Crestfield Camp & Conference Center offers innovative ConFluence initiative
Coming of age in New Zealand, Paul Humphreys deeply understood that country’s special, spiritual connection with the land. “As a child, I was often messing around in rivers, hiking, biking, and sailing,” says Humphreys, who has served as program director for Outreach and Disciple-Making at the Crestfield Camp & Conference Center in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, for the last two years. Crestfield, the camp and conference center for Pittsburgh Presbytery, is a thriving facility that currently serves over 600 campers in the summertime as well close to 3,000 conference and retreat users.
“When you start at a young age, you get comfortable with the land,” Humphreys says. “For me, I look back and realize that it gave me meaning for my faith. I love the wilderness, experiencing these things that I could apply to real life. It’s got to be active, outdoor, and experiential.”
Humphreys—who had been serving as a youth minister in his native New Zealand until he answered a call to camp ministry at the Presbyterian-related Cedarkirk Camp & Conference Center 15 years ago—was in Little Rock attending “Side by Side,” the annual conference of the Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center Association (PCCCA). The 2016 gathering, held November 6–11, was a joint event with the Outdoor Ministry Association of the United Church of Christ.
To be able to offer young adults in the U.S. the same opportunity that he enjoyed growing up, discernment and growth in spiritual formation in an outdoor, experiential setting has become both a passion and a mission for Humphreys, who oversees Crestfield’s ConFluence initiative.
Launched in October 2015, from September to May ConFluence is a residential community for young adults. Participants serve and live at Crestfield, learning the ins and outs of both camp and conference center ministry and church ministry.
“The young adults commit to living in intentional community where they engage in daily ministry practices and do meaningful community,” Humphreys says. Community book discussions and meals are also a component of their spiritual formation as participants grow closer to God and discern God’s call for the future. As part of their Christian formation, ConFluence participants plan, promote, lead, and evaluate the many Crestfield-sponsored retreats.
Crestfield is also a host site for the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Financial Aid for Service office’s Season of Service Loan Assistance (SSLA) program, which encourages young adults to discern who God created them to be through such mission service opportunities as ConFluence. SSLA provides up to $250 a month in student loan repayment assistance to volunteers and interns engaged in temporary or part-time mission work in support of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministry, related camp or conference center, congregation, or new worshiping community.
“Launching a program that uses intentional communities of young adults to build around spirituality and discernment first, and skills building second, is a game changer,” says Brian Frick, associate for Camp and Conference Ministries for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “It moves us from offering internships, which compete with the workplace and school training that they are getting in the secular world, and uses our strength in community and spirituality at our sacred space—camps—to launch a new level of spiritual engagement in Christians. If they are not coming to church, traditional Sunday church, where are young adults getting mentored in a spiritual life as a disciple in a Reformed tradition? I believe this is a huge step for the PC(USA).”
Emily Enders Odom, mission communications strategist
Today’s Focus: Young Adults
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Mission Co-workers
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Loving God, thank you for the abundance of “loaves” in our lives. Thank you for the camps and conference centers of our church, where we learn to appreciate the wonders of your creation, feast on your unending love, and share that love with others. Amen.