Memories of Epworth

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An E-pistle From Bishop Mike Coyner

September 12, 2006

July 1, 2005: "Jesus Needs Thumbs"

I have been going to church camp this summer. Last week I visited Camp Moneto in the South Conference, and next week I will be visiting Rivervale and Camp Indi-Co-S0. Last night I visited Senior High Institute at Epworth Forest in the North Conference where I was privileged to issue a call to ministry – and 15 youth responded, along with dozens and dozens who came forward to make first-time or recommitments to Christ. I have agreed to go every Thursday evening to Epworth Forest for their Commitment Night to issue similar calls to ministry.

I am a product of camping ministry, and I believe it is essential for pastors, district superintendents, the bishop, youth directors, and lots of key lay leaders to be involved in the camping and outdoor ministries of our two conferences. If we really believe that "making disciples of Jesus" is a priority, then it is obvious that camping is one of the best ways we do that in Indiana.

Being back at Epworth Forest last night was special. That is the campground where I first responded to a call to ministry, so it is a special place for me (and for many other clergy in Indiana). One of my favorite spots on that campus is the chapel area which has a lovely statue of Jesus.

However, once again, I noticed that Jesus needs thumbs. That statue has always been difficult, in that the thumbs easily break off. I know that at one point the camp ministry ordered several extra sets of thumbs for the statue, but they seem to keep breaking off.

As I gazed at the statue of Jesus last night, I realized that there might be a deeper meaning here: Jesus needs thumbs, Jesus needs us to be his thumbs in the world today. Hands are less useful without thumbs – they are unable to grasp, to hold, to embrace, to extend help, or simply to greet. Some scientists would even say that this "opposite thumb" is the most basic characteristic of being human. Jesus needs thumbs, he needs us to be his living presence – extending a greeting of welcome, offering an embrace of consolation, sharing food and aid to those in need, holding onto those who are falling, and reaching out in love to all the world.

Jesus needs thumbs. That is one reason why I am going to our camps, supporting our disciple-making efforts, and calling youth to ministry. Because Jesus needs us to be his thumbs.

Hilary R. Ridenour - Institute July 17-24, 2004

July 28, 2005

My name is Hilary Ridenour, I attended church camp last year with the group that came for Parkview Untied Methodist Church in Peru. It was the second day that we got there, we had just got done eating with the band, Nate Sally, and I was walking with my friends to the assembly hall, and the boys were playing ball and they asked me to move back politely and so I did and I was moving back into the grass area and when I did move back I had lost control I fell backwards and hit my head on the tree stump in front the cabin called "Nome."

Luckily there was an off duty paramedic near by, I hit my head so heard you can hear it from 200 feet away. I thought that I was going to die, it was so scary and so frightening, well since I was over the age of 18 I was able to choose to stay or go in the ambulance, and so I choose the ambulance, because my neck was also hurting also. I came back and I had people asking if I was OK, and from that day, I have seen things and people in a whole different perspective then I did before I had the accident.

I want to say a BIG Thank you to all the people who were there for me and to a MAJOR THANK YOU to Epworth Forest for their love and support. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the love and support from the people who was there for me.


Hilary R. Ridenour
Attended Institute July 17-24, 2004

Marian Steedman reflects on how Epworth Forest Choir School began…

August 29, 2004

Institute was a yearly event for high school students of the Methodist Church of North Indiana Conference for one week in the summer. Sponsors and pastor's wives were counselors and cooks for the group from each local church. The session was held at Epworth Forest. Classes were held in the morning and activities were in the afternoon. Often there were adult sessions for sponsors.

50 years ago I attended High school Institute as cook and sponsor. Varner Chance was leading a class in a tent on hymnody for sponsors and cooks. We studied the hymnal and helps for worship services. On Wednesday or Thursday of that week we were having discussion of leadership in the local church and choir (music) particularly in the smaller congregations. Most churches had a song leader, but not choir directing and selection of music ability. We were discussing how to get good choral music to small church choirs. Suggestions were given by members of the class and I commented we had instruction for Women's and Men's interests and nothing for choirs. I asked about providing a week of training and music selection for directors, etc., even Pastors could help with incorporation with music. I inquired about having a week at Epworth Forest to study the use of hymns, special music, planning, and helps for a year's program. Much discussion followed. Varner was excited and said he would be happy to pursue this and take it to the summer program committee.

It quickly took hold and what a blessing has come to thousands of us through the years. The rest of the story is the impact this has spread. Choir School has given special ministry of music for different age groups and broadened with church music with spirituality, variety of music, outstanding productions, and leadership.

I have been privileged to attend most of the weekend services, only once did I participate in the full week I feel BLESSED to have been a small part of an idea that took fire and has burned brightly in lives these fifty years and cherish the thought of continuing -- who knows how far into the future. God bless each one who has roots in this venture and keeps it going on and on.

Marian Steedman

Pauline's Story

July 28, 2003

When asked to write a paragraph about "What Epworth Forest has meant to me my memory recalled involvements of over fifty years.

In 1944 my husband while at Marion College was given Griffin Chapel as a student appointment. It was a challenge as we had recently moved from Iowa. And now this awesome responsibility! That summer was our first experience of going to Epworth Forest with our youth group. That was the beginning of our commitment to Epworth Forest and it's ministries.

My life has been blessed by the programs that were held on the grounds.

My first experience with "Lab School" for training church school teachers began when I accompanied the children's teachers from our congregation. Later I was Director of Children's work in our Conference. Hence I was Director of the Lab School. In that position I was privileged to attend National Conferences conducted by religious educators.

Another important program was the School of Christian Mission. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn and expand our concepts of Mission. Later I was asked to start and direct a program for the children of the participates in the School of Christian Mission.

Recently I have had the privilege of being on the decorating committee of the Freeland House restoration. It has been a rewarding experience to be a part of the volunteers who have given time and money to bring life and vitality back to Freeland House to continue in it's long history of service.

Epworth Forest has been a great blessing to me.

Pauline Taggart