We are reprinting this article from last year, updated for 2017, because I think attending a UU summer camp or conference is so important to growing Unitarian Universalists of any age. They may not be able to articulate it well, but many lifelong Unitarian Universalists will tell you it was their participation in UU summer camps, conferences, retreats, COA trips, and other “immersion experiences” that solidified their connection to their faith.
According to the book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs by Kate Tweedie Erslev, many lifers found these experiences provided some of their most significant memories. Here they found safe community, a sense of religious identity, spiritual renewal, and supportive peers. These longer immersion experiences allowed them to go deeper, to be more vulnerable, to connect – not just to each other but to their UU faith. There are over 26 UU camps and conference centers that offer 1-week all-inclusive vacations for individuals, families and teens. I have attended UU camps both with my family and alone.
Typically, UU conference weeks have both intergenerational activities and separate programs for adults and children. In the morning, adults attend a theme talk and a workshop from several choices on anything from drumming or poetry to “ethics for Unitarian Universalists,” while children attend a fun and creative children’s program. Afternoons have free time or small intergenerational workshops. Evenings are filled with music, dances, maybe a talent show, and games and conversations in front of a fire. There are short inspiring worship services at the start and end of each day (often outside). All activities are optional so you can always read, relax and swim while you enjoy the all-inclusive aspect of the conference. It is wonderful to meet and socialize with UU’s from other congregations.
Listed below are brief descriptions of a few of the UU camps and conferences. All of these have been attended by people from UUCWC.
Star Island: Ask any one who has been to Star Island about their experience and a misty far away look gets into their eyes. The entire island off the coast of NH is devoted to a UU conference center in a turn of the century grand hotel. I have been attending Star “Religious Education week” for 8 years. See www.starisland.org. or ask me for more information.
Ferry Beach: Ferry Beach is located on the beach in southern Maine on Saco Bay. It offers a variety of one-week conferences. Ferry Beach has a campground attached to it, which allows for a cheaper housing option. I have been here and really enjoyed it. More information is available at: www.ferrybeach.org.
UUMAC: Unitarian Universalist Mid-Atlantic Community takes place for one week each year at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA. This year it is from July 9-15th. For more information see www.uumac.org .
Children’s overnight summer camps
- Murray Grove: Overnight camp for kids for rising 4th-7th grade near the Jersey shore. This year from July 23-27h. There are UUCWC kids who attend annually. http://www.murraygrove.org/camping-in-the-grove
- Unirondack . Several kids from UUCWC love this camp. Weeks are for specific age groups. Spots fill up quickly. http://www.unirondack.org/
- Rowe Camp. Its philosophy is to balance individual freedom and responsibility to the community in a fun, relaxed, creative, energetic environment. http://rowecenter.org/wp/youth-programs-overview
- A complete list of UU camps is at http://www.uucamps.org/ . The possibilities are endless. Did you know there is a UU family camp in south Florida during Christmas week called SWIM (see http://www.swimuu.org).
Bringing an entire family on an all inclusive week vacation can be beyond a family’s budget. There are ways to keep costs down by camping, by working part of the day and by applying for scholarships. They often have special discounts for first time attendees. Contact individual camps or see me for ideas about how to make a UU camp a possibility for your family.