dealt with finances, staff management, tending the soul, photography, faith formation, food service, maximizing volunteers, property management, organizing wilderness trips, and much more, stimulated conversation around how to implement what was learned at the local site level.
Luke & Rebekah Wachob, co-directors of Aldersgate, reflected on their experience as first time attendees. “As brand-new directors, attending the National Gathering was an invaluable opportunity where we not only learned myriads of ideas on how to improve our camp, but also where we were embraced by a national community of co-workers who either are, or already have been, in our shoes. This network is one that will benefit us for many years to come.”
The Rev. Robert Stoppert received the prestigious Legacy of Leadership Award from the National Camp and Retreat Committee, Inc. for his significant work and ministry of leadership on both a national and local level. Bob was one of two individuals honored this year at the National Camp Leader’s Gathering in Fruitland, FL.
A retired Elder of the Upper New York Annual Conference, Rev. Stoppert is a former director of Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center in Moravia, and director of camping for the former North Central New York Annual Conference. The Stoppert Meeting Room, named in his honor during the recent expansion and renovation of Emmaus Commons, testifies to the gratitude felt for Bob’s commitment to Casowasco over the years.