Meet Our Mission Partner: Holmes Presbyterian Camp & Conference Center

Holmes offers the all-too-rare opportunity to nurture Christian community away from the distractions of everyday life.

Now a fully-fledged mission partner of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Holmes has been a resource for FAPC since the 1970s, playing host to summer campers, young adult retreats and other outings. Holmes has been the site of Family Ministries' Family Camp (underway this weekend) since 2005, an annual tradition that has helped scores of our families connect with their faith, and with one another, in new and sometimes adventurous ways.

"We believe that faith happens at home, and Family Camp is really a home away from home," says Aram Bae, director of Family Ministries. "It creates community in an organic, down-home way. You never have to worry about your kids, because you know someone is always looking out for them. Holmes provides a faith environment that many of our families might never experience otherwise."

"I have been called to help children grow up with faith," says the Rev. Peter Surgenor, executive director. A pastor and certified camp director, Rev. Surgenor has been a professional camp director since 1976. He joined the Holmes staff in 2000. Under his leadership, Holmes was named among the 15 Camps that Change the World by the Center for Faith and Service at McCormick Theological Seminary.

"It’s important for kids to own their faith," he says. "Spending a few days away from home, with people who know how to share their faith, helps kids learn how to be independent. We are teaching the building blocks of faith."

Surgenor believes the mission partner relationship with FAPC holds potential for new and innovative opportunities in collaborative ministry. Like FAPC, Holmes is in the midst of a capital campaign focused on renewing and reinvesting in its facilities and programming. The campaign also will provide for "camperships" (camp scholarships) and construction of new guest lodging, with additional worship and meeting spaces.

Started in the summer of 1946, and located a short drive north of New York City, this 550-acre camp and conference center is a year-round facility set among the pristine forests, lakes, trails and wetlands of the Dutchess County hill country in the lower Hudson River Valley.

The grounds that now make up the camp were once farmland in the area made famous by the historic ride of Sybil Ludington. Daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, Sybil was a heroine of the American Revolutionary War, mounting her horse the night of April 26, 1777, to alert colonial forces to the approaching British. Her action was comparable to Paul Revere's—except that she rode more than twice the distance of Revere and was only 16 years old at the time.

This rich history is part of the Holmes experience.

"Holmes is beyond what we would hope for in a Christian summer camp environment," says Mary Lovci, who has been attending FAPC's Family Camp with husband Marc and daughters Jacqueline and Olivia for 10 years. "It nurtures those wholesome childhood memories of collecting bugs, swimming in the lake, hikes in the forest and campfire songs. Our time at Holmes as a Family Ministries retreat, and for both our daughters' childhood memories, will be forever treasured."

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