Massachusetts bishop honored for his work with campers

July 13, 2009

Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers, Inc. (ECCC) on July 13 presented Massachusetts Bishop M. Thomas Shaw with the 2009 "Hero of Camping Ministry" award at a reception held at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel.

Shaw was honored for his work founding the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in the Diocese of Massachusetts, named for the retired suffragan bishop of Massachusetts and the first female bishop ordained in the Anglican Communion.

ECCC provides support to 104 Episcopal camps and conference centers operating in 47 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Sam Gould, 20, a camp counselor, delegate from Massachusetts and Stanford University student shared the story of a previously un-churched camper's journey to faith, and thanked Shaw, without whose vision the camp would not exist, he said.

In 2003, its first year, the camp served 425 campers. This summer 1,107 campers, 40 percent of whom attend on scholarship, have been enrolled. Shaw led the capital campaign to raise more than $18 million to buy the camp and conference center in Greenfield, New Hampshire, and refurbish it.

"I've been a bishop now for 15 years and at every General Convention there is always a tremendous amount of talk about youth and evangelism and one of the things that I know … is that the greatest way to work with youth and evangelize is through our camps and conference centers," said Shaw when he accepted his plaque, presented to him by Rufus Miller, president of the ECCC board of directors.

People often ask Shaw why the diocese named the camp and conference center for Harris, to which he responds: "Barbara has led such an exemplary life in so many ways with her boldness and the radical way that she has taken the Gospel. And I wanted every single young person to have her example of what it's like to live the Gospel life there for them," Shaw said. "And every week at our camp we tell the story of Barbara Harris so that they have her example before them as they go forth and spread Christ's word in the world."

Since 2000, 12 Episcopal camps and conference centers have closed and six new ones have opened. For a camp and/or conference center to be successful it needs strong leadership. Shaw was chosen for the award because of his exemplary leadership, said Peter Bergstrom, ECCC executive director.

"Bishop Shaw understands that the long-term viability and health of the Episcopal Church depends on training leaders … to love God, love one another and strive to spend their lives working for justice and peace," he said.

ECCC's 106 camps and conference centers host more than 500,000 people annually, including 200,000 children attending camps. The 76th General Convention underway at the Anaheim Convention Center passed Resolution B003, which provides $60,000 over the next three years for the ECCC to develop curricula, resources and training events, both in English and in Spanish, for dioceses to use in assistance with their camping ministries.

This is the first time since 1976 that General Convention has provide financial resources for camping ministry, Bergstrom said.