This past week a unique camp and retreat ministry event, The Great Gathering, occurred at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries of the Oregon-Idaho Conference was represented by 7 people: Vanessa Allen (Executive Chef, Collins Retreat Center) Rev. Dan Benson (Director, Collins Retreat Center, Jayde Dunkerly (Office Manager, Collins Retreat Center), Hope Montgomery (Program Director, Camp Magruder), Troy Taylor (Director, Camp Magruder), Jane Petke (Director, Suttle Lake Camp), and Rev. Todd Bartlett. We were also joined by former Executive Director, Rev. Lisa Jean Hoefner.
Jane Petke reports the following:
"The theme for The Great Gathering was RelationSHIFT; inviting participants to find common ground as we journey together, navigating a changing landscape. Meaningful large group gatherings and times of worship drew us into relationship with each other and God’s spirit. The stage was set with large banners resembling topographical maps, courtesy of Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity who also brought color and movement to life as she transformed a giant, stark, blank canvas into a piece of art as part of the worship experiences.
Inspiring and insightful speakers challenged us: Joan Garry spoke on effective non-profit leadership. Jim Cain brought a spirit of playfulness and a plethora of games to build community. Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor spoke of gratitude and recognition of the need for outdoor ministries. Shane Claiborne reminded us of the call to radical discipleship and the power of embodying Christ’s love to transform the world. Rev. Dr. Luke Powery concluded the week by celebrating the unity of the body of Christ. Ken Medema wove the gift of music into these times of worship with songs that echoed the stories and messages shared by the speakers. Through worship, singing and dancing we were drawn deeper into relationship with each other.
Conversations over meals, on walks, and in workshops reinforced the common ground found in camp and retreat ministries across denominations and the continent. Hearing stories of celebrations and challenges that resonated with experiences in Oregon-Idaho made these connections even more personal. Each encounter brought the blessing of a common commitment to serving God through this powerful ministry. What a blessing to come home with many resources, as well as new connections and deepened relationships!
Todd Bartlett attended a seminar called the Kairos Blanket Exercise. This is a unique, participatory history lesson – developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators – that fosters truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. I was deeply touched by the telling and hearing of stories from across this continent about our nation’s treatment of native peoples. I am in conversation with the trainers to see if it is possible to bring this experience to the Pacific Northwest.
In this wonderful setting with like-spirited people we were able to form a community and reach across denominational lines to learn and grow in our spiritual and professional lives.
To read the National Newsletter's Article on The Great Gathering, click here