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By Brett Hetherington*
Camps and retreats are a vital part of ministry throughout the East Ohio Conference. This year Camp Asbury (located in the Western Reserve District) was able to set aside one Saturday to celebrate two major milestones.
The first milestone of importance in 2022 was Asbury’s 65th Anniversary.
“We know places like this don’t just happen,” declared the Rev Allison LeBrun from the presenter’s microphone. “God gave a dream and a vision to the leaders of the Youngstown District in 1954 that led the Rev. Gene Hibbard to find this special place. He and his friend Bernard Paul began bringing that dream to fruition. It was in 1957 that Camp Asbury began operation and became that right place at the right time in God’s perfect plan for many, many people to come.”
One of the primary elements of the anniversary celebration was the dedication of a new building, the Graham Art Center.
“Art as we know, is a spatial, visual hands-on means of self-expression and it offers an important and a unique way of discovering who we are and to whom we belong,” said Bill Graham. He shared that prior to this building being constructed, Asbury’s art program consisted of a 4×8 storage cabinet in a mechanical room. “That is not good enough for a program that helps people figure out who they are as God’s children. Now with this art center, art has a true and permanent home at Camp Asbury.”
The dedication ended with a chalk ceremony, inviting all present to write prayers, Scripture, or even draw on the concrete messages of blessings and dedication to the space.
The day was marked with a party atmosphere. Food was shared, cornhole boards and volleyball nets were open for use. Families spent time swimming in the lake before spending time on a hayride. Others simply spent time listening to the musicians playing in the open air or taking pictures with the recently retired Camp Director Bill Graham.
Graham’s retirement after 23 years of serving as Camp Director was the second reason for the day’s celebration, and the day concluded with a special service that combined worship, original music written at Camp Asbury, shared memories from alumni and communion.
The Rev. Beth Wilterdink summed up the thoughts and emotions of so many who shared at the close of the day with her own closing sentence. “Bill’s ministry has been that presence that has rooted so many of us and allowed us to also have the wings to share in this life and in the joy that God has for us in our lives.”
Many lives have been impacted through the ministry of Graham, and many more through the programs of Camp Asbury. The East Ohio Conference is stronger by both having been a part of the shared good work of kingdom building, and the continuing legacy of both will have strong impacts on East Ohio and beyond for years to come.
The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at email@example.com.
* Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.