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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

The Ministry of Crestfield
August 11, 106

The August focus of our prayer calendar is on the ministry of our Crestfield Camp & Conference Center. From its opening in 1949 as Pittsburgh Presbytery’s “Camp Crestview” to its 1977 name-change upon merger with Pittsburgh Presbytery’s other camp (“Camp Fairfield” outside Ligonier) to its 1999 addition of a year-round conference facility with private rooms and baths, Crestfield has been a vital part of our presbytery’s life and ministry for nearly seventy years. Now in 2016 it stands on the cusp of yet another major change in how it fulfills its calling. More on that momentarily.

The 2016 camping season has been marked by all the wonderful things we have come to expect of Crestfield’s summer activities, both on-site and on the campuses of our congregations. But something new and unexpected arose this year when our neighboring Presbyterian camps Westminster Highlands and Lambec were forced to close mid-summer due to problems with staffing and facilities, and campers already registered at those camps needed a new place to meet on last-minute notice. Crestfield welcomed those campers to its facilities, and was thus able to serve not one, but five presbyteries this summer.

This took place in the midst of a season of discernment whether it is time for Crestfield to become an independent non-profit institution with a covenantal relationship with our presbytery. A re-visioning team has been investigating this question for nearly two years, and recommended this change at our May presbytery meeting. It was received as a “first reading” by presbytery, with action on the proposal slated for our September 22 presbytery meeting (which appropriately will take place at Crestfield).

If the proposal is ratified, Crestfield will continue to be a vital part of our presbytery’s life and ministry. The covenant partnership design assures that a majority of the new Crestfield board will be populated by members of our presbytery. Crestfield staff will continue to work in partnership with presbytery staff in assisting our congregations with their task of disciple-making. What will change is that Crestfield will be better positioned to minister to the whole region (not just to our presbytery), and that it will be governed by a board that is entirely focused on Crestfield itself, in contrast to the current situation in which Crestfield is only one part of our presbytery’s Executive Committee purview. Formation of a separate corporation will also improve Crestfield’s capacity to receive grants from foundations and endowments that support non-profit agencies in the region. The other significant change is that Crestfield’s property and staff will become independent from presbytery (with the provision that the property reverts to presbytery if Crestfield ceases operation as a PC(USA) camp and conference center).

As we pray for Crestfield at this critical juncture in its life, it is first with thanksgiving to God for the labors of summer staff and volunteers this year, as well as the year-round staff comprising Betty Angelini, Paul Humphreys, Mike Little, Jessica Kennedy, Chelsea Fox, Marla Kemmler, and Jessica Texter. Their service to the welfare of Christ’s church this summer has been truly exceptional!

Then as we turn to prayers of petition, let us pray for God-given wisdom for our presbytery as it prepares to act next month on the proposal that Crestfield become a separate, non-profit corporation, in order to increase the breadth and depth of its ministry. Any who would like to learn more about this proposal may review it here, or view a webinar presenting the proposed transition in more detail here. Further questions may be directed to Crestfield’s Executive Director, Betty Angelini.

Finally, prayers are especially important for our year-round Crestfield staff as they continue to serve amid a season of momentous change. They have already labored diligently in the task of making Christian disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and now are stretched even further as they prepare themselves for the possibility of new forms and an enlarged scope of ministry. Doing new things in a new way is truly daunting; let us pray that they will be given grace to welcome any new shape to their ministry as God’s new thing for them!

Yours in forming disciples of our Lord Jesus,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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