Happy Birthday Gilmont! What a wonderful part of God’s creation. You have been a part of my life since early 1992 as I made my way with a van full of middle schoolers to Youthquake on a dark Friday night looking for the turn off. I have great early memories of leading a Youthquake with colleague pastor friend Harry Meissner as he keynoted in Mackey Hall and I led indoor beach ball fooseball. And I heard his stories of years before with volunteer directing from Caddo Hall. Over the years, I became very invested in Gilmont through serving as a bible study leader at summer camp and then as on site summer camp director a couple times in the mid 1990’s, serving on the Presbytery and Grace@Gilmont Committees, and spearheading Kidquake elementary weekends.
Where to start with memories and highlights for all of those? There were the years Mo was on summer staff including with her seeing eye dog. I remember heading out to make rounds to camp out sites one night and forgetting my flashlight. Mo (Maureen) said “you don’t need your flashlight, follow me, we will get to the campout sites. Just listen, besides your eyes will adapt to the dark.” And this was without her dog. Or what about when Serge was on staff from Russia or Guilder from Guatemala? Or Natalie, Emily, Alex, Kenny, Jennifer, Sam, Matthew, and so on. Then there was the summer a camper from my own congregation was brought to the nurse from a campout covered in fire ant bites and all the counselor could comment on was how the camper had taught him about all the stars in the sky on the walk. Or maybe the week Bonnie Edwards was Bible Study Leader and Pastor Polly Williams came out to help lead Friday worship with communion. The kids walked a labyrinth into the communion table from where they sat around. What a meaningful service and also memorable because the communion bread was freezer burned and won’t break as Polly said the words to so we scrambled to the kitchen for something. What about the smells of cinnamon rolls and cookies coming from the kitchen? Or hunting Iron balls? I have worked with countless full time staff, summer staff, and volunteers over the years who remain my friends, many of whom started as my campers and became counselors and directors. Now they serve as Pastors, Educators and Church Leaders.
For the last 20 years much of my focus with Gilmont has been on Kidquake weekends with as many as 165 people each weekend. We started it to introduce elementary children to camp with their home church and then promote weeklong summer camp. This has been a gift to First – Sixth graders across Grace Presbytery as they explore Bible stories, learn about God’s creation, engage in mission projects and make new lifelong friends. It’s where I’ve enjoyed serving along side adults who were children in the churches I’ve served or written curriculum with educators friends.
Lastly Gilmont is a place that shows so many God’s amazing creation and kindom including those who haven’t had access before whether from PCHAS, or the Stewpot Children’s program. To see a child who has never been away from home before or outside the city really see the stars for the first time and be in community is a blessing.
Thanks Gilmont for being a part of so many people’s faith journey for 80 years!
I have no photo to upload, except the one I carry of Gilmont in my heart. The picture I carry of Gilmont, is the trees reaching into heaven, the knock of the woodpeckers, the shimmering water, the thoughtfully prepared meals, joyful hospitality, beaming faces and and the crooking invitation of God's finger to draw nearer. Gilmont is an amazing, if you will, thin place where the kingdom is present. Thank you so much for stewarding the wonderful place these 80 years and may the next 80 be all this and more.