Building community on holy ground by providing program spaces, staff housing and energy efficiency.
Describe the need affecting community
We have identified two major needs in our community that we feel our project can effectively address. First of all, there is a large need for leadership development & faith development, especially for Youth and Young Adults who are traditionally under-served in most of our local UMC congregations, but also for all ages. Many people are connecting to our local and global church in different ways than previous generations, and it’s important that we build bridges to connect with them in different environments & capacities. At camp we believe in exploring unique ways that people can be and do church, and we are not limited to a specific or traditional set of ways that people relate to God. Camp experiences (for participants AND for leaders) is a way of doing church revitalization because we are helping people experience God and church in all sorts of ways; the work we do, especially with young people, is an investment in the spiritual lives of our church now and in the future. We are connecting with people in a meaningful way and we are helping them connect to their Creator. In addition, we see a need to serve the aging population in our community now that Alaska has been a state for almost 60 years. When our camp was built, it was designed with young, agile campers and guests in mind and is not particularly welcoming to older adults. For example, none of our lodging facilities have indoor bathrooms. Everyone shares a centralized bathhouse at the middle of camp; this isn’t usually an issue for kids but it is for older adults. We have an large number of guest groups and organizations that are looking for spaces in our area to do learning events or retreats but our facilities do not meet the needs of older participants or participants with limited mobility. We have made a major effort towards inclusive facilities by ensuring our buildings have ramps and are wheelchair accessible, and we stand out in accessibility compared with other sites nearby. However, we need to do more to make our facilities inclusive to our state’s aging population so that everyone can experience rest, renewal, faith-building, and community at Birchwood Camp.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
Our project will help address these two identified needs in several ways. First of all, we will provide safe spaces for young people to explore their faith, ask questions, and learn to be in relationship and community. We will be welcoming to all, including those who do not identify with a traditional faith community or church. We will provide sacred, unique, and welcoming spaces that allow a break from the day to day (including a break from technology and perpetual screen time); we will create an environment that fosters unique ways people can connect to the Creator’s natural world and to the Creator. We will spend time in intensive faith formation with young people and we will connect with their home church & ministries as partners. We will provide leadership opportunities that challenge people of all ages, and especially young people, to learn, grown, and serve. Secondly, our project will create and execute plans to update and upgrade our facilities to include indoor restrooms in at least some of our sleeping cabins and meeting spaces. We’ve identified this as the primary way that we can make our facilities more welcoming to the aging populations in our state. This may involve remodeling buildings or new construction, and it will certainly involve tying into our existing septic system. This will be important to plan, and be strategic about the best ways to incorporate these changes.
Describe the primary goal of the project
1. Provide spaces & experiences for spiritual formation, building community, and leadership development, especially for youth and young adults. 2. Provide retreat spaces, facilities, and opportunities that are welcoming and inclusive to older adults and people with limited mobility.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
We want to see people of all ages experiencing, exploring, questioning, growing, renewing — having meaningful spiritual formation and connecting with God in unique, traditional, and non-traditional ways. We would like to see strong, adaptive leaders in our youth and young adults; we would also like to see adults and older generations empowering their young people to lead and explore new ways of ministry. We hope to see our larger church revitalize and become open to new ways of being church because of the ways that people are experiencing God at camp. We would like to see welcoming places for older adults and people with limited mobility where all people feel included and welcome and part of the community.