Take a Fresh Look at Hope Center
It is 1769. Peter Worbass, former manager of the Sun Inn, the Moravian accommodation for visitors in Bethlehem, has arrived at a farm located across the Delaware River in the colony of New Jersey. The farm is on the way from Bethlehem to Moravian missions in New York and New England, and the Moravians know it well. Worbass is to be the farm manager for a new community on land which the Moravians have just purchased. Called Green’s Land, after the farm owner, the community’s name soon will be changed to Hope.
It is 1808. The Moravian settlement of Hope has grown to include a grist mill, distillery, store, Gemeinhaus, school for girls and one for boys, other industrial buildings and mills, cemetery, and stone residences for over 100 members of the community. But economic factors have forced the worldwide Moravian Church to downsize, and the entire village of Hope has been sold to pay other debts. Following the Easter Sunday service, the residents climb into wagons and head for Pennsylvania, where they will relocate to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz.
It is 1946. After searching for several months throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, the Eastern District of the Moravian Church has found and purchased a tract of land on which to develop a Moravian camp and conference center. The former farm has scenic acreage, a lake for swimming and boating, is located off of main roads, and is convenient to most of the Eastern District. Coincidentally, it is just outside of Hope, New Jersey, which was founded by the Moravians. Soon some surplus buildings from the nearby military Camp Kilmer are dismantled, brought to the campsite, and turned into a lodge (now Hassler Hall, the lower lodge), the dining hall, and the original eight cabins. Within a year or two, the property is named “Camp Hope.”
It is 2013. Now called “Hope Conference & Renewal Center,” the camp property has changed significantly in the past 60-plus years, especially in the last ten years. The former farm fields now are wooded hillsides and shaded grounds. A pool has replaced the lake for swimming, but the lake still offers fishing for bass and boating with canoes and paddleboats. Eight modern cabins, each one containing bathroom and shower facilities, have replaced the wooden and cinderblock cabins and the separate washhouses.
When were you last at Hope Center? When you were in school (a few years or decades ago)? When it was still called “Camp Hope?” During the 20th Century? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at Hope Center.
This isn’t your parents’ or grandparents’ camp. Hope has adapted to the 21st century, and to modern preferences. Cabins not only have showers and toilets, they also have carpeting and ceiling fans, as well as heat, so they can be used year-round. The dining hall produces nutritious food that campers will eat; Mexican Fiesta and Italian nights are always favorites. With a little advance notice, the kitchen can accommodate the growing number of campers with special food preferences or food allergies. Vegetarian options are available, as well as dishes for gluten- and dairy-free diets and other specialized needs. The camp program often involves PowerPoint and recorded music, although guitars and other instruments are still prevalent. Parents can still send a letter to a camper, but they can also send an e-mail, which will be printed and delivered to the designated camper at lunch. Soon two cabins and the main buildings will be wheelchair-accessible.
Other aspects of camp have not changed. Campers are instructed to leave their cell phones, game players, and other electronics at home, so they can focus on the camp experience. An important part of camp is still being close to nature. It is not uncommon to see deer or other animals in camp. Campers still use the Buddy System when moving around camp. The feeling of community, of sharing a week with an extended camp family, is still strong.
Registrations are being taken now for the 2013 youth camps and youth specialty camps, and all Moravian young people are invited to come for a session of camp. They are also encouraged to bring friends with them, even if the friend is not a Moravian. Many congregations offer partial financial support to their members (and sometimes to their friends) who attend Hope Center. Hope is also looking for adults to serve as counselors, camp nurses, and role models for the various summer camps.
But what if you don’t have a week, or counseling is not for you? There are still ways to take advantage of Hope Center. In the past year, one Moravian congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary with a picnic at Hope Center, and others held congregational picnics. Several congregations held youth retreats over a weekend at Hope Center, and one celebrated Rally Day at Hope Center with a worship service followed by a picnic, swimming and activities. You and your family can spend Memorial Day weekend together at Hope Center, or you can join the Quilt Camp (even if you don’t quilt) for fellowship and relaxation.
There are many ways to enjoy Hope Center, as an individual, a family, or a congregation. Make this your year to rediscover what you’ve been missing. Take a fresh look at Hope Center. Watch for more on Hope Center’s 2013 camping season in the upcoming May issue of The Moravian.
Susan M. Dreydoppel is the Administrative Assistant for Hope Conference & Renewal Center. She is a member of the Schoeneck Moravian Church in Nazareth, PA, and represents the Lehigh Valley, North on the Eastern District Executive Board. For more information about Hope Conference & Renewal Center, see www.camphope.org or call 908.459.4435.
From the March 2013 Moravian Magazine