HISTORY OF THE Mennonite Camping ASSOCATION
Established in 1960, MCA continues to strengthen outdoor ministries whose beginnings among Anabaptists in North America date back to the 1920s. Membership in MCA provides a united voice for addressing camping concerns to the church and, in turn, gives the church a channel for relating to retreat and camping ministries. Supplementing and expanding congregational nurture, camps and retreat centers with an Anabaptist/Mennonite heritage and foundation band together through MCA to promote nourishing spiritual experiences, wholesome relationships and a vision for caring for God's world.
2020 :: 100 years of Mennonite Camping
from A Vision and a Legacy: The story of Mennonite Camping, 1920-80, by Jess Kauffman
"Holding camps and retreats within the Mennonite and Brethren Christ churches of North America was not an isolated movement with a defined beginning all its own. It was closely related to and influenced by other events and movements both with in the church and in society at large.
By 1900, organized camping had become an established institution in North America. Many church groups had adopted the program as part of their ministry to children and youth. Private camps were sponsored by those in the educational field. Agencies were providing outdoor living experiences for children. Campers were recruited from urban areas where families has been locating as the industrial revolution changed lifestyles, and families were moving from the farms into the cities.
The period of greatest expansion for organized camping was the three decades between 1910 and 1940. An early historian in writing of this movement during that time stated that the increase was attributed to the ever-growing revolt against the tyranny of modern city life, and to the effectiveness with which organized camping met children's needs for worthwhile outdoor activity." page 3
"The 1920s, in general, was a decade of change in the social and economic lives of all Americans. The World War I armistice had been signed just prior to the decade. Society was riding on a way of economic prosperity. Optimism was blind. It was a decade when new and radical social liberties were being accepted, establishing trends which have continued. Then suddenly, this optimism and prosperity changed when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. Fortunes were lost. Mortgages were foreclosed. Savings were wiped out. Bread lines formed. So ended the golden twenties.
These national events are part of the story of the church and would affect its future. The life and thought of the youth were being influenced and shaped. They were asking questions about the church and about themselves. They were asking to be recognized as part of the church. They were also looking beyond the church for some of their answers, and to many of them the grass looked greener on the other side of the fence. Church leaders were showing concern and asking, 'How can the church retain the interest of its youth?'" page 11
"If a specific decade were chosen as the beginning of the outdoor ministry of Christian camping and retreats in the Mennonite conferences, it would be the 1920s. Like the grain of mustard seed, these beginnings were small, but grew into a tradition and ministry that has been felt throughout the churches". page 13
In 1920, youth camping for Hopi Indians in northern Arizona by the General Conference Mennonites and others began this approximate date. The facilities used by the Hopi and General Conference, were the first permanent outdoor ministries facilities known to exist.
"...the important role that wilderness experiences can play in the development of spiritual life and the understanding of God's creation."
Like the grain of mustard seed, these beginnings were small, but grew into a tradition and ministry that has been felt throughout the churches". - Jess Kauffman, A Vision and a Legacy