Episcopal Church's oldest camp celebrates 125 years

December 9, 2010

An Episcopal Church-affiliated camp that began as a way to offer rural respite to poor immigrants on the lower east side of New York is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Of the 9,000 summer camps in the United States, about 60 are Episcopal-owned and operated and the oldest of those is Incarnation Camp, according of a press release from the camp. The camp, which chiefly serves congregations in the Diocese of New York, is located in southeastern Connecticut.

Church of the Incarnation, Manhattan, began its camp in 1886 as a way to provide a "fresh air" respite for the city's immigrants, many of them Armenian, the release said. The camp was an outreach of the Chapel of the Incarnation, now called Church of the Good Shepherd and located on 31st Street.

Beginning in the 1950s under the 35-year ministry of Andrew Katsanis, Incarnation Camp, also called Episcopal Camp and Conference Center, expanded its reach to thousands of children of parishes in the greater New York area.

David Brooks, New York Times columnist and a camp alumnus, described his 15-year connection with the camp as "the most successful institution he had ever known ... a place where kids can be kids," the release said. Brooks now serves on the board of directors, along with other alumni and non-alumni who are committed to "preserving the rustic, outward-bound character of the camp's 700 acres and 58 buildings" in Ivoryton, the release said.

Capping its 125th year, Incarnation has broken ground on an outdoor chapel, designed by Duo Dickinson, a camp alumnus, board member and parishioner of Trinity on the Green, New Haven. The design incorporates both worship space for more than 300 campers and counselors, as well as performance space for dance and drama.

The Rev. Canon Peter Larom, who served as seven years as executive director before recently becoming camp director, said in the release that that the camp has a growing population as parents appreciate both the "values orientation of the camp as well as its very reasonable price." He attributed the later to endowments provided by Church of the Incarnation, Manhattan, and All Angels' Church, Manhattan, which have historically supported the camp's work.

Nancy Pilon, Incarnation's new executive director and long-time camper, has been responsible for "galvanizing support from among the hundreds of alumni," the release said, including organizing an anniversary kick-off celebration at the home of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, whose children attended the camp for years.