Camping Ministry

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43: 19

Kirkwood – Brainerd Camping Ministry

Kirkwood Camp
127 Kirkwood Road
Stroudsburg, PA 18360





New Cabins Dedicated at Kirkwood Camp

kirkwood-sign2015 was the first summer as a joint camping ministry between Lehigh and Philadelphia Presbyteries, and it was an incredible success. They are blessed to have this unique combination of traditions, with both Brainerd and Kirkwood’s respective histories blending into a new, and unique, living community.

As of January 2016, Kirkwood started operating with a new Board of Directors, as well as a new on-site Director, to grow their reach as a ministry. As a part of this, they have built two brand new cabins identical to Carr Cabin, and have updated a ton of key aspects to their facilities and property. Of course, all of this has been made possible by the generous support of the presbyteries they serve, individuals and families who identify with their mission, and a huge assistance from their volunteers.

Folks from Lehigh and Philadelphia Presbyteries were invited to the dedication of the two new cabins. The dedication took place on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Participants were given an opportunity to check out the camp and become acquainted with the facilities by being able to stay overnight for a nominal fee. Then wake up to enjoy a worship service on Sunday morning at the Gorman Roof Chapel.

A small dedication ceremony took place on Saturday, before the unveiling of the new names for the cabins.

cabin-dedication-brainerd-cabin-signTommy Campbell, Camp Director helps unveil the names of the two new cabins built this year at the camp.  In honor and memory of Camp Brainerd, the first cabin was named Brainerd Cabin and the second was named Lehigh.

Many folks from Lehigh and Philadelphia joined in to dedicate these two new cabins.  Afterwards they enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by Ben Hooper of the Catasauqua Presbyterian Church.

Don’t forget the summer camping season is just around the corner.  It is a wonderful opportunity for youth to make new friends in a safe, non-judging environment and check out the new cabins and programs.  Watch for details after the first of the year.




You are cordially invited to join with us as we dedicate two new cabins at Kirkwood Camp & Conference Center on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. A supper will follow at 5:00 p.m.

RSVP’s are needed, so please call 570-421-8625

If you would like to get acquainted with the camp and would like to stay the night, overnight accommodations are available: $20 per person or $50 per family. Reservations are needed and the cost includes breakfast.

Sunday morning worship will be offered at the Gorman Roof Chapel.

We look forward to seeing you on October 29th!
Kirkwood Camp, 127 Kirkwood Road, Stroudsburg, PA



January 1, 2016

New Camp Director, Kirkwood Camp and Conference Center

The Kirkwood-Brainerd Transition Team is pleased to announce the hiring of Tommy Campbell for the position of Camp Director for Camp Kirkwood, a joint ministry of the Philadelphia and Lehigh presbyteries, effective January 1, 2016.

Tommy’s background is well suited to the responsibilities of Camp Director at Kirkwood. He has a B.A. in Religion/Music (voice) from the University of Mary Washington and has been around Christian camping for much of his life. After growing up as a camper, he was a summer staff and retreat assistant at Massanetta Springs (Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, PCUSA) and worked at Meadowkirk (National Capital Presbytery, PCUSA), carrying out supervision of various camp activities, including that of Camp Director. His experience at Meadowkirk also included working with inner city children from Washington, D.C. He gained valuable management, communication and business experience as a Marriot restaurant manager. Most recently he was employed by Camp Hanover (Presbytery of the James, PCUSA). A former employer noted, “I think Tommy’s biggest strength is his passion and enthusiasm for summer camp ministry.” The Search Committee recognized that passion and is excited about possibilities that will exist with Tommy Campbell as director.

The Search Committee executed a national search for this position and after looking at more than 30 candidates, unanimously voted to extend the offer for Camp Director to Tommy. Gershon Gordon, the former Acting Camp Director, was invited to apply for the position but declined. We are grateful to Gershon for his good stewardship of the camp and our youth, and we look forward to a new season of Christian camping with Tommy Campbell.


The joint 2015 summer camping season was quite successful.  There was a total of 350 summer campers this year with 107 from within the bounds of Lehigh Presbytery.

A fun time was had by all and you can see for yourself by viewing one of the you-tube video links below:
There have been many exciting changes to Camp this year with the merging of the Lehigh and Philadelphia camping ministries.  Many items from Brainerd were moved to Kirkwood.

The transition team, consisting of both Lehigh and Philadelphia members polled the campers this season about changing the name of the camp.  The campers could not come up with a new name and thought Kirkwood was a fine name as it means “church in the woods”. The transition team met and weighed the results from the campers, against the feelings of the loss of Brainerd, and the cost involved with changing the name of a corporation and subsequent expenses.  After some discussion they agreed that the money would be better spent on the youth to attend the camp and improvements to the camp, than to spend it on administrative expenses, corporation fees, and new letterhead, business cards, etc.

The nest time you are at the camp you will notice some familiar things from Brainerd.  You can ring the bell, sit on one of the swings in the swing circle, or spend some quiet time in the outdoor Gorman Roof Chapel.  See what the youth saw this summer.  It’s not about the name, but the experience.  There was some familiar and some new, but what didn’t change was the opportunity for the youth to have a safe place to experience God’s creation and love.

You can call (570) 421-8625 or email for more information. The Kirkwood Camp is located at 127 Kirkwood Road, Stroudsburg, PA.

Directions can be found on Please note that GPS does not work for this location.



November 19, 2014

Dear Friends of Christian Camping,

As we enter into a season of Thanksgiving, we would like to say thank you for your steadfast support of Camp Brainerd over the years. As I attended the closing ceremonies, I was quite taken with the depth of commitment and love we have for the place of Brainerd. But I was very encouraged to hear talk of how the spirit of Brainerd will live on.

We are now at a point that affords us the opportunity to take that spirit to a new place and a new level. Lehigh Presbytery’s Camp Brainerd and the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s Kirkwood Camp will merge into one ministry. For more than six decades, these two camps birthed countless testimonies of the power of Christian camping. Stories of formative faith experiences echo throughout the hearts and minds of members of both presbyteries and their churches.

Joining in full partnership with Philadelphia – birthing something new with them – became an opportunity for new life and vision that has begun to be realized. The merged ministry will bring more children to camp, increase the number of churches supporting the new camp, and help insure that camping ministry is available to our children for generations to come.

There is much to be done. A Transition Team comprised of an equal number of members from each presbytery has already begun to meet to plan the camp’s future. In order to recognize this new, joint ministry, a new name will be developed for our camp – and the spirit of Brainerd will continue to shape young hearts and minds. We have a very bright future ahead of us!

Our hope is that you will continue to faithfully walk with us, as you have in the past. We need to begin this joint ministry and the 2015 camping season on a sound financial basis. So, we are asking you to please consider joining us on this journey with your gifts of talent, time, and treasure. A meaningful first step can be making a donation to the camp. Online donations are possible at Checks may be made payable to Kirkwood-Brainerd Camp and mailed to: Presbytery of Philadelphia, 915 East Gowen Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19150. Also, please note the name of your church in the memo section. Additionally, it is possible to indicate whether you prefer your donation go toward scholarships or general use by including either “Scholarship” or “General” in the memo section as well.

Together, we can continue in our commitment to transform hearts and minds through Christian camping. Again, thank you for your faithfulness to our camping ministry. May our prayers abound as both presbyteries continue to forge this new path and new way of doing ministry together.

Rev. Ruth Ann Christopher
Christian Camping Transition Team, Co-Chair



November 14, 2014

Dear Friends of Christian Camping,

On November 10th, the Joint Transition Team met for a second time. As we shared insights during Bible study, discussed the topics at hand, and enjoyed a meal together, it became evident that a shared passion for this new ministry is emerging and new friendships are being forged with Presbyterian sisters and brothers. In the midst of laughter and singing, planning and strategizing, we accomplished a good bit of the work that lies before us.

We attended to a number of transitional and pastoral matters. Most notably, we:

  • scheduled an Open House for January 10 with January 24, 2015 designated as a blizzard day
  • considered ways to recognize Brainerd on the site of Kirkwood and noted the need to identify important and meaningful items that could potentially be transported in a ceremonial procession from Brainerd to Kirkwood
  • noted the need for a Lehigh clergy retreat or meeting at the camp
  • suggested a possible Joint Presbytery gathering or meeting at the camp
  • decided to use Brainerd’s logo and a hyphenated name (Kirkwood-Brainerd) until a naming contest can be conducted this summer with our young people
  • a video from summer 2014 can be found at for anyone who would like to get a feel of Kirkwood’s experience at camp

There were several organizational matters that required immediate attention as the 2015 Camping season is quickly approaching. Therefore, we:

  • agreed that Gershon Gordon will continue as Acting Program Director and Adam Lynch as Acting Site Manager through September 1, 2015
  • established that the Transition Team will serve as the de facto board and operate like an Administrative Commission until a new board is formed September 1, 2015 with terms beginning in 2015 (three classes). It is hoped everyone on this Transition Team would consider serving on the new Kirkwood-Brainerd Board for the sake of continuity
  • decided that each Presbytery can elect up to 9 members of the Board; plus one from Presbytery of Philadelphia’s Trustees and one from Lehigh Presbytery’s Lead Team. Leadership of the new board will entail the use of co-moderators (one from each presbytery)
  • adopted a proposed Operating Agreement & Bylaws. When updated documents are complete, they will be sent to each presbytery’s legal counsel for review
  • discerned the logistics of how to handle bookkeeping and several other administrative items

In terms of conducting a successful 2015 camp, we determined there were several operational items that must be addressed in detail. We have begun discussions about:

  • camp schedule, number of camps, registration fees, a day camp option, marketing, and scholarships
  • the need to get ARK usable (the camp on the other side of the swinging bridge.) This will require clearing debris from Hurricane Sandy, purchasing and erecting 4 wall tents which will hold 8 campers each. ($1,500-$1,700/tent)

Sensing a need to work in as efficient a manner as possible, we elected teams to address the most pressing matters and make recommendations for consideration at our next meeting. To that end, we elected a budget team, scholarship team, and January Open House team.

As you can see, we are working faithfully and diligently to complete the transition and get our new camping ministry up and running. And we would appreciate your prayers for us in our work, the Kirkwood-Brainerd Camp, and the children who will be touched by the love and grace of God through this special ministry.


Ruth Ann Christopher

Co-Chair, Christian Camping Transition Team



November 8, 2014

Update from the Christian Camping Transition Team

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43: 19

Dear Friends of Christian Camping,

The Christian Camping Transition Team, a group of your representatives, is working faithfully and diligently to create a new camping ministry using the resources of camps Brainerd and Kirkwood and of both Lehigh and Philadelphia Presbyteries. Correspondence will follow each of our meetings to make you aware of tasks with which we are dealing and directions in which we are headed.

We met for the first time last week and started our journey together. We elected co-moderators, Teaching Elders Ruth Ann Christopher, from Faith United Presbyterian Church in Lehigh Presbytery and Carter Lester from First Church Pottstown in the Philadelphia Presbytery. We developed an initial To Do list and divided our group into two task forces. One will deal with long-term strategy that includes but is not limited to, visioning, board, bylaws, financials, legal, staffing, and logistics of merger. The second task force will focus on planning and structuring a successful 2015 camping season.

An Open House will be scheduled for friends from both Presbyteries to visit Kirkwood, an ACA accredited camp, and see resources that are available to our campers. We will create a Kirkwood-Brainerd 2015 Facebook page for comments and updates from former campers, leaders and camp supporters.

Our team believes that walking together and combining the resources of leaders, campers, materials, assets, and visions will make Christian camping stronger in both our Presbyteries.

Members of the Christian Camping Transition Team include: George (Skip) Brecht, Ruth Ann Christopher, co-moderator, David Duquette, Peg Elliot, Carter Lester, co-moderator, Barbara Lucia, Paul Lucia, Dick McClain, Brian McShane, Ben Hooper, Tim Peckham, Roland Chandler, Joan Spangler, Courtenay Willcox. If you have joys, questions or concerns, please contact any one of the members of the team.

Following is a link that appeared on the Presbytery of Philadelphia website that talks about merger of the two camps and our new camping ministry together.

We are excited about the possibilities and realities of the joining of our camping ministries. The Transition Team is grateful for your ideas and visions, and especially your prayers for our work.

Rev. Ruth Ann Christopher
Christian Camping Transition Team, Co-Chair



Rev Ruth Ann Christopher - presenting camp brainerd report 9 23 2014 small

Lehigh Presbytery voted on September 23rd to approve all three motions, which closes the gate of Camp Brainerd as of November 30th, 2014.  Many of you are wondering what that means.  Jen Henshue and the rest of the year round staff continue to host the Guest Groups that have reservations on the weekends, they held a Celebration of the Ministry at Brainerd on October 25 and 26, and will be helping the Task Groups and the Lead Team to work on the next steps.

Lehigh Presbytery Commissioners - small

Motions by the Camp Brainerd Task Group and
approved by the Lehigh Presbytery Commissioners

1. We, the Camp Brainerd Task Group, move that the program and equipment, the passion and energy, the vision and ministry of Lehigh Presbytery’s Camp Brainerd be joined with Philadelphia Presbytery’s Kirkwood Camp, when the way be clear.2. We, the Camp Brainerd Task Group, recommend that Lehigh Presbytery direct the Presbytery Lead Team (in its capacity as the Board of Trustees) to sell the parcel of land (approximately three acres) and its structure, commonly referred to as “the Site Manager’s house” and the net proceeds be utilized by Lehigh Presbytery’s Lead Team to offset costs incurred pending sale of the camp. Any remaining balance will be used as the Lead Team deems appropriate.

3. We, the Camp Brainerd Task Group, recommend that Lehigh Presbytery direct the Presbytery Lead Team (in its capacity as the Board of Trustees) to sell the buildings and approximately 34 acres of land associated with the physical location of the Brainerd Presbyterian Center and the net proceeds be designated for scholarships and facility improvement in portions to be determined by the newly formed Joint Board and/or Transition Team.


Action by the Presbytery Lead Team

The Presbytery Lead Team moves that the Camp Brainerd Task Group be dismissed with thanks for its faithful and concerted effort to address this important ministry of the Presbytery, and commends this action to the Presbytery.

For Information only:

It was passed unanimously that $20,000, designated as the David Brainerd Scholarship Fund, be allocated toward scholarships in 2015 to pay $200 for the first 100 campers to apply; this money would be applied toward the registration cost of attending camp at the future joint camp for any child within the bounds of Lehigh Presbytery. These funds would come from Presbytery reserves or from the sale of the site manager property; once the property is sold, the Presbytery would be reimbursed. The David Brainerd Scholarship Fund will be administered by the Lehigh Presbytery treasurer or his/her designee. This action is intended to ensure that funds are available for 2015 and to set the stage for future scholarship monies, but it is not meant to establish contributions or policies for the future.

It was agreed by consensus that a line of credit of $5000 be made available to the Camp Brainerd Property Task Group to cover expenses associated with their work. The Presbytery can be reimbursed through the sale of the site manager property for any costs incurred.


Jen Henshue giving greetings - smallLetter from Camp Director Jen Henshue

October 6, 2014

Dear Friends:

I write to you bearing both good news and bad news.  I personally like to get the bad news out of the way to end on a positive note so that is where I will begin.

The bad news, or more fitting sad news, is that Lehigh Presbytery did vote on September 23rd to approve all three motions, which closes the gate of Camp Brainerd as of November 30th, 2014Many of you are wondering what that means for now until then.  Well, myself and the rest of the year round staff will continue to host our Guest Groups that have reservations on the weekends, prepare for a Celebration of the Ministry at Brainerd, and help the Task Groups and the Lead Team to work on the next steps.

Brainerd has a long and wonderful ministry that has touched and changed the lives of many children, youth, and adults.  It is a sanctuary, a place of respite and reflection, and a home to many.  And I know many hearts are breaking over this, including my ownBut this change is not the end of camping ministry.  Camping ministry will live on as we begin a partnership with Philadelphia Presbytery and Camp Kirkwood, which is located about 5 miles from Brainerd.  (If you would like to get a glimpse of Kirkwood, you can view the slideshow tour here.)  I know it will not be the same and change is always hard.  But think of it this way:  It is like moving to a new house.  You love your old home.  So many memories happened there and it was such an integral part of your life.  But it is now time to move to a new house.  It serves the same purpose and needs as the old one, but it will never be like the old house.  However, the new house provides new and unknown opportunities that may not have been possible with that old house.  We do not know what the future holds in store for this partnership of ministries, but we are excited at the possibility to be working with our neighbors, having more time, talents, and resources than we have in the past and the chance to begin again.

As we prepare to join our ministries and our energy, we also need to take time to celebrate the 62 years of ministry 
that Camp Brainerd has offered to all that have entered.  We have set aside Saturday, October 25th and Sunday, October 26th for some time set apart to gather in fellowship, be in what many of us feel is our sacred space, worship together, and have a final campfire to say farewell. You can see a schedule of events and register on our website
In addition, we are working to compile as many photos, stories, poems, memories from throughout the years to create a yearbook that will encompass, honor, and capture the ministry.  We are asking that people like yourselves help us by submitting photos, stories, anecdotes, etc. through the website OR mailing photos with captions to the camp where we can scan them and get them back to you.  These books will be available to purchase and order for a limited time at the end of October/beginning of November.  

Friends, I know there are many reading this letter with tears in their eyes.  Change is not easy for any of us, but it happens whether we want it to or not.  It is times like these that I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:

1 For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

God truly has a time for everything, both good and bad.  Just like in the scripture, there is always balance.  Even though we are losing Camp Brainerd and the property, we are not losing the opportunity for our children and youth to have life changing experiences through camping ministry.  Although this seems to be an end, we are really at a new beginning as we travel down a path together with Kirkwood and Philadelphia

As with any transition, there are many questions that you may have and we want to answer them.  But there are also many things that we haven’t yet figured out.  Please grant us some patience and grace through these next steps and we will do our best to keep you informed.  We appreciate you sharing your questions and concerns and we do take them into consideration.  I hope and pray that we can remember our times fondly, share them as we gather with each other, and celebrate the gifts and experiences we had because Camp Brainerd was a part of our lives.
In Christ’s Service,

Jen Henshue
Director of Camping Ministry



Presbytery of Philadelphia
OCTOBER 14, 2014

Click here to view announcement or you may read it below.

A Vision in the Wilderness: Two Camps Forge a Path of Mutual Ministry

Nestled in the beauty of the Pocono Mountains rest two Presbyterian camps that have been the foundation for a Christian experience that is like no other.   For more than five decades, Kirkwood Camp and Conference Center has birthed countless testimonies of the power of Christian camping.  Stories of formative faith experiences echo throughout the hearts and minds of members of our presbytery and our churches.   Over time however, the realistic challenges of finances and decreased participation felt by many congregations, are also part of Kirkwood Camp’s story.

Five miles away from 127 Kirkwood Road is Lehigh Presbytery’s Camp Brainerd, which shares a similar narrative.   For over 60 years, Camp Brainerd has touched the lives of many with its natural sanctuary, offering respite and reflection. Like Kirkwood, the camp faced financial challenges that could not be ignored.   After much prayer, careful consideration, and hard decisions, Lehigh Presbytery approved joining with the Presbytery of Philadelphia to engage collaboratively in Christian camping ministry, using the current facility at Kirkwood.

The Holy Spirit is clearly walking alongside us on this journey, as after years of hypothetical, informal conversations, members of both presbyteries sat together in earnest consideration of a future together in Christian camping.  The vote by Lehigh Presbytery to close and sell their camp is in no way a decision to end their commitment to the mission of their camping ministry.  Instead, it is a step out in faith, as they commit to a new way of fulfilling that mission in light of current realities.  It was this spirit of courage and boldness that brought our two presbyteries together to consider a joint ministry.

The Kirkwood leadership and Board had done much work to move toward becoming self-sustaining, and that journey has been rich with successes.  The challenges, however, still remain.  Joining in full partnership with Lehigh – birthing something new with them – became an opportunity of renewed life and vision.

It is in this spirit of a new dawn that on November 18 our presbytery will be asked to ratify the following actions that have already been approved by the Leadership Collegium and reviewed and approved by our Trustees.  

  1. That the Presbytery of Philadelphia’s Christian camping ministry (located at Kirkwood Camp) be joined with that of Lehigh Presbytery.
  2. That a Transition Team be formed of equal members from each presbytery, and be tasked with ensuring a smooth and functioning camping ministry to include (but not be limited to): the adoption of a new name for the camp; a successful 2015 camping season; formation of a new Board of Directors with representation from each presbytery; sufficient staffing to ensure success of the camp.
  3. That the Trustees of the Presbytery of Philadelphia be empowered to take such actions as are necessary to support this joint ministry, including registration of a new name, any changes to bylaws, and a new operating agreement with the new entity.

Brief Historic Background

These motions are a natural outgrowth following a four-year discernment process initiated by the former Committee on Mission Oversight that recommended a Study Group for Kirkwood at the November 30, 2010 meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia.   That Study Group, comprised of Jim Dormond, Bryant Anderson, Paul Bunting, Wanda Harris Cooper, Carroll Jenkins, Adan Mairena, and Rob McClellan, established goals to be met in order to keep the struggling camp afloat.  Their report, submitted to the presbytery on November 29, 2011, included the following three-year benchmarks to be met in order to keep the camp open:

  1. Restructure the Board of Directors into two smaller boards, one to manage business affairs, the other to oversee programs.
  2. Establish regular board training in all aspects of camp and non-profit governance.
  3. Grow participation by 10% each year over the next three years.
  4. Develop alternative sources of revenue.
  5. Develop clear Board and staff position descriptions.
  6. Engage additional resources to provide advice and support for the Board and staff.
  7. Increase engagement with churches within the presbytery.
  8. Explore consolidation with other camps.
  9. Evaluate ways that Christian camping may be afforded to our youth beyond the use of Kirkwood.

The Kirkwood Board worked hard and accomplished many of the benchmarks, but it was clear that the financial sustainability of the camp still needed to be strengthened.   As ideas and creative ways to support the presbytery’s commitment to Christian camping continued, the conversations about combining efforts with Camp Brainerd also continued.

To that end, on September 12, 2013, members of both Lehigh and Philadelphia presbyteries met to consider ways Camp Brainerd and Kirkwood might live into their common mission together.  Lucy Rupe, Eric Borgstrom, Mike Henry, Larry Davis, Mary Deroo, and Courtenay Willcox met with four members of Lehigh Presbytery, along with Brian Frick, Associate for Camp and Conference Ministries of the PC(USA), and Sue Wonderland, Associate Director of the Synod of the Trinity.   By early 2014, it became evident that Lehigh Presbytery would not be able to support Camp Brainerd past the 2014 camping season.  That reality led to renewed conversations with Camp Brainerd’s Administrative Commission and representatives of our presbytery – Presbytery Vice-Moderator Mike Henry and former Moderator Courtenay Willcox.  While conversations around merger, closings, the selling of land, and the reduction of staff are difficult and painful, the representatives from both presbyteries agreed that combining resources would enable both presbyteries to live into their commitment and mission of providing meaningful experiences for youth and adults through Christian camping.



Take a tour of Kirkwood Camp by clicking here……



You can also read the article in the Synod of the Trinity News, “Lehigh Opts to Close Down Camp Brainerd” by clicking the link.

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