As United Methodists we have a long history of developing Christian spiritual leaders.
The early Methodist movement was engaged in bands, class meetings and societies, all of which fostered spiritual growth among the people called Methodists. Along with these, there were places that John Wesley and his preachers traveled to encounter people in the outdoors. This open-air preaching would lead to the development of revivals and tent meetings in the new nation called the United States of America. This method of developing spiritual leaders can be found in our own conference in the history of Falls City, OR. Note: There may be other sites as well, so if you know of them, please let me know so that we can include them in our history for our upcoming 100th anniversary of Camp and Retreat Ministries in 2022.
There were other ways in which the early Church’s growth and development styles gave birth to Camp and Retreat Ministries: the Chautauqua programs (check out Ashland’s history for this style) where one could consider the Collins Retreat Center as part of this lineage. Then along came the institutes or Epworth League models that founded places like Suttle Lake Camp, Camp Magruder, and Wallowa Lake. The fourth style was youth development, which were supported by our work at Camp Latgawa, Sawtooth Camp, Leewood, and Loon Lake.
Those in church leadership realized that places apart were effective in shaping spiritual leaders. In these places, there were opportunities to learn about the spiritual life and being open and present to the spirit through Creation. Living in intentional Christian community at these camp and retreat centers also means that one can experience being a leader of others simply by doing it. There are opportunities for everyone to lead through setting tables, washing dishes, going on a hike, doing a craft, caring for everyone in your group, praying, singing, and playing. There are so many ways that one can develop leadership skills while at camp.
I am proud that I am a part of a denomination whose forebears gave birth to these beautiful settings from the early days of the Methodist movement through to present day. Well over 200 people bore witness to this during the weekend of June 1-3 when we celebrated 70 years of ministry at Camp Sawtooth, 46 years of ministry leadership by Dave Hargreaves, and the dedication of the Sawtooth Welcome Center. While I know that I will not be around 70 years from now, like those who have gone before me I trust that we will continue to develop Christian spiritual leaders at all our sites well into the future.
See you around the campfire soon,