Like many of you, I grew up attending church camp and, since my childhood was here in Ohio, that meant a combination of Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills. My elementary years were spent at Templed Hills, and by the time I was a 6th grader, I was excited at the prospect of moving to Pilgrim Hills where camps were held for students in junior high school. During high school, I attended programs that the conference offered at UCC-related Heidelberg and Defiance colleges as well.
Regardless of the locale, I made new friends, was introduced to new ways of worship, and participated in discussions and programs that shaped my understanding of living as a follower of Christ. I look back with deep appreciation for the many adults that dedicated their time as directors and counselors of these programs for youth. They played a role in shaping the person I am today.
With that life experience, I have taken a particular interest in the developments affecting outdoor ministry here in the conference. I was at Pilgrim Hills last month with many of you, saying an emotional farewell to that sacred space. As you may recall, there is a contract in place for the sale of Pilgrim Hills and we expect that transaction to be complete around December 1. While ownership will transfer at that point, we will continue to have access through the end of 2017 for scheduled events.
I’ve also made visits to Templed Hills as we continue to refurbish and repair that site in preparation for bringing it back into use in January. Several churches have sent work groups to assist in this effort. The most recent have been Christ UCC in Orrville, Ohio, Trinity UCC in Wooster, Ohio, and Richfield UCC in Richfield, Ohio. These efforts at Templed Hills are so important and are much appreciated! There continue to be numerous projects that are suitable for a wide range of skill sets, so I invite other churches and individuals to come help. You can contact Jim Ditzler at 330-262-3242 to find out what’s needed and to make arrangements.
On October 6, the conference board formally approved the Outdoor Ministry Plan that was developed over the past several months and presented at the Conference Annual Gathering in September. Implementation of the plan has begun. A first step was the hiring of Joyce Oyler as Transitional Outdoor Ministry Coordinator effective November 1. A national search will be conducted to find a permanent director to be in place by early fall of 2018.
Now that important decisions have been made for Outdoor Ministry, my focus can turn to other areas. Of particular interest to me are identifying the things that those of us here in Ohio, West Virginia, and Northern Kentucky can do more effectively in partnership. What does our Christian faith call us to in this time and place? How can we encourage and support each other? I’d like to hear from you!