Summer 2020 Camps Report: "Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow"
Summer 2020 did not turn out the way anyone expected. The COVID-19 pandemic presented dynamic challenges that were confusing, limiting, haunting, and halting. The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas’s camping program was forced to evolve in creative and painful ways, challenging our faith and our stamina. Out of an abundance of caution, the Diocese and the Camps & Conferences Department decided not to hold Summer Camp at Camp Capers, and for the first time in 73 years the warm summer air did not fill with the joyous laughter of children playing, worshipping, singing, and living together in Christian community on the banks of the Guadalupe River.
However, 2020 is not the first year Camp Capers has had to make the heart wrenching decision not to hold summer camp because of a pandemic. A polio outbreak forced Camp Capers to postpone its very first summer, scheduled for 1946, until the next year. Our story began with hard choices to protect children and staff; choices that allowed Camp Capers to welcome our first campers with joy and confidence in summer of 1947. We are reassured to know that the difficult decisions we faced this year were also faced by the camp directors and diocesan leaders before us, and that it is because of their faithful stewardship that the ministry of Camp Capers began and continues today.
While the diocese did not hold summer camp at Camp Capers in 2020, our camping programs still found ways to continue living out our mission. We conducted nine successful sessions of Family Camp at Mustang Island Conference Center; planned, purchased, prepared, and delivered 2,347 “Camp in a Box” kits to under-served youth through Communities in Schools; hosted families and individuals at Duncan Park in Colorado every week, all summer long; and conducted seven Family Retreats at Camp Capers, with more on the calendar for Fall 2020.
Additionally, the Mustang Island Waves of Growth Campaign has successfully reached its goal, raising $4.6 million in gifts and pledges, to build a beautiful open-air chapel and more lodging. Both projects are long-awaited and much-needed additions to the conference center and will improve the ways we are able to serve families, churches, and guests at our island home. The Campaign committee is co-chaired by Alice Sallee, Gregg Robertson, and Bill Pettus of Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi. We give thanks for this committee and for their persistent work to reach this exciting moment. The Diocese is collaborating with a contractor on the final designs and hope to break ground on the new buildings this fall.
Duncan Park’s site committee, led by Tommy Mathews of St.Helena’s, Boerne, began a Master Planning process facilitated by architect Ben Adam, also a member of St. Helena's. The committee and camp staff have worked hard all summer, studying the current and future needs of the Duncan Park ministry, facility opportunities, and limits. The group hopes to have a plan in place by the end of this year.
The ongoing improvements to the Duncan Park facilities continued this summer, included re-siding the rear exterior wall and adding new windows to the Main Lodge. Now, the lodge has been completely re-sided, providing protection to the outside of the building for years to come.
Camp Capers also launched a Master Planning process, beginning with the Brinsmade Sanctuary, the 108 undeveloped acres added in 2013. Thanks to a generous, anonymous gift, we hired Ten Eyck Landscape Architects to survey the acreage and develop a plan focused on ecological restoration, wildlife preservation, and environmental education. A low-impact teaching pavilion with bathrooms, a rainwater collection system, and solar panels is the first priority. The pavilion will be an excellent place to hold worship, teach creation care, and gather, as well as provide a central re-stocking place for Summer Camp overnight camp-outs and camping reservations year-round. Construction of this simple, highly functional pavilion is anticipated to begin later this fall.
The world will remember Summer 2020 as the summer of face masks, canceled plans, and social distancing. And yet, in the midst of these unknown and tragic times, the importance of focusing on our work, our ministry, and our commitment to you and the Diocese has grounded our camping program and continues to provide stability as we begin planning for the future.
We constantly pray to God for guidance and strive to follow the teachings of Jesus as we walk together through this season; we continue to look to you, our camp community, for prayers and support. Thank you for your trust and the ways you continue to engage with our diocesan camping programs.
Camps and Conferences Director
Originally shared in the Camps & Conferences Quarterly Newsletter. Click here to subscribe to the Camps & Conferences email list for regular updates.