Photo: Todd Bartlett
I love when old timers, who remember the early days of camp, visit Camp Magruder. I listen to their stories of what the camp was like when the United Methodist Church first purchased the property near Barview. The camp was mostly beach grass and salal. The wide path next to the Smith Lake that used to be the Pacific Highway was still very visible. I hear people in their 80s and 90s talk about coming up as children with work groups from their churches trimming out the salal. I’ve seen black and white pictures of makeshift campfires and people in 1940s attire.
Through the stories and the pictures, you realize how the land that would later be known as Camp Magruder grew out of the church. I don’t know what it was like for the churches of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but I suspect they felt a longing to get outdoors and encounter God in a more natural setting. The Oregon Conference secured the property and sculpted it over many years. In the very early days, church groups camped on the grounds, braving the weather on the coast. Over the years many groups were added. Outdoor schools began to do their lessons at Magruder. Now from March to Thanksgiving, there is someone here for retreat on most days. Needless to say, we see many groups and many different people.
In all my welcome talks, I tell our groups how we hope their stay with us enhances what they came here to do. I am genuinely curious about the reasons our groups visit. I also share with them my hopes that they leave us feeling renewed because of their time here. Not only do I hope they accomplish the task they came for, I hope that living in community for a few days at Camp Magruder will enhance the success of that mission, and that their time here gives them a deeper sense of that calling they came to discover and cultivate.
Each time we welcome a group to our grounds, we are providing both a space for them to do their thing AND we are partnering with them in their mission. If a church is here for spiritual growth, we see ourselves as a collaborator in that quest for growth. If a group is increasing awareness, offering healing, strengthening relationships, or developing new skills, we feel like we are walking with them through those journeys. For our own United Methodist churches, we seek to be something even more.
I think about the first time churches came to their camp on the coast 70 years ago. I think about the children playing, the adults setting up tents and campfires. I think about the planning and the building. Then I think about all the relationships that were established that would not have existed without that time at camp. I think about the ways that work done at Camp Magruder led to ministries taking root and budding in churches. I think about the plans for community development born in churches making their way to Magruder and blossoming here.
Many things were brought to Magruder from our churches: the bell, the Sherlock cross, and all the pianos, for instance. These items are tangible and visible. But, the larger impact comes from the intangibles that have been brought over the years. We hope that the days spent here in community help foster visions and ideas for how the faith will continue to be shaped as the church grows. We hope that the church finds out about itself when it comes to Camp Magruder. We hope that the revelatory things happening at home in the church also shape Camp Magruder. Though we are a place set apart, we continue to shape and be shaped by the ways our church evolves.