As she opened her first Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi referred to “all the miracles that God has performed that let me know sure enough that this is exactly where God would have me be today.” Two days later, participants witnessed what several people saw as a miracle after she announced her initiative to raise $5 million over the next four years for camping and retreat ministries.
One man stood up, walked forward and put a donation at her feet on the stage. He was soon followed by what seemed to be an unending parade of Conference members bringing forth unsolicited gifts. The Bishop appeared overwhelmed and shed tears of joy. Combined, the gifts that morning totaled $9,251.
“We’re seeing church happen!” said the Rev. Alan Morrison, standing at the side of the stage in his role as manager of the agenda, which until then had maintained a tight time schedule.
The spontaneous outpouring may have been spurred in part by the Bishop literally stepping out (and over a balcony) in faith to descend onto the Conference plenary floor on a rope, demonstrating one of the skills taught in Adventure Camps to kick off a presentation on how camping and retreat ministries address all five of the Conference’s areas of focus.
A previously designated offering to benefit camping and retreat ministries was received during the Sunday morning ordination service. That offering added $9,171 for a total of $18,422. Youth Ministry Team members serving as pages and voting members added gifts amounting to $1,985 during a late night pizza party with Bishop Moore-Koikoi and her husband Pastor Raphael Koikoi.
Western Pennsylvania has three United Methodist camps – Camp Allegheny, Wesley Woods and Jumonville—as well as Olmsted Manor retreat center in Ludlow, PA in the Allegheny National Forest. All are working through programming, staff development, and use of their facilities to address the Five Areas of Focus: Developing principled Christian leaders; promoting abundant health, dismantling racism; creating new places for new people and renewing congregations, and engaging in ministry with the poor.
New initiatives under the camping umbrella will sharpen the focus in those areas. These include partnering with the Healthy Village Learning Institute in work with youth facing economic, educational and social challenges in the city of McKeesport, and At the Lake Ministries (ATLM). ATLM will offer opportunities for those living with disabilities to enjoy fishing, cruising and connecting with God’s creation on Lake Erie aboard the JoAnn M, a former commercial fishing boat. ATLM received gifts of more than $4,000 to help “Float the Boat” at its booth in the Annual Conference display area.