Pastor Will Rose of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chapel Hill is used to spending a lot of his summer at camp. After growing up as a camper, then counselor, then program leader at Lutheran camps in North Carolina, he’s now a pastor who devotes a significant amount of his ministry to camp. Pastor Will returns to Lutheridge each year with students for Confirmation Camp and with his wife and daughters as leaders with Family Camp. Then he grabs his surfboard and heads to the Kure Beach Retreat Center to help lead Agapé+Kure Beach Ministries Surf Camp.
For Pastor Will, just like thousands of others who love camp, the summer of 2020 was different. Outdoor ministries lost the whole summer to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now camps in the North Carolina Synod are working hard to welcome campers and guests back again, and Pastor Will is glad to experience it. And to be part of the effort.
“I know behind the scenes, everyone is working doubly hard,” he says. “They’re understaffed just like the rest of the country, they’ve had to change the way they do things, they’re so concerned with keeping everyone safe. Yet despite feeling the pinch of all that, there’s no doubt that campers are having the same quality experience as they would any other summer. Everybody is working extra hard to make sure of that.”
Pastor Will and other pastors from across the synod brought students to camp again this summer for confirmation camp, and for many of the young people it was their first significant social experience in over a year. “The kids were definitely learning to be around people again,” says Pastor Will. “But then I saw the same transformative experience I’ve seen so many times before. On Sunday night, I had campers saying, ‘Why’d you make me come here, Pastor?’ And then by Friday they’re saying they don’t want to go home, it’s the best week ever, and they can’t wait to come back next summer. That same thing that I’ve heard so many times, and that I missed hearing last year not being at camp. That same transformative experience of camp is happening again this summer.”
For many years, Pastor Will and his wife Cindy have helped lead Family Camp at Lutheridge. This summer, they watched their older daughter Hannah step into new leadership as a first-year counselor. She worked with Pastor Will in both Confirmation Camp and Family Camp.
“We couldn’t be more proud,” says Pastor Will. Then he adds with a smile, “We only had two parenting goals: one was my kids being pro surfers so they can take me on surf trips, and the other is them being camp counselors. And one out of two’s not bad!”
Hannah is far from the only one taking on new responsibility this summer. Everywhere he looks around camp, Pastor Will sees people stepping up and pitching in, from former staff returning to help to guests happily serving how they can. “At Family Camp, we have parents who’ve been around a long time and kids like my daughter Ella who have been at camp since before they could walk. The staff asked us all to step in and help out in different ways like serving a row of tables in the dining hall and everyone responded, ‘Sure, we’d love to.’”
With the help and support of everyone who loves them, NC Synod outdoor ministries are forming faith and changing lives again this summer.
Pastor Will says, “Despite all the hard things, it was so good to sit in a room again with friends again and say, ‘We made it back. How has this year been for you? How can we help each other? How can we help camp? How can we take care of each other?’ That felt really good.”