It was called Camp Premauca.
In my childhood, I attended church camp at the PREsbytery of MAUmee CAmp in the Irish Hills near Adrian, Michigan. It has long been closed, but I carry one vivid memory from a camp when I was of upper elementary age. It was a comment made by Bill Rudy, my cabin counselor, whose name I remember but whom I never saw after camp ended. In one of our discussions, he said “Every day we live, means we are one day closer to our deaths.” That was a pretty heavy comment for a fourth or fifth grader to process, and it was a little scary at the time to think that I was going to die — but the lesson of faithfully taking maximum advantage of the time and opportunities we have still travels with me and has grown with me.
Camp directors, camp counselors, camp program staff, and supporters of our summer camp program aspire to make a similar lifelong impact on children as they are forming the foundation of their faith in God through Jesus.
While I don’t remember the date or year that Bill Rudy made that memorable statement, on February 11, 2007 then-Director of Outdoor Ministries Cynthia Speller came to my church to preach and promote summer camps. At lunch afterwards, she asked me a question I wasn’t expecting, and it has become another vivid memory: “Which camp would you like to direct this summer?”
As a result of that “direct” question, I enjoyed seven years as the co-director of the Senior Choir Camp where I made many life-long friends from the people I came to know – campers, their parents, camp staff, counselors, other directors. Among the campers from that era, all of whom are now adults, I have kept in touch with many through Facebook and other opportunities, counseled some during difficult periods, and officiated at the wedding of two Choir Camp alumni on the grounds near Spirit Lake at Pilgrim Hills. Camp friendships from second and third grade have developed into meaningful roles as bridesmaids, groomsmen, baptismal sponsors, and other significant relationships.
For the past three years, I have directed sessions of the popular Grandparent-Grandchild camp … and my wife and I brought grandchildren to these camps for the past five years. I have watched some of the repeat grandchild campers grow in that time and have developed additional friendships with the grandparents who enjoy these few days at camp to bond with their grandchildren, help them learn about their faith in Jesus Christ, and begin their camp experience.
I have seen church camps from just about every perspective except site staff. I can think of no better way to support the faith formation work we do in our local congregations than to immerse our children, our grandchildren and, yes, even ourselves, in the faith-filled fun that the Ohio Conference offers through our summer resident church camps at Pilgrim Hills.
One more thing – during my first week at Camp Premauca, one of the crafts we made in the Craft Barn was a mini-tile coaster. Today, over a half-century later, that coaster sits on my desk at church and holds my coffee mug every morning … serving as a reminder of my life-long faith journey that was nurtured, in part, through church camp.
Rev. Brian Burke
Camp Director for 10 years
St. Peter’s UCC, Amherst