Hope Conference & Renewal Center, formerly known as “Camp Hope,” is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its 1946 purchase this year.
The 1940s, when the camp property was purchased, was a significant period of ministry for the Moravian Church, as youth and young adults discovered camps, conferences and outdoor ministry. Although programs for youth existed in the church, especially as part of the inter-denominational Christian Endeavor movement, the summer camp conference movement emphasized learning about God in a rustic, outdoor environment.
The Eastern District held its first summer camp at Camp Innabah, a Methodist facility near Spring City, Pa., in 1940. Innabah quickly became too small to host the Moravian events and it had limited availability for rental. The youth attending the 1944 youth conference requested the Executive Board of the Eastern District to secure a suitable campsite for Moravian youth programs, and they began collecting funds for the purpose.
The 1945 Synod of the Eastern District adopted a resolution directing the EDEB to locate and purchase property for a camp and conference grounds, recommending that it be centrally located to the majority of the members of the Eastern District. In 1946, a farm outside of Hope, N.J. was purchased and work was begun to transform it into what became known as “Camp Hope.” The property was officially opened on Memorial Day, May 30, 1946 with the laying of the cornerstone for the kitchen and dining hall. The first conference, Twin Arrows Camp for junior-aged boys and girls, opened the next year on July 27, 1947.
Other parts of the Moravian Church were also holding youth conferences (we would call them camps) in the 1940s. The Western District had begun its conferences decades earlier, holding its first young people’s conference in 1923. For many years, they held camps in rented facilities, most notably the campgrounds on the shore of Lake Chetek in Chetek, Wisconsin. In 1964 property was purchased outside of Wautoma, Wisconsin, and the Mt. Morris Camp and Conference Center was begun.
The Canadian District began Camp Van-Es (now Van-Es Camp and Conference Centre) in 1940 on district-owned property, where it remains today (for more on Van-Es, see page 15). The Mid-States young people’s conference was first held in 1942, moving to the present site at Tar Hollow State Park in 1947. The Southern Province camps met in various locations until it purchased the property for Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference & Retreat Center and held its first summer camp there in 1960.
An article in the Moravian magazine of August 9, 1947 quotes a volunteer worker referring to Camp Hope as “. . .an investment in the future of the church that will pay large dividends to our entire denomination.” The decades since Camp Hope was purchased, and since the beginning of all Moravian camps and conference facilities, have seen generations of Moravian youth who found God at camp, who discovered their calling at camp, and who consider “camp” among their best and most inspiring memories. Camps and conferences continue to be a good investment for the Moravian Church.