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2023 Summer Camps Series

Leadership transition brings fresh ideas, energy to camp

Team games build relationships and community at N-Sid-Sen. Photo by Leah Bilinksi Atkinson


Pam Peterson started April 1 as managing director of N-Sid-Sen, the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ (PNC-UCC) Camp and Retreat Center on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Her predecessor, Mark Boyd, moved in December to be managing director of the PNC-UCC's Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center in Port Orchard. He was at N-Sid-Sen for 10 years.

During the search, volunteers stayed at the camp, there was a three-month interim, and Mark assisted from Pilgrim Firs.

With recruitment of campers, staff and volunteer leaders still underway in June, Pam is focusing on calling pastors to introduce herself and find people to help.

 N-Sid-Sen's church-related summer camps for kids, intermediate, middle school, high school and families keep the camp busy from July 2 to Aug. 5. There is a new "You and Me" camp for first to fifth graders with an adult.

Pam described N-Sid-Sen as "a gathering point of community, for community and with community."

She observed that while COVID cut down the numbers who came to camps after 2020, those who did come experienced an opportunity to build deep connections with each other.

While N-Sid-Sen, like Pilgrim Firs, rents space year-round to square dancing, quilting and fly-fishing groups and is the site for the East Side Fire District boathouse and emergency response boats, Pam said N-Sid-Sen is the primary site for the UCC-related summer camps for children, youth and families.

Volunteer camp directors from churches across the conference in Washington and North Idaho are preparing programs on the theme that is on the 2023 camp T-shirts, "Transforming Faith through Relationships." The graphic on the T- shirts is a monarch butterfly with milkweed in the background. There are plans to plant milkweed this summer to help attract monarch butterflies.

"It symbolizes the transitions our conference is experiencing," Pam said. "We will come to camp as a place to hear stories and commit to walk with each other in our time of transition."

"The summer church camp sessions are designed with intention to offer life-shaping experiences and support the work of our churches," said Leah Atkinson Bilinski, senior pastor of Fauntleroy UCC in Seattle and member if the Outdoor Ministry Committee for the PNC-UCC.

"Our focus is inviting more churches and church kids back to camp," Pam said.

Campers who bring a new-to-N-Sid-Sen friend have $100 taken off their fee. Their friend has $100 taken off, too—$50 for partial weeks. There are camp scholarships, and transportation is available from Bellevue for those from Western Washington.

"I met many people at the PNC-UCC Annual Meeting in Bellingham, and I look forward further to building relationships with churches and promoting our role as a church camp," she said.

To build their excitement about the camp, Pam also wants pastors to use the camp's small apartment for individual clergy retreats.

"Church camp is about building relationships in a place where campers can connect to God and nature," said Pam, who earned a doctorate of ministry at Hartford International University on worship in the wilderness.

The 2023 summer camp staff includes two who are coming from Turkey through Camp America. A third person from Turkey was recruited but unable to come because of the impact of earthquakes there.

Pam, who grew up in Chautauqua, N.Y., worked six years in the 1990s revitalizing a Boy Scout camp on Lake Chautauqua and marketing for a YMCA camp also on that lake.

In studies at Hartford Seminary she shifted from being Lutheran to UCC, earning a master of divinity in 2011. After she served a Presbyterian church in the Adirondacks, she was called to serve a UCC church in Red Lodge, Mont., before coming to N-Sid-Sen.

In the spring, winter and fall, PNC-UCC churches hold retreats at N-Sid-Sen. Churches of other denominations, other faith groups and nonprofits also use it during those months and consider it home, so Mark suggested shifting from calling them "users" to calling them "partners."

"They love our camps as much as we do," said Mark Boyd. "The groups are introduced to the United Church of Christ when they come to the sacred oasis we offer."

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2023