Pilgrim Point Camp in Alexandria has long been beloved by many across the Conference. As an important part of the ministry of the Minnesota Conference, Pilgrim Point has nurtured faith, changed lives, and strengthened community thousands of times over the years.
It hasn’t always been easy.
Back in 2008, registrations were down and expenses were rising; serious consideration was given to putting our ministry at Pilgrim Point Camp on hold while the Conference prayerfully assessed its viability for the future. The anxiety raised by this conversation launched new efforts to re-strategize our outdoor ministries and seek new partners to help stabilize the operation.
Conference staff, members of the Pilgrim Point Camp Committee, and the Board of Directors invested energy and resources into re-imagining ministry at Pilgrim Point Camp, shifting toward a model more congregationally and inter-generationally based. Long-deferred maintenance on the camp facility was gradually and more intentionally addressed. And in 2011, Wayzata Community Church (WCC) became an important partner in the work, leasing Pilgrim Point Camp for several weeks of the summer season to launch their own congregation’s outdoor ministry program.
“That new partnership at Pilgrim Point between Wayzata Community Church and the Conference really became a gift to all of us over the years,” says Conference Minister Reverend Shari Prestemon. “Having a steady lease arrangement relieved some pressure financially on the Conference while giving us time to rebuild our own ministry at Pilgrim Point. It also gave Wayzata a place and time to birth their own outdoor ministry programming and pursue a dream they had for their own congregation. We were both very blessed in the process.”
And what happened? Both ministry programs grew! The Conference camps enjoyed increasing registrations and broader participation across the Conference. WCC’s camps were also bursting at the seams. The partnership experienced a new, and wonderful, “problem”: we all needed more time and more space at the camp.
Over the last several months, a joint task force comprised of Pilgrim Point Camp Committee members (present and past), WCC members, and members of Conference and WCC staff met to consider what the future might look like together at Pilgrim Point Camp. The group was committed to learning about each other’s outdoor ministries, sharing our visions for the future, and considering bold new possibilities for collaboration in the future. Several hours of fun and mutually respectful conversation together helped both parties more clearly articulate what each of us needed for our outdoor ministries moving forward. There was a growing realization that both the Conference and Wayzata Community Church needed more time on site at Pilgrim Point Camp for our respective camps, a reality that a limited number of available weeks in a relatively short PPC season could ultimately not accommodate.
Thus in 2016, the Conference and Wayzata Community Church will run their outdoor ministries in separate settings. Wayzata Community Church will be leasing a camp available to them for the entire season in McGregor, Minnesota. The Conference will expand its programming to fully utilize the entire summer season at Pilgrim Point Camp.
A spirit of cooperation and gratitude between Wayzata Community Church and the Conference has not been diminished in the least by this latest news, however. Reverend John Ross, Senior Minister at Wayzata remarks, “There is nothing more exciting and gratifying than when people come together around a common cause and shared purpose…with NO concern for who gets the credit. That has been, and will continue to be, the spirit of the partnership between the Minnesota Conference and Wayzata Community Church. We can’t wait to see what God has for us to work on next…together!”
And what’s next at Pilgrim Point Camp for the Conference? Pilgrim Point Camp Committee Chairperson Phil Kasten says, “100% of the congregation sponsored camps from last summer are coming back in 2016; now there is room for growth and for your congregation to renew or strengthen connections… Now, we move from crisis management to strategic planning. During our camp committee retreat, we discussed many promising new faith formation program opportunities to try in 2016 and beyond.”
The future looks promising for Pilgrim Point Camp. Keep watch for exciting new camps to be offered in 2016, and register! Help us make 2016 and years to come successful years we can celebrate at the Conference’s ministry at Pilgrim Point Camp.