As a member of the Outdoor Ministry Association of the UCC’s board of directors, I had an opportunity to travel to Tower Hill Camp and Retreat Center last week for our annual board meeting. As a person responsible for creating inclusive camp communities, sometimes, I forget how transformational it is to be a part of such a community. Often, those of us who have gone into this work in a year-round or full time capacity don’t get to experience the magical moments that camp creates. As we reflected together on what makes camping ministry transformational and relevant, I got to experience many moments that reminded me of the sacredness of this work and the importance of belonging. And, I was reminded once more how the people of Illinois South Conference have taken part in many big ways in preserving and extending this vital ministry. To name a few:
- After COVID-19 shut down camp for more than a year, the people of Illinois South and our Outdoor Ministry Team worked tirelessly with me last year to get to a place where we could reopen for our summer camping season.
- We have raised more than $165,000 toward our $225,000 goal for DuBois 6.0. At a time when many churches are choosing not to invest in their camps, we are fixing deferred maintenance, adding capacity, and increasing programming offerings.
- Our teams have worked tirelessly to write new health center policies to ensure full compliance with camp standards and best practices.
- Each day, we work collectively to build more inclusive practices. We are actively living into our commitments of hospitality, welcome, and inclusion as UCCers.
It is a gift to be a part of a team that sees the value in camping ministry. Thank you for all of the ways you stay involved with DuBois Center and the work of the wider church.
Hayley Elliott, Acting Director of Outdoor Ministry