The Episcopal Dioceses of Fond du Lac and Milwaukee are pleased to announce a new cooperative ministry to provide a joint summer camp and youth ministry resource person for diocesan congregations. Each diocese has a strong heritage of ministry with youth, including camping, having pursued a variety of models, approaches and methods over the past decades.
“For many years, there has been conversation about coming together for camp,” Bishop Matt Gunter of Fond du Lac notes. “The positive comments about this idea has grown, especially these past two years. I’ve heard from youth and adults, clergy and laity, campers and staff, asking why we aren’t doing camp together” Bishop Jeff Lee of Milwaukee also heard similar comments. Fond du Lac summer camp sessions in 2021 and 2022 included campers and staff from the Dioceses of Eau Claire and Milwaukee.
“In addition to camp, several diocesan leaders recognized a need for a youth ministry resource person to be available for congregations to reach out to for support, guidance and direction,” noted Matthew Payne, Lay Canon for Administration for Fond du Lac. “After we had conversation with diocesan leaders, it became clear that one proposal which encompassed both areas was feasible in terms of time and financial resources.”
That proposal was to create a position of Youth Networking Coordinator (YNC). This full-time position would have two key components – summer camp director and coordinator for networking youth ministries. This integrated approach would see camp as a foundation for a year-round networking resource person to build connections and relationships to expand networking with congregations. Each diocese had youth staff funding in their 2023 budgets whose combination allows implementing the full proposal. A Steering Committee, with members from each diocese selected for camp or youth work experience, will provide oversight to the ministry venture.
Camp sessions will be held over three weeks in June 2023 at Waypost Camp, east of Wausau, Wisconsin. Having been the site of the Fond du Lac camp for the past two years, its facilities have proved amazingly suited to the program. Waypost is owned and operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Working with a Christian camp allows for collaboration unavailable from secular facilities. Because The Episcopal Church is in full communion with the ELCA, there is also an ecumenical benefit. Recognizing the driving distances involved for some, consideration will be made to coordinate carpooling or transportation service from the Milwaukee area.
Youth networking will involve building relationships with diocesan and congregational leaders and offering support and assistance to those engaged in youth ministry. The coordinator will be aware of and informed of ministry resources, programs, and church-wide networks in youth ministry. The coordinator will also directly engage each year with at least 1/3 of congregations in each diocese over a 3-year cycle. This may be an in-person visit but may be through in-depth Zoom or other connections.
Bishop Gunter and Bishop Lee readily recognized a person who was qualified, skilled, and experienced in both camp management and youth ministry and already employed by Fond du Lac and have hired Erin Wolf as Youth Networking Coordinator starting January 1, 2023. Wolf has been diocesan youth ministry coordinator and camp director since 2016 and director of youth ministry at All Saints, Appleton since 2012. She has served congregations in Episcopal and ELCA congregations for nearly two decades. Because relational work is an important part of the YNC, Bishop Lee and Bishop Gunter noted she has been actively involved in youth ministry and camp in both dioceses, both as a youth and adult. Wolf holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Cardinal Stritch University and has been involved in youth ministry networks in the Episcopal Church on the provincial and national level. She is also a musician and songwriter.
“As another sign of our deepening cooperation with Episcopalians across the State of Wisconsin, I am delighted we will share in supporting Erin Wolf’s expanded role as Youth Networking Coordinator,” Bishop Jeff Lee of Milwaukee shared. “She brings a wealth of experience to this work, and I am confident that youth and adults will benefit from her leadership. Welcome, Erin!”
Look for additional information about camp and networking opportunities in January 2023.
For the last two summers, the diocesan camp has been held at Waypost Camp, a part of Crossways Camping Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Camp Director Erin Wolf describes the facility and the staff who work there as a wonderful fit for our camp program. Starting in 1926, the diocese has never owned a camp facility but has rented space from thirteen different places across the state (see list at end).
The Crossways Camping Ministries newsletter featured this year's EpiscoWisco camp, as a community partner. The article is provided here.
Crossways has a long history of partnering with community organizations. Every program is a little bit different, but they are all mutually beneficial. Our community partners get to enjoy a beautiful environment with abundant hospitality, and Crossways is able to fill our summer calendar. Our newest partner is the Diocese of Fond du Lac of the Episcopal Church. This was their second summer at Waypost, and it’s starting to feel like home to them.
"Here at EpiscoWisco Camp, we are grateful to continue building our relationships with Crossways and Waypost Camp! Our campers and staff were blessed by our time at Waypost Camp in June. Whether working together at low ropes, building confidence at archery, exploring creation on hikes & nature walks, or celebrating Holy Eucharist in the chapel or at the Chi Rho, we were thrilled to have had such a beautiful and holy space to gather. We can't wait to see what God has in store for the 2023 season!"
Camp has been held at a variety of location since 1926: Nepco Lake (Wisconsin Rapids), Camp Cleghorn (Waupaca), Fort Wilderness (Rhinelander), Chute Lake (Mountain), Camp Robin Hood (Green Lake), Camp Pilgrim (Green Lake), Camp Talaki (Waupaca), Camp Webb (Wautoma), Camp Anokijig (Plymouth), Nature’s Edge Camp (Waupaca), Crescent Lake Bible Camp (Rhinelander), Camp Lakotah (Wautoma) and its newest home, Waypost Camp (Hatley).
The Diocese of Fond du Lac youth ministries have been wonderfully blessed by an unexpected gift of $50,000 through the generosity of an anonymous donor. The donor shared the contribution is made in thanksgiving for the commitment the diocese has shown to youth work, especially as shown through its summer camp. Youth work in the diocese has over a century of history, beginning with a diocesan school for girls in the 1880’s and over 90 years of an organized summer camp experience. The operating budget includes a significant to faith formation for young people from all congregations.
The donor determined to make the gift because of seeing children and youth being positively impacted and experiencing the love of God through the people and programs of the diocese. With the donors input, a majority of the gift has been placed with the Val Burg Memorial Youth Work Fund, essentially doubling its assets. Started in the early 1990’s through gifts from a number of supporters, the fund provides ongoing financial support to youth ministries of the diocese. Those interested in supporting the fund are invited to do so here.
We are truly excited to be holding summer camp sessions at Waypost Camp near Hatley, Wisconsin. This site provides many opportunities for outdoor activities while building camp community. You are invited to check-out Waypost yourself by watching 5-minute walk-through video narrated by our own Camp Director Erin "Erni" Wolf. Watch it here.
Planning continues to move ahead for hosting the Diocese of Fond du Lac Summer Camp in-person. We continue to track the pandemic and ways that it may impact the camp program. Working with our diocesan Covid Task Force, our camp physician, and Crossways Camping Ministries, along with information available through the Centers for Disease Control, Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers and the American Camp Association, protocols will be in place during camp sessions to minimize the risk of transmission. While the specific protocols to follow will not be decided until shortly before camp, the variety of options will have been researched and understood. At a minimum they will include masking and social distancing. Meals and activities will be outside as much as possible. More published on the camp webpage when determined.
Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator Erin Wolf has announced 2021 diocesan Summer Camp information. Camp sessions focus on faith development for campers using volunteer staff, many of whom were once campers. Plans are in development for sessions to be in-person and on-site as pandemic circumstances allow. In addition, an at home version of camp will be offered.
The schedule includes Senior Session June 20-26 (completing grades 9-12), Middler and Junior Sessions June 26-July 1 (completing grades 2-8) and KinderCamp July 1-3 (ages 4-7 with an adult). We are also inviting 2020 high school graduates, honoring their inability to attend in-person in 2020 because of the pandemic. 2021 camp sessions will be held at Waypost Camp on Mission Lake (crosswayscamps.org/waypost) in Hatley, Wisconsin, about 20 minutes east of Mosinee. Waypost is a site of Crossways Camping Ministries, a multi-site outdoor ministry organization rooted in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“We are very excited to be going to Waypost this year” camp director Erin Wolf shared. “It has great facilities that match our program needs and will allow for better flexibility in both activities and pandemic protection protocols.” Located on a mile and a half of natural shoreline of Mission Lake, Waypost offers swimming and canoeing, arts & crafts, a variety of outdoor activities including a low-ropes initiatives course along with comfortable meeting and sleeping spaces. A beautiful chapel provides a sacred space for worship in the camp tradition.
“Our summer camp is a wonderful example of a truly diocesan program,” Bishop Matt Gunter recently shared with the Executive Council. “Except for diocesan convention, it is the longest running program of the diocese and has drawn campers and staff from each diocesan congregation.” Beginning in 1926 with Bishop Weller as the first Chaplain, there has been a diocesan camping program almost every year Camp goals can be described as three C’s: Community – building relationships between each other and with God; Creation – being in, honoring and enjoying God’s creation; and Cloister – separating intentionally from everyday life to enhance our focus on Community and Creation.
The diocese has never owned a camp facility but instead has rented or leased space from other camps including Nepco Lake (Wisconsin Rapids), Camp Cleghorn (Waupaca), Fort Wilderness (Rhinelander), Chute Lake (Mountain), Camp Robin Hood (Green Lake), Camp Pilgrim (Green Lake), Camp Talaki (Waupaca), Camp Webb (Wautoma), Camp Anokijig (Plymouth), Nature’s Edge Camp (Waupaca), Crescent Lake Bible Camp (Rhinelander) and Camp Lakotah (Wautoma).
Registration information will be available by the middle of February at diofdl.org/camp.
From Bishop Matt:
Dear Members of the Diocese of Fond du Lac,
I have been pleased with the way our congregations have continued to find ways to be the church despite the challenges presented by Covid-19. Clergy and lay leaders have found creative means of leading prayer worship while we are dispersed. Members have found ways of staying connected to one another. Congregations have proven agile in making sure their outreach ministries continue serving those in need. There is no denying the losses. Regular worship has been suspended. Events have been canceled or postponed. Still, God has remained faithful to his church and you have demonstrated a responding faithful resilience. I am confident you will continue to do so as long as this lasts in whatever ways it lasts.
We will also need to demonstrate that same creative faithful resilience with our Diocesan Summer Camp. Our Camp Director, Erin Wolf, and I have been in conversation and decided it would be unwise hold camp in the usual way. This is not an easy decision given how important we know camp is. Many of you know how much I personally love attending camp every year. But given the uncertainty of where things will be with the infection rate, the likelihood of ongoing restriction of some kind, and our own determination not to put our children, youth or staff at risk, this is the decision we need to make.
The good news is that just as our congregations have found creative ways to continue being the church differently, plans are being made to be camp differently. We can still provide opportunities for connecting with friends, learning more about following Jesus as members of the church, and having fun. I will let Erin tell you about those plans.
From Camp Director Erin Wolf:
The ever-evolving nature of our current pandemic has led us to make the decision that the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac Summer Camp will not happen at Camp Lakotah this summer. We know this decision will disappoint those who hold camp near and dear to their hearts. Our camping community continues to be held in prayer as we grieve the loss of a beloved opportunity to gather in-person. But there will be camp!
We are immensely blessed to have a volunteer staff who is willing to take this opportunity to connect our community in a transformative way with Camp @ Home. During our scheduled camp dates of June 7-21, we will offer times of online check-ins and provide for at-home camp activities. Camp staff will create videos showing how to do crafts or singing a song (and more) featured on the diocesan YouTube channel, viewable at your convenience. Camp @ Home won’t replicate the experience of gathering in-person, but God is with us wherever and however we come together, even in a digital space that is different from what we are accustomed to.
Above all, though, please pray. Pray for our friends at Camp Lakotah, for our staff, for graduating seniors and all our campers & families. These are difficult times we are living in, and God will continue to see us through!
Thank you all for your patience and prayers as we continue to navigate this uncharted territory. We hope you will consider joining us for the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac Summer Camp through Camp @ Home.
Grace and peace,
Erin Wolf (she/her/hers)
P.S. If conditions allow it, we hope to have an in-person Camp Day gathering at Camp Lakotah later this summer. We’d have time for a variety of camp activities that we all love including worship, games, crafts, and hopefully, gaga ball! More information will be shared as we continue to learn more about what we are able to safely offer camp families.
Q&A (Questions and Answers)
Q: What is Camp @ Home? What does that mean for me and/or my camper(s)?
A: Camp @ Home combines scheduled online gatherings via Zoom for campers & staff and @ home activities for campers. Online time gives opportunity to check-in and hang out; worship using the Daily Office; conversations on a topic in both large & small groups. @ home activities include doing camp activities @ home, like crafts, campfire with s'mores, and singing camp graces at mealtimes.
Q: What if I don’t have materials for activities or a Book of Common Prayer? How can I participate?
A: Register for Camp @ Home at diofdl.org/camp by Memorial Day (May 25) and we’ll send you a camp care package at no cost! It will include items like the online gathering schedule via Zoom, camp graces for mealtimes, printouts for worship, materials for some of the projects, and low- or no-cost camp activities to do at home.
Q: What if I don’t have reliable access to the internet? How can I participate?
A: Register for Camp @ Home at diofdl.org/camp (well, or call us at 920-830-8866 as you may not have internet access) by June 1 and tell us about this need. We will do all we can to get you connected either through another camp family nearby or a local congregation. And if that doesn’t work, you can still join the online times via phone and will still get the care package for @ home activities.
Q: Where do I find the current information on Camp @ Home?
A: Visit the summer camp webpage at diofdl.org/camp. We also send out updates via email and through diocesan social media. If you really need to know now, contact the Camp Director.
Q: What can I do to support camp at this time? How might I help?
A: Let’s count the ways you can help:
Q: How do I contact the Camp Director?
A: To contact Camp Director Erin “Erni” Wolf send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to talk directly to Erin, call (920) 830-8866 and you can get connected.
We invite you to participate in an open discussion about Camp for the Future. Discussions will inform those making decisions to make our summer camp program meet its goals in the best way possible. Camp goals can be described as three C’s.
We have been experiencing growing challenges in doing camp. We know how important our camp program has been in the diocese since 1926, so are being proactive in planning for the future. We are looking at ways we can change our path to avoid ending up in a dead end. We invite you to help us look at ways we can change. We know you care about our diocesan camp. We hope you are invested in its continuation in the best way possible. You can show a visible sign of that commitment by attending one or both discussion sessions.
These discussion sessions will be led by a trained and experienced facilitator who will help us share our thoughts openly. Please do join us. Snacks and drinks will be served. Please RSVP at diofdl.org/camp.
Camp for the Future Discussion Sessions