Much of the financing for the project came in through the Planting for Tomorrow capital campaign fund. (This was the fund that we used to put on a new roof, paint the building, and buy a new stove. We kept 70% of the money we raised, and 30% of the money went to the Wakeman campground.) As a Diocese, we raised more than our target amount, so we will be able to do this project right, and do it more quickly than we expected.
The property itself is pretty much unchanged from the last time I was there two years ago. It is still a beautiful spot, bounded on three sides by the Vermilion River (quite a contrast with Cedar Hills, which is bounded on one side by an Interstate highway and on the other by a gas station). Most of the work to date is invisible: architectural and engineering studies, codes and permits, demolition of old buildings, and roughing in roads and parking lots. The local people and the town government seem very happy to have us there, so the various permits have been quite easy to obtain.
In a quick summary, here's what we hope for in the new property:
- Camp Cedar Hills never had its own water source and could never be made handicap accessible, so it was always expensive to operate and had limited usefulness. The new location will not have those problems.
- Cedar Hills was north of Youngstown, which put it out of reach for our people in northwest Ohio. This is one reason it was never fully utilized. Wakeman is much more centrally located.
- For those of us in Ashland, the driving distance is about half: 45 minutes to Wakeman versus 90 minutes to Cedar Hills.
- We actually have a bit of farmland in Wakeman, which we will use for sustainable agriculture projects. There has been a lot of interest from outside groups in using our property for their programs too.
- It has been two years since we were able to have a summer camp program at Cedar Hills; we are hoping to have one in Wakeman in July 2017. (The cabins are being pre-built in warehouses over the summer, so they can be put up very quickly next year.)
The place has a name
With a bit of fanfare, Bishop Hollingsworth announced the new name for the property:
Here's his explanation of the term:
Since the Middle Ages, shepherds have singled out one ram in a flock to wear a bell and indicate where the flock is going. The bellwether has come to signify a harbinger or herald of what is to come. In this sense, it is the Church's vocation to be a bellwether of the kingdom of God, and the vocation of every Christian is to be a bellwether of God's mission to heal the world. It is, of course, our common prayer that through this new camp, retreat, and education center, and in each of our lives, we will be the bellwether of Christ's redeeming and reconciling love.
Two more thoughts
- Of the 300 or so people there, at least 100 were children and teenagers. Their numbers surprised me. A retreat/conference center such as this one is really important to our mission to teach and disciple these kids, and they will (very soon) grow into the adults who sustain our church.
- It's very easy to forget that there are members of our larger church beyond the walls of our parish and the 40 or so people we see weekly. When I attend such events as Winter Convocation, the Mission Area Council, and the Bishop's Bike ride, they pull me out of myself and remind me of the larger church, and when I show up at such things as the Wakeman BBQ picnic, I always get involved in conversations with distant friends. There's much more to the church than our tiny corner.