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  • 14 Nov 2018 8:10 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Editors’ note: Trinity/HPSI has been serving United Methodist camps and retreat centers (currently more than 100) for many years and would be glad to talk with you about how they might partner with your ministry, too. Plan to chat with Rod at their booth in the Vendor Hall at the UMC National Gathering, or contact Steve directly at the email listed below. 


    by Steve Claypool of Trinity/HPSI 

    We at Trinity/HPSI are happy to highlight some of the ways you can save, keeping those funds to use in your ministry to reach people for our Lord. For those who are unfamiliar with our program, here is a brief explanation of why you might be over-paying for some of the goods your camp uses most often, and how we can help you save substantially.

    Our experience has shown that foodservice represents the greatest recurring purchase expenditure for most camps and conference centers, much greater than most other recurring purchase categories. Consequently, even though greater percentage savings may be found in other areas, foodservice usually offers the largest and most easily achieved savings opportunity, typically amounting to 10 to 20% off normal “street” pricing. We are pleased to have been able to help many United Methodist camps & retreat centers realize that level of savings or more.

    A “street” account, historically the predominant structure with foodservice companies and distributors in other industries, allows the sales representative to set pricing at their discretion anywhere above a defined base cost level that they can get the customer to order. We have often heard of representatives with less than full integrity who “low-balled” pricing initially to “get a foot in the door,” then let prices drift up over time as the customer became loyal and trusting and the representative thought they wouldn’t notice. In one extreme case our program brought a 35% foodservice savings opportunity for a camp.

    A “program” account (also called a contract or multi-unit or national account), as in the Trinity/HPSI structure, usually has a couple of service level options, with one being just like a “street” account, except for the very significant benefit that the sales representative has no ability to increase or control prices. Instead, the specified pricing structure is applied by the foodservice distributor’s computer system to each program customer’s account.  

    NOTE:  Some distributors are offering what they call program accounts that incorporate deviations as described in the next paragraph, but with the continued ability of the sales representative to set prices.  Though this may be somewhat better than a traditional street account, it often just results in the sales representative’s maintaining or increasing margin.

    Two main factors result in the substantial savings opportunity of a true program vs. a street foodservice account. The first is “deviations,” or allowances that have been negotiated with many manufacturers based on the tremendous aggregate volume of the organizations (under HPSI, more than 18,000) included in the overall program. Deviations serve to lower the distributor’s ultimate net cost and reduce the invoice price. On a periodic basis the distributor claims and receives reimbursement from the manufacturers for the deviations that have been passed through to the program customers. Not all items have deviations; they are much more common on processed foods than on commodity items. Some deviations are modest, while others can be dramatic, such as those for liquid eggs, paper goods, and trash liners.

    The second factor is simply an attractive pre-negotiated margin schedule for all items except capital kitchen equipment that is applied to the distributor’s actual purchase cost including freight to their warehouse. Additional factors contributing to the program savings opportunity can include delivery size and prompt payment incentives and rebates.

    The cost of propane is often second to foodservice as a recurring expense for camps and conference centers and sometimes, especially in the northern United States, can be even greater than the cost of foodservice. Propane prices vary widely. On rare occasions we have found camps that have pricing roughly in line with our national account pricing. At the other extreme, we have had reports of savings of $3.00 per gallon and more, and those savings can be achieved with a brief telephone call if your current propane supplier is one of our national account partners. If a transition from the current supplier needs to be made, the national account partners provide tanks with no rental charge, and there is no charge for delivering and setting up tanks.

    Many other agreements are available for everything from paint, office supplies, mattresses, maintenance supplies, and sporting goods to credit/debit card processing services, first aid supplies, kitchen equipment and much more. Whatever the purchase category, however, we recommend that each camp/conference center consider each area individually and do whatever is best for your ministry. You may have a friend of your ministry who is sacrificing a reasonable profit margin to sell at a level that is better than national account pricing; or she/he may be selling to you at “street” prices, then donating $10,000 or $50,000 per year to your scholarship fund. Only you can solve that value equation and determine what is best for your ministry.

    For help with any questions left unanswered or to request a complimentary analysis to identify your savings opportunities, please feel free to visit www.trinity-usa.net or to contact us at 615-672-0229 or steve.claypool@trinity-usa.net.

  • 14 Nov 2018 6:10 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Hey Folks,

    On Wednesday afternoon we will once again hold our silent auction to raise funds that support UMCRM's Intentional Leadership Groups.

    This is an afternoon where the focus is on what you can give rather than what you can get. There will be nice items, great trips, and all sorts of cool camp stuff to bid on. The real purpose is to have a fun afternoon of camaraderie and fellowship while we give financially to the organization that supports our work.

    What can you offer?

    ● Trips and Stays: Do you have a personal cabin or a facility at your site that you could provide for a few nights to support the ministry? If you are open to sharing your gifts with other camps, these offers are really useful and can raise a lot of money.

    ● Talents/Experiences: Do you offer consulting, grant writing, carpentry, or do you have other talents that you would be willing to share? 

    ● Art: Do you paint, make jewelry, cross-stitch, or do woodworking? Is your tie-dye to die for? Why not give the gift of your art to the ministry? Conference participants love having something handmade by their friends.

    ● Consumables: Bring your desserts and treats from your neck of the woods. We love trying things that we can’t get at our specific sites. Examples of this would be maple syrup, candies, pecans, peanuts, etc.

    ● Wearables: Give your gear or your gadgets. Bring stuff that you would want and give it. Humorous items are always crowd pleasers. Examples: books, shirts, flashlights, etc.

    How to Give

    If you know an item or two that you would like to offer, please fill out this brief web form so the volunteers organizing the event will be able to better plan the auction. When you arrive, there will be a designated area to place your auction items so you don’t have to hold onto them during the Gathering.

    If you need to ship an item, you can send it to:  Life Enrichment Center, Attn: UMCRM Gathering, 4991 Picciola Rd. Fruitland Park, FL 34731

    Who Benefits? 

    The funds generated will go towards supporting our Intentional Leadership Groups.

    And Finally...

    As camp leaders we know the importance of fundraising. I am sure that we are all very thankful for the donors that support our individual ministries.  Now we get the chance to exercise our own generosity by enthusiastically taking part in a festive afternoon of giving.

    We all have something we can offer. Please send your auction submissions and come to the auction filled with a playful attitude and a grateful heart. As the saying goes: “Bid early! Bid often! Bid High! But, Bid Last!”

    If you have any questions about the auction, please contact Auction Coordinator Stephanie Gaines, 256-483-1536

  • 07 Nov 2018 8:15 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    Details about the Workshop:

    A 2019 ACA Accreditation Process Workshop will be offered as a National Gathering pre-Conference event, Monday, January 28th from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the Life Enrichment Center. It's open to all (you don't need to be UMC nor necessarily attending the Gathering to take part.) We're just making it available for your convenience since so many of us will be in one place at one time.  

    This workshop is designed for camp representatives who are preparing for ACA accreditation visits in 2019 and beyond. It is appropriate for those who are new to the accreditation process AND those who have been part of an accreditation visit or completed standards training in the past. There's no "update" this year -- if your camp will be visited, someone from your ministry must take this full course.

    Register in two places:

    If you'll be attending the UMCRM National Gathering, please note on your registration whether you are planning to participate in the course. If you'd like to stay over at the Center on Sunday night, you're welcome to do that; there's a very reasonable "Add A Sunday" option on the registration form that includes the overnight and meals. If you're already planning to attend, please also register with ACA so they'll have materials for everyone. Please help spread the word among fellow ACA camps about this opportunity. 

    Want to learn more about ACA?

    If you are unfamiliar with ACA and wanting to learn more about accreditation and other benefits of membership, there will also be an informational ACA workshop during the National Gathering. The event described above is for those already accredited or ready to get accredited next year. But we want all UMCRM folks to be familiar with the best practices in our industry and to access the benefits and resources that the American Camp Association provides. Some of those are free and don't require membership. There are over 70 UMCRM-affiliated sites that are accredited by the ACA, and our colleagues are wonderful about sharing advice, sample documents, and encouragement with one another. Remember you are not alone as you seek to operate a safe and high-quality camp ministry.

    Questions? Contact Jen Burch, UMCRM Registrar

  • 31 Oct 2018 6:26 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

    2019 Gathering Guide Program

    Click to Sign Up!

    Attending a conference of any sort for the first time can be daunting for anyone. So we’re hoping to change that for our first-time friends at the upcoming National Gathering.

    The Sherpa people of Tibet settled in the high peaks of the Himalaya Mountains 800-1000 years ago and are world-renowned for their commitment to radical hospitality and for providing guidance to visitors climbing the tallest mountains in the world. Out of deep gratitude and appreciation for this tradition of the Sherpa, we seek to emulate this commitment to hospitality and guidance by providing an opportunity for first-time attendees of our 2019 gathering to be guided by seasoned attendees.

    Our Gathering Guide Program is designed to be intentionally short in duration. Assigned partners will connect at least once prior to arrival at the Gathering and then at least once daily during the event itself. Partners may find they want to connect more often or even remain connected after the Gathering. We leave that up to each set of partners.

    How does the Gathering Guide Program work?

    Both first-time attendees and seasoned attendees (generally anyone who has attended two or more of our previous gatherings) complete a simple application by Wednesday, November 28th. Then no later than Wednesday, December 12th, each applicant will be informed of the name and contact info of their assigned partner. Gathering Guides will then contact their first-time attendee to schedule a time prior to Wednesday, January 23, 2019 to meet via phone or video chat.

    What can a first-time attendee expect to get out of the National Gathering Guide Program?

    This program is designed to provide first-time attendees with a connection to a seasoned pro who can be expected to: answer most questions they may have (or know where to redirect them); help them figure out which workshops to attend; be a familiar face throughout the Gathering; introduce them to other members of our community; and check in with them each day.

    What can a Gathering Guide expect to get out this program?

    We expect that Guides will experience a deep sense of gratitude for being able to share their knowledge with the newest members of our community.

    Important Dates:

    • Application Deadline: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
    • Partners Announced: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
    • Partners Connect: Wed., December 12, 2018 – Wed., January 23, 2019
    • UMCRM National Gathering: Monday, January 28 - Friday, 1, 2019

    Contact: Matt Williams at matt@skylakecenter.org or 607.467.2750 (office)

      Expectations of Gathering Guides and Their Role in This Program

      In order to be considered for selection, a Gathering Guide applicant should:

      • Be friendly and hospitable
      • Have previously attended two or more United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders Gatherings, at least one of which should have been in 2015 (Epworth by the Sea) or 2017 (Lakeview)
      • Possess basic knowledge and be supportive of UMCRM and the Gathering
      • Have a desire to share one’s own knowledge with others
      • Have access and ability to use email, telephone, and video chat
      • Be able to communicate with others
        • Depending on the needs of first-time attendee applicants, we may need Gathering Guides who are minimally proficient in ASL or in a spoken language other than English (Please let us know if you have these skills!)
      • Have time to fully commit to this program: roughly one hour prior to the Gathering and then ample time each day during the Gathering

      Once selected, a Gathering Guide will be responsible for:

      • Contacting their assigned first-time attendee partner to set up at least one phone and/or video chat prior to Wednesday, January 23rd

      • Lifting up UMCRM and the Gathering

      • Answering any questions their partner may have (or knowing where to direct questions)

      • Helping partner figure out which workshops would be most beneficial to attend

      • Establishing a time to meet in person on the first day

      • Introducing partner to other members of the UMCRM community

      • Checking in with their partner each day during the Gathering

      Expectations of First-time Attendees and Their Role in This Program

      In order to be considered for selection, a first-time attendee applicant should:

      • Possess the desire to be intentionally connected to the UMCRM Community
      • Be attending a United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders Gathering for the first time
      • Have access and ability to use email, telephone, and video chat
      • Be able to communicate with others (Please use the designated section of the application to let us know if you need a Gathering Guide who is at least proficient in ASL or in a spoken language other than English)
      • Have time to fully commit to this program: roughly one hour prior to the gathering and then ample time each day during the gathering

      Once selected, a first-time attendee will be responsible for:

      • Alerting the coordinator of the program if they haven’t received any communication from their assigned Gathering Guide by Wednesday, January 23rd

      • Asking questions

      • Having at least a rough idea of what they would like to get out of their first Gathering

      • Checking in with their Gathering Guide each day during the gathering

    • 17 Oct 2018 5:27 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      Our Denominational Partners at Alton L. Collins Retreat Center:

      Sharing Mission, Growing Together

      by Dan Benson, Director of Alton L. Collins Retreat Retreat Center

      Of the Seven Foundations of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, "Partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies" sounds both the most boring and obligatory. I say this being fully committed to the work of The United Methodist Church and as an ordained Elder serving under appointment. But still, on the surface, this foundation might appear to be less engaging than all of the others.

      However, what I have experienced at our sites throughout the conference is that we facilitate some of the most dynamic opportunities for congregational visioning and deepening of relationships. Believe it or not, partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies is some of the coolest work we do. Camp and Retreat Ministries [in Oregon-Idaho] also does very cool work officially partnering with Episcopal churches and agencies!

      The most common and direct way that we support the work of United Methodist and Episcopal churches is through hosting church board and vestry meetings. When the leadership of a congregation steps outside of their busy lives and sets aside time for one another and their congregation, the results are dramatic. Often I see the participants come into the center, looking weary and distracted, searching for the wifi password in order to keep tabs on all of the projects left behind. In these moments I understand that these people need time away to be open, to listen for the voice of God prompting them to set forth on more grand adventures with God. Over the course of the day, weekend, or week, I see people look less anxious and more energized. I hear people talking excitedly about one idea or direction. I encounter laughter and smiles as new experiences are shared together. I get to see the hand of God at work in their life together. While I had expected to encounter these church council, board, vestry, and committee meetings, I did not expect to see such a significant change in the lives of the participants in such a short time together.

      The other thing that I did not expect to see is the sheer number of ways that we support the work of the larger church. We have worked with our conference to host numerous groups and agencies. In my short time here I have worked to support:

      • United Methodist Women region-wide events
      • Certified Lay Minister training (this is a vital ministry for many of our smaller congregations to find ways to survive and thrive amidst changing demographics)
      • A community of practice around new circuit rider and other models addressing the changing needs and compositions of our congregations
      • The Love Your Neighbor Coalition
      • United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
      • Jurisdictional meeting for the work of General Board of Global Ministries
      • A gathering of Episcopal female clergy focused on Women Embodying Executive Leadership
      • Time to Sow, a four-day lectionary preaching planning session to map out and dream about how God is speaking to a congregation for the coming year

      The change and energy that each of these groups bring as they do their work here is intense and remarkable. These and many other groups use the gift of our camp and retreat sites to foster the work of the local and global church. It is a blessing and ministry to provide space and input into these processes through which our congregations, communities, denominations, and world are transformed to more readily reflect the likeness of God.

      For congregations or organizations feeling lost in the wilderness, looking for the spark of God toward the next big adventure, camp/retreat experiences can provide inspiration and direction for what’s ahead. Individuals and teams looking to fan the flames of the Spirit may encounter God’s Spirit in new ways in UMCRM’s beautiful “places apart.” Let us listen together and grow the love of God in our hearts and in our world.

      Peace to you,

      Dan Benson

    • 17 Oct 2018 4:07 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      Camp has always been a place of connections for me. Connecting with friends, connecting with nature, and connecting with God. At the National Camp and Retreat Leaders Gathering we want to give you opportunities for all three of these, and today I want to focus on the third– connecting with God. As a community we will connect with God through worship and Bible study, allowing God's Holy Spirit to move in and amongst us and to refuel us for the vital work that we do. Worship, though, is more than what happens as a collective community and it begins before we even find our seats.

      When we gather in Florida, as you begin your day and as you enter the worship space, you are invited to take a personal journey with God through prayer stations. These prayer stations will be set up during the breakfast hour for those early birds who want to take advantage of the peaceful, quiet of the morning to be with God. Walk the labyrinth, sit at a station to lift your prayers to God, experience communion in the chapel, or follow a guided meditation as you look across the glassy lake. Then as you enter the worship space each day, interactive prayer stations will be set up incorporating the daily themes. Play dough, mirrors, puzzle pieces, and photo booths will help move you from the world into a place of connection with God as we celebrate our place at God's incredible table. Sit with your Creator and be creative through artistic interactions. Humble yourself before your Healer and empty the worries of your heart to the one who hears you. Engage with your Savior as you experience grace in hands-on ways.  

      We can't wait for you to arrive at the Life Enrichment Center to experience God's presence and God's grace through all that we do. Are you registered

      Rev. Stacy Dickson is an ordained elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference and is blessed to be serving as the pastor of the multi-ethnic, multi-generational congregation of First UMC of Torrance and mother to three amazing children. Stacy attributes much of her calling to the years she spent growing up at church camp, where she found a community of love, acceptance and faith during some difficult years growing up. God clearly called her to ministry her senior year of high school while standing on the volleyball court at camp, helping to lead the communion service, changing her life forever. Today she pastors a congregation, but still commits time to helping with conference retreats and summer camps in an effort to help foster the same community that she found at camp, hoping to help change lives the way that she was changed so many years ago. One of her favorite weeks of the year is her week at summer camp, where her mother also serves on staff and her children attend, bringing the family together in a special way that is uniquely blessed and priceless. Pastor Stacy has volunteered as this National Gathering's Worship Chair. We're blessed by her leadership in this key aspect of the event and really excited for our experiential adventure in worship!

    • 10 Oct 2018 7:10 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      The basis for the word “hospitality” is the Latin root hospes, which refers to welcoming a guest, a word that evolved into meaning "to entertain." Consider that providing hospitality means “making your guests feel at home.” On January 28th, the extended UMCRM community will make our home at the Life Enrichment Center & Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida for a week “@ The Table.” We hope you’ll experience unforgettable hospitality as a participant in the National Camp & Retreat Leaders' Gathering. I want to give you a little preview of some of the ways you’ll be welcomed.


      Whether you drive in or board the luxurious coach buses for a ride from the airport, you will be greeted upon your arrival with smiling faces and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Yes, you read correctly -- fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice. Upon receiving your room assignments you will make your way to your housing, greeted by clean rooms and stunning views. Get settled, take a load off, and enjoy the snack that is waiting in your room.

      If you are ready for a self-guided tour or to mingle by a campfire, there’s something for those needing to enjoy an active, social, or relaxed afternoon. The dinner hour will bring your first of many wonderful meals provided by the food service team at the LEC & Warren Willis. Meals have been planned just for us and will be sure to please. Don’t forget to note any dietary restrictions when you register so our hosts can be 100% prepared to meet your needs.


      After wonderful worship sessions and workshops full of everything you can imagine, we will have a few hours ‘off’ on Wednesday. Take a break and enjoy the afternoon at the LEC with airboat rides, reptiles from Gatorland, games, prayer station Make & Take, music, canoeing, massages, snacks, and so much more. No need to head off-site, Florida hospitality is coming to you! So much to learn, no time to play? That’s okay, we will also offer another workshop time for those who can’t get enough.


      On Thursday, to avoid those end-of-camp tears, we are thrilled to close our time together laughing together with comedian Bob Smiley.


      The Hospitality Committee is truly excited and honored to be a part of helping to provide a faith-filled, relaxing time away for refreshing renewal as we come together in January 2019.


      Can’t wait to welcome you all.

      See you in January!


      Apryl Miller, for the UMCRM Event Design Team’s Hospitality Committee

      P.S. - Is Hospitality one of your gifts? Contact Apryl to find a place to plug in and help out at the Gathering.

      Click for more info and registration for the National Gathering!

    • 03 Oct 2018 7:56 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      Are we really sustaining our pathways?

      A reflection on the 2018 Sustainable Pathways event

      Every year camping professionals gather to discuss important topics in sustaining our ministries. Some years those topics include marketing, finance, or development. This year, those important topics were a little more hard-hitting. With guest speakers Shane Totten, Kate Mosley, and Niambi Jaha-Echols, 2018 Sustainable Pathways participants explored what it means to really care for God’s Creation and how to build our own inclusive ‘Camptopia’.

      We started our day with traveling to the beautiful Calvin Center in Hampton, Georgia. Sessions kicked off with the topic of Creation Care and what it means to be good stewards of our resources. We discussed everything from the lightbulb lighting the storage closet in the dining hall to how you insulate your buildings, and the presenters helped us consider next steps in true stewardship. Shane Totten with Southface Energy Institute and Kate Mosley from Georgia Interfaith Power & Light grabbed the interest of those in attendance with their informative statistics and tips to better our communities.

      Lightbulbs, Water Usage, and Waste, Oh My!

      Some major topics both Shane and Kate hit on included water usage, energy efficiency, waste control, and air quality.  What do these have to do with camping? If you aren’t positive how these things connect with camping, rest assured, they do! How? Glad you asked!

      According to Shane, there are quite a few things you can do now to ensure you are taking care of the resources you already have. He suggested starting with light bulbs. By simply changing your light bulbs from incandescent to LED, you will see a great return in energy savings. Have you already made that switch? Maybe consider looking into lighting with sensors. Bri Payne, Executive Director at the John Knox Center, mentioned that switching to occupancy sensor lights has already given them great savings in energy usage.

      Have you noticed that your facility is using more water than it should be? Shane Totten suggested replacing your showerheads to ones that use less water. Being good stewards of our resources means turning off the light when you leave a room or thinking twice about water usage. Maybe we should all consider what we use now to be the resources for the next generation. What we are using now is what will end up in landfills or at recycling facilities. Are you okay knowing that those things could either help or hinder the next generation?

      Shane shared a few statistics that will surely blow your mind. 133 billion pounds of food is wasted per year. Does your camp use a buffet line or serve family style? How can you cut back on food waste? 40% of the food prepared in the U.S. is never consumed. This means that we are eating only a little over half of what we prepare! Where is all that wasted food going? Hopefully that uneaten food is going into some sort of compost, but Shane shared that one person produces about 4.4 pounds of trash per day. Surely there are some ways your camp community can help cut back on that.

      Something Kate Mosley touched on was air quality. Do we really know what is in our products? Do we know what is in the buildings where we serve our campers? According to Kate, there are more air pollutants indoors versus outdoors. Do you know what is in your products, even down to the paint used on the walls? Kate suggests looking for seals on products that validate you are using safe materials. She encourages to look for Green Seal Certified and Greenguard seals.

      Kate Mosley also explained the importance of knowing what we are throwing away and why. How do you do this? You facilitate a waste audit. Yes, it sounds time-consuming and not so enjoyable, but very necessary! Think about this: if you don't weigh yourself, how can you maintain yourself? How can you know what you need to put in your body if you don’t already know what is in your body? It works the same with waste. If we aren’t aware of what we are throwing away, how can we adjust what we consume to reduce what we throw away? Kate Mosley suggests using the free Energy Star Portfolio Manager as a place to start.

      What about your guests? How can you manage their waste? Kate and Shane both explained the importance of developing a Sustainability Policy at your facility. This could be something as simple as creating a letter you send out to your guests before their stay with a list of things you’d like for them to avoid bringing. Maybe you are planning to cut back on plastic waste so you ask that your guests bring reusable water bottles rather than plastic ones. What about asking your guests to use the plates and cups in the dining hall rather than bringing paper ones, to cut back on paper waste? Starting here can help change the culture at your facility and start making your footprint smaller.  

      Building the "Camptopia" from the Roots Up

      Switching gears to the second portion of the conference, we dove into another topic that is sometimes hard to navigate: Diversity. Niambi Jaha-Echols from Cross-Cultural Agility joined the conference for the second half to share her insights on creating the perfect ‘camptopia’. How do we do that? Niambi started at the roots. After sharing where the word ‘camp’ comes from, Niambi explained exactly what it means. The word ‘camp’ comes from the Greek word ‘campus’ meaning level ground. Niambi suggested that we do just that and get back to level ground in the camping world. Niambi uses the phrase, ‘Intentional Community Building,’ meaning that inclusion in our camp communities isn’t what we do but who we are. She quoted Albert Einstein, saying that “we cannot solve a problem at the same level that it was created.” This simply means that we cannot make our camps more culturally diverse if we are doing the same things we have always done.

      People generally like to be with people who are like us. We all have our own culture, and those personal differences play an important role in understanding culture. Niambi used an example of a vehicle to vividly illustrate this. If someone gets into a wreck, we are typically more concerned with what is in the car than the car itself. What if we would imagine our skin as the “vehicle” in this metaphor? Niambi called her skin her "skin suit," making the point that the outside is only a covering for the more important contents inside. Our culture goes much deeper than our skin tone. Our "skin suit" is just for this lifetime, not for eternity.

      Have you ever caught yourself adding new decorations or fresh flowers to a room in your home to ‘add some color’ or ‘change it up’? What happens to those fresh flowers? They usually die, right? Why do they die? They die because they aren’t rooted in our home. Niambi used this painfully accurate example to explain why it is so important to make sure all people feel rooted in our camping environments. If you plop something into a new environment just to mix it up, it won’t survive. We have to intentionally add to our camping environments to make space for all cultures to root; otherwise they will not thrive in our communities. We have to think outside of the box so we don't get trapped in our cultural boxes.

      While these topics are large and daunting, it is helpful to remember that these changes cannot happen overnight, and that is okay! Changes may be necessary, but they also take time, so start small and work your way to what is best for your facility and ministry. As Burt Goldman says, “There is only one way to get dark out of a room, and that is to let light in.” Whether that light is literal light from the lightbulbs you replaced to save energy, or the light of new cultures, let it in. Let that light in and let it shine bright, because we are in the business of changing lives for the better.

      Paige Railey is the Marketing Director for South Carolina Camps & Retreat Ministries. We’re grateful for her contributions to the UMCRM blog and for allowing those who couldn’t attend this year’s Sustainable Pathways to get a glimpse into the important topics featured. Thanks, Paige!

    • 03 Oct 2018 7:12 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      Many Christians ignore environmental issues because they don’t view it as an important faith-related concern — but what if environmental justice was essential to evangelism? In many ways, taking care of our environment is a direct form of evangelism that many Christians have yet to realize, or have even rejected as truth.

      For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

      This verse is often referenced to justify the doctrine of Natural Revelation and is the damning biblical evidence used against non-believers for rejecting God, even if they’ve never directly heard the gospel message. Christians point to this Scripture passage to show that God’s existence is visibly obvious through the beauty of creation. Is it really? Theologians have often argued that the splendor and wonder of creation — Natural Revelation — is observable proof of God and God’s awe-inspiring power. What happens when it’s not visible? What are the spiritual ramifications of destroying our world?

      The concept of Natural Revelation is often taught from a privileged and Westernized perspective, where scenes of picturesque mountain ranges, pristine lakes and rivers, beautiful wild animals, and lovely plants are used to portray the sheer majesty of God.

      When the natural physical existence is heading toward death instead of life, how does it point people to God?

      For many of us, this is an easy reality to absorb because we love nature and have access to the outdoors, scenic parks, and unpolluted land. But for many around the world, the idea of Natural Revelation is absurd, and often a theological idea that actually argues against the existence of a God. When water is too unsafe to drink, air too toxic to breathe, and the sheer decay of the surrounding environment endangers you and your family, how is God glorified? When the natural physical existence around you is taken away, broken, or heading toward death instead of life, how does this possibly point people to God? The sad reality is that Natural Revelation (as we interpret it to be) doesn’t really exist for millions of people living in conditions where their environment is being exploited for corporate and political gain.

      The sad truth is that Natural Revelation isn’t equally apparent to everyone, which is why creation care and environmental justice is so important. Because if we really believe that the earth reflects God’s glory, by not taking care of it and allowing it to become corrupted — we’re essentially keeping people from experiencing the goodness of God.

      The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

      The Bible says that the skies declare God’s craftsmanship. So what happens when people can’t see the sky due to smog and waste? Pollution, destruction, and the exploitation of our world isn’t a victimless crime — it’s intentionally hiding God from others, and the act of making our earth less desirable is blinding others to the goodness of God. If Christians seriously want others to experience God, we should start making the earth a better place — ultimately reflecting the magnificence of God.

      Excerpted from “Why Is It Difficult to Get Christians to Care About the Earth? From Sojourners, 3/28/17, used with permission from author Stephen Mattson.

    • 05 Sep 2018 6:22 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

      You’re Invited To The Table

      Join us “@ the Table” Monday, January 28th-Friday, February 1st for a week of worship, community, leadership development, and relationship building with other United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministry Leaders from around the country.

      We’ll explore, as followers of Christ and leaders in the camp community, what it means to gather around the table: to celebrate, connect, create, and share. Each day we’ll be challenged and inspired by the words of Rev. Junius Dotson and Rev. Melissa Cooper. Additionally, some of our friends from up north, Travis & Beth Allison, will be offering guidance and practical suggestions as we “do the work” of camping ministry.

      The program fee for the Gathering is $385 for members of the UMCRM Association and $435 for non-members. (It’s not too late to join if you’re not a current member!) The inclusive room-and-board cost varies depending on which lodging option you choose. Options include bunk-style lodging, cabins (great for rooming with folks from your home camp/organization), shared hotel-style or single hotel- style rooms. There’s even a campground if you’d like to bring the RV.

      Register today to secure your place “@ the Table”:

      2019 National Gathering Registration

      Remember, you may register now and make payments later (just choose the “Invoice me” option at checkout). Contact the Registrar with questions.

      More details, including a full schedule, speaker information, and more will be released with the revamped UMCRM website in the next couple of weeks, so check back with us at UMCRM.org.

      Interested in leading a workshop “@ the Table"? Simply fill out this form to submit your proposal by October 25th.

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