Advocacy + Outreach

Westminster Summers

Three stories about our mission partners.

Valerie (in pink) and friends in the 1950s.
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church created the Mission Partner program in 2013. The idea was to focus our benevolence grants on a select group of organizations whose missions aligned closely with ours. The hope, too, was that, through volunteer activity and collaborative ministry, powerful bonds would grow, connecting our people with communities in other parts of the city, and other corners of the world. In this series of articles, three members of the congregation talk about their close, personal ties to three of our mission partners. See also Dottie Cannon on Ministry of Hope-Lesotho, and Sally Harwood on the ministries of Cobbie and Dessa Palm in the Philippines.

It was during the Eisenhower years, those seemingly quiet years when whispers of the Cold War and segregation began to ripple into our daily lives, when baseball and Sputniks dominated our thoughts, the innocent years when I first went to Camp Westminster. (Westminster is now part of Holmes Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center, a mission partner of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.)

My older sister, Linda, had already established herself as an experienced camper at Denton Lake, and she would return home each summer with thrilling tales of her adventure. So it was only natural that I would long for the time that I would be old enough to go, too.

Today, nearly 60 years later, only brief glimpses of those once-cherished memories remain. Singing “ravioli, ravioli, that’s the stuff for me” and Friday night skits flash through my thoughts as I recall a cross on a hill and a candlelight vigil, children walking along a wooded path solemnly carrying lighted candles as they return to their cabins.

Our days had been filled with activity: breakfast, mail call, cabin inspection, morning vespers, Bibly study, lunch, more Bible study, free time, arts and crafts, hikes in the woods, swimming and rowboating, dinner and social activities in the lodge.

Each morning we carried My Will, Thy Will and our Bibles to breakfast to use later at our Bible study groups, which were held outside, under the trees.

Young campers were given a nature booklet that had illustrated drawings of the different trees and foliage, along with examples of the types of leaves that grew on them and the pictures of the wildlife—birds and beavers and skunks and snakes, with illustrations of their footprints that were commonly seen around the camp.

One memorable experience clearly stands alone. One evening a group of 12-year-olds, freshly confirmed in their home churches, along with older campers celebrated communion. We sat in a circle and passed around a loaf of bread, each of us plucking off a portion and eating it. And then a chalice, probably filled with grape juice, was passed around, and we each had a sip. It is to this very day the most awe-inspiring communion celebration that I have ever experienced.

As we grew older and the world we knew began to change, we changed, too. One summer, when Dr. King organized a march on Selma (or maybe it was Birmingham, I forget exactly where), many campers gathered in solidarity. We sang “We Shall Overcome” and “Kumbaya,” and felt that, in our own way, we had made a contribution to the cause.

At night, down in the lodge, we danced the Wobble and the Watusi, the Mashed Potato and the Twist.

Valerie Krepp has been a member of Fifth Avenue since 1999. An active Outreach volunteer, she returned to Holmes as part of FAPC Serves, our all-congregation day of service. Her daughter and two grandchildren also spent summers at Holmes.