Collins Shares its Mission with Church Partners

October 03, 2018

Our Denominational Partners at Alton L. Collins Retreat Center:

Sharing Mission, Growing Together

Reflections on the Seven Foundations for Camp & Retreat Ministries

Foundation 6: Partner with Local churches and Church-Related Organizations

by Dan Benson, Director of Alton L. Collins Retreat Retreat Center

Of the Seven Foundations of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies sounds both the most boring and obligatory.  I say this being fully committed to the work of The United Methodist Church and as an ordained Elder serving under appointment. But still, on the surface, this foundation might appear to be less engaging than all of the others.  

However, what I have experienced at our sites throughout the conference is that we facilitate some of the most dynamic opportunities for congregational visioning and deepening of relationships.  Believe it or not, partnering with United Methodist churches and agencies is some of the coolest work we do. Camp and Retreat Ministries also does very cool work officially partnering with Episcopal churches and agencies!

"I get to see the hand of God at work in each group's life together."

The most common and direct way that we support the work of United Methodist and Episcopal churches is through hosting church board and vestry meetings. When the leadership of a congregation steps outside of their busy lives and sets aside time for one another and their congregation, the results are dramatic. Often I see the participants come in to the center, looking weary and distracted, searching for the WiFi password in order to keep tabs on all of the projects left behind. In these moments, I understand that these are people who need time away to be open and listen for the voice of God prompting them to set forth on more grand adventures with God. Over the course of the day, weekend, or week, I see people look less anxious and more energized. I hear people talking excitedly about one idea or direction. I encounter laughter and smiles as new experiences are shared together. I get to see the hand of God at work in their life together.

While I had expected to encounter these church council, board, vestry, and committee meetings, I did not expect to see such a significant change in the lives of the participants in such a short time together.

The other thing that I did not expect to see is the number of ways that we support the work of the larger church.  We have worked with our conference to host numerous groups and agencies.  In my short time here I have worked to support:

  • United Methodist Women region-wide events
  • Certified Lay Minister training (this is a vital ministry for many of our smaller congregations to find ways to survive and even thrive amidst changing demographics)
  • A community of practice addressing new circuit rider and other models addressing the changing needs and compositions of our congregations
  • The Love Your Neighbor Coalition
  • United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
  • Jurisdictional meeting for the work of General Board of Global Ministries
  • A gathering of Episcopal female clergy focused on Women Embodying Executive Leadership
  • Time to Sow, a four day lectionary preaching planning session to map out and dream about how God is speaking to a congregation for the coming year.

The change and energy that each of these groups bring as they do their work here is intense and remarkable.  These and many other groups use the gift of our camp and retreat sites to foster the work of the local and global church.  It is a blessing and ministry to provide space and input into these processes through which our congregations, communities, denominations, and world are transformed to more readily reflect the likeness of God.

Is your congregation or organization feeling lost in the wilderness, looking for the spark of God to set you off on the next big adventure?  Or are you looking to fan the flames of the Spirit even higher in your work together?  Let us help you so that we can listen together and grow the love of God in our hearts and in our world.

Peace to you,

Dan Benson

© 2014 Camp and Retreat Ministries:

A partnership between The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church
and The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon