How UNY CRM shaped lives
May 17, 2022 / By Matt Williams, Sky Lake Camp & Retreat Center Site Director
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2022 Issue I of the Advocate. Click here to access this issue, which focuses on children and youth.
It is always fascinating to see the number of hands that are raised when a group of clergy women and men are asked if they received their call to ministry in a camp and retreat setting. What is it about time spent at Aldersgate, Asbury, Casowasco, Sky Lake, and Skye Farm as a young person that exerts such influence over the direction of so many lives?
For Greg Milunich and the Rev. Dr. Beth Quick it was encountering an intentional community dedicated to a lived-out faith that helped them discern their vocation and continued involvement in the Church.
“Being a SNAP helped me realize that faith was something more than sitting in a church on Sundays,” said Greg. He spent three summers in his teenage years as a Special Needs Assistant Personnel (SNAP for short) helping with special needs programs at Sky Lake. Greg was already a long-time camper and jumped at the opportunity to spend even more time at camp when his brother’s friend told him about the SNAP program.
The campers Greg encountered were “some of the most genuine and wonderful people, who taught me so much about faith and what it means to be human in this world.” For him, the opportunity to experience a faith community in which people were welcomed and embraced without exception helped him claim his faith as his own.
“Camp giving me a sense of ownership over my own faith journey was really meaningful” for the Rev. Dr. Beth Quick as well. It was the summer after fourth grade when Beth first attended a week of camp at Aldersgate, with the Rev. Dan Corretore as the volunteer dean.
“Getting to see so many clergy in the camp setting was influential.” After that first summer, she could not wait until she was old enough to be on staff, but in the interim, Beth continued returning to Aldersgate as a camper. She especially loved that there was a place where young people were not only expected but encouraged to speak about one’s own faith and to take responsibility for that faith. “The churches I grew up in encouraged this as well, but camp was the first time I saw people near my own age taking on leadership roles and speaking about their faith publicly,” Beth said.
From the moment the sites were established by the legacy Conferences, Upper New York Camp and Retreat Centers have been intentional about fostering the near-peer experience that both Beth and Greg encountered as campers. Whether it be for a weekend or a week, featuring young persons—who are only a few years older than the campers themselves—in leadership roles naturally invites campers to come into the center of ministry from the periphery in a way that local churches are not always equipped to do. Having clergy and committed lay adults in roles that actively support young persons in leadership roles contribute to the positive experience.
Looking back on her faith journey, Beth was like many campers in that her call to a vocation came in stages. She first felt the call to be on summer staff, which in turn led her to discern a call to youth ministry. Beth recounts that as a teen, her pastor would let her plan the retreats the youth from Rome First would take at Aldersgate, which later helped her to discern a call to pastoral ministry. “When I became a pastor, the expectation of giving a week of my time to camp was genuinely exciting.”
Over her 17 years serving local churches, Beth’s excitement of being able to serve in this capacity extended to summers at Aldersgate and Sky Lake, and with CCYM retreats at Asbury and Casowasco. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Drew Theological Seminary but looks forward to spending time at Skye Farm in the future.
Like Beth, Greg’s road to becoming a special education teacher today also involved stages. “After SNAPing, I realized that I liked working with people with disabilities, but was also passionate about history, so I decided to major in both in college.” It was during his time student teaching, that Greg concluded that he wanted a career that was going to be more than a job, that was going to be different every day, and that was going to make an impact on lives. “So I looked back at the positive experiences I had as a SNAP and decided that being a special education teacher was where I could best put my faith in action,” Greg said.
Being a teacher has also allowed Greg to return to camp as a volunteer dean multiple times. During the pandemic, his home church, Ogden-Hillcrest UMC in the Binghamton District, benefitted immensely from Greg videography and computer skills. Today, his oldest two children have become campers themselves. “I hope their lives are equally enhanced by the active faith community I encountered as a camper,”
Registrations for summer programs and staff applications are currently being accepted at all Upper New York Camp and Retreat Ministry sites. Visit campsandretreats.org for more information. Or scan the QR code with your mobile device.