January 20, 2012
Dear Members of the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ,
I am very pleased to share with you some big news regarding Outdoor Ministry. After months of conversation and negotiation, today we have officially entered into a three-year agreement with the New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ regarding the future of Outdoor Ministries in our respective conferences.
An agreement has been signed in which the Maine Conference will provide programmatic and administrative leadership of the camping program at Horton Center which is located on Pine Mountain in the Presidential mountain range near Gorham, NH. Effective immediately Bryan Breault will become the Director of Outdoor Ministries of the Maine Conference and New Hampshire Conference. Also, a new position is being created of Associate Director of Outdoor Ministries of the New Hampshire Conference and Maine Conference. This will be a full-time year round staff position of the Maine Conference. Further the position of Administrative Assistant at Pilgrim Lodge will increase from part-time to full time for an additional 24 weeks in 2012 and for all of 2013 and 2014.
A financial arrangement has been agreed upon in which the New Hampshire Conference will compensate the Maine Conference for these services. This compensation will fully cover the cost of the new Associate position. It will also offset some of the costs of the Maine Conference in running our Outdoor Ministry program. This means that the Maine Conference will realize some budget savings in 2012 and even more in 2013 and 2014. I can assure you that this new endeavor will not come with additional financial cost to the Maine Conference.
In 2012 Horton Center will undergo a “transformational” year where it will not open for campers during their normal camping season. However, their autumn “shoulder season” in which New Hampshire churches can rent the facility will continue as planned. You can learn more about Horton Center at: www.hortoncenter.org/index.php?ID=11. (Please note that this agreement is only in regards to Horton Center, not Geneva Point.)
There is significant work that needs to be done in the transformation of the program at Horton Center. It is because of the successful reputation of Pilgrim Lodge and the leadership of Bryan Breault that the New Hampshire Conference sought out the assistance of her sister conference here in Maine. Several of our Coordinating Council members have expressed that this action strengthens the covenantal bonds of the United Church of Christ in northern New England. It is also a way in which we can share our success to benefit youth in New Hampshire. The Outdoor Ministry Committee in Maine is supportive of this new endeavor.
While this is a three-year agreement, we enter into it with hopes that it will evolve into a longer term relationship. In time we envision that youth from Maine will have an opportunity to have a camping experience in the White Mountains with beautiful hiking trails, a breathtaking view of the Presidential Range, an exciting (and supervised) rock climbing option: a true mountain top experience! Likewise youth from New Hampshire will have an option of a camping experience on a placid lake in Maine with canoeing, sailing, and loons that sing us to sleep at night. We believe this will be a win-win for youth in our two conferences and will ensure the longevity of outdoor ministries in northern New England.
If you have any questions regarding this “new thing” which we believe God has lead us to do, please direct your inquiries to me.
David R Gaewski
Conference Minister, Maine Conference United Church of Christ