Peacefully, simply, together in the great outdoors

Photo courtesy of Camp Mardela

Peacefully, Simply, Together in the great outdoors:
The Camp Mardela Way 75 Years and Counting

by Jennifer Summy, camp administrator at Camp Mardela (Md.)

This year, Camp Mardela is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and we have had a lot of time to reflect on where we came from, and how far we’ve come. 2020 forced us to reprioritize our lives, and the pandemic showed us the importance of Church of the Brethren camping values. We were forced to remove the distractions and find peace; to remove unnecessary activities and simplify; to turn towards our families and prioritize time together. Many people learned the value of camp in this post-pandemic world.

In the years following the pandemic, we saw a slow return of campers, but this year, we are already seeing camper numbers start to bounce back to their pre-pandemic numbers! In addition to this, during the pandemic we saw tremendous growth in another area:  rental groups. These groups have DOUBLED in the past couple years, as groups anywhere from Brethren family reunions to a capella groups have found the value in retreating into nature to deepen relationships with each other, with nature, and with God. We are thrilled about this growing ministry opportunity, as we share our Brethren values with these groups, and as they learn to respect, and even adopt some of these values for themselves.

Our property can host a maximum of 42 campers for any given camp program week. For those who are familiar with larger camps, this seems like a small number, but this has provided great opportunity to have a tremendous ministry. Every week of camp, campers and staff get to know each other on a more personal level, and this is what has created such a deeply connected community at Camp Mardela. Some of my favorite camps have been with fewer than 10 campers, because I have gotten know those campers very well, form deeper connections, and steward their spiritual growth more personally than if they were at a larger camp.

As I’ve been exploring Camp Mardela’s history, I learned that from the very beginning Camp Mardela was built on volunteerism and deep community. Men and women worked together to build and run camp, and that culture has been maintained over camp’s 75 year history. Camp Mardela has grown steadily since its first year of operation in 1948. No one could have predicted that this camp would be where it is today, but God has guided us with purpose and Camp Mardela has become a place to grow together.

We are so excited to celebrate our rich history with our 75th anniversary celebrations. We hosted our annual Camp Appreciation Day on May 21 with the theme of “Happy Birthday Camp Mardela!” We had live music, birthday games, Camp Mardela history trivia, and more. We asked members of the churches to bring a dozen cupcakes each to share for this event. What amassed was a beautiful tapestry of all colors, flavors, sizes, and kinds of cupcakes–a beautiful representation of the wonderful people who make up this community, and make it so sweet!

Our BIG anniversary celebration will be September 1-3, 2023, which is during the week of our annual Family Camp. We will have previous administrators return to speak and share parts of their Camp Mardela story, including Pat Ecker, Bruce Layton, Jennifer Summy, and more. All are welcome to join our anniversary sessions for FREE. Guests can register to join us for meals or for overnight accommodations at

In a recent conversation with Pat Ecker, who served as the camp administrator in the 1980s and 90s, she described a time where she comforted a camper and his mother as they were both nervous to be apart from each other for a week. Mrs. Ecker shared the advice to the mother, “You’ve given your child roots; now let us give him wings.” I could think of no better way to describe the value of camp in the lives of these children and youth. By living peaceably with each other, learning to be present without modern distractions, and to live together in community, we get to teach our campers eternal values that will help them grow together into stronger and more mature children of God.

Camp Mardela is a camp/outdoor ministry affiliated with the Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Brethren. If you want to learn more about Camp Mardela’s programs, events, history, and more, visit Learn about the Outdoor Ministry Association at or find a list of Church of the Brethren camps at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Living God’s Love

By Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, director of Annual Conference

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” ~Ephesians 5:1-2

The 2023 Annual Conference theme is “Living God’s Love.” As Tim McElwee, the 2023 Annual Conference moderator, has shared:
 “We are made in the image of God and our calling is to love like God loves. We know how God loves through the life and teachings of Jesus and through the love we share with and receive from each other. We know how God loves because though we are sinners and none of us could be worthy of God’s love, nevertheless God loves us fully and unconditionally. And we know how God loves because Jesus, the descent of God into our world and into our lives, loved inclusively, without limits, and extravagantly.”

Building on the work of the 2022 Annual Conference, Moderator Tim McElwee invites us to continue to apply our denomination’s vision statement by sharing Jesus with each other, living in harmony, embracing one another as Christ embraces us, and sharing God’s gift of inclusive love. The daily themes for this year’s Annual Conference will be:  Living God’s Love (Tuesday), Bearing the Fruit of God’s Love (Wednesday), Responding in Love to the Needs of Others (Thursday), Seeing and Loving Like God (Friday), and Loving the Least in the Family of God (Saturday).

Our hope for this year’s gathering is to continue reconnecting after COVID by:  renewing old friendships and forming new ones; being inspired and challenged to grow in faith to become more innovative, adaptable, and fearless disciples; building bridges across the political polarization of secular society in order to be the body of Christ together; returning home better equipped to minister with our neighbors; and, overall, living into the Annual Conference mission statement “to unite, strengthen, and equip the Church of the Brethren to follow Jesus.”

Annual Conference in Cincinnati will provide several unique opportunities:  Tours to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center; a revitalized exhibit hall with performances on a coffeehouse stage, a silent auction, a game night, and ice cream, in addition to informative exhibits; a Public Witness for Gun Violence Prevention; and an opportunity to support our Witness to the Host City project Found House.

We look forward to connecting with you—in-person or virtually—for Annual Conference in Cincinnati!

The opportunity to register in advance to participate in the 2023 Annual Conference in-person ends this Saturday, June 10. (In-person participants who miss this deadline can register onsite at a higher cost.) Non-delegates can register to participate virtually through June 27 after which registration for virtual participation will close. Learn more about Annual Conference or register today at

(Read this issue of eBrethren..)


By Chidinma Chidoka, Fellow, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy

The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy of the Church of the Brethren riding on the mandates given by the 1918 and 1970 statements on War, the 1978 statement on violence and use of firearms, the 1982 call to halt the nuclear arms race, the 1982 reaffirmation of opposition to war and the 2013 Resolution against drone warfare have gone into partnership with various working groups and coalitions.

Arms Sales Accountability Project words on red background

Members and friends of the Church of the Brethren worldwide are invited to visit the Arms Sales and Accountability Project website. The website shows citizens how to hold their members of congress accountable and speak the minds of their constituents when votes for arms sales come up in the congress. The Arms Sales Accountability Project is a coalition of diverse organizations that together undertake the task of research, advocacy, and public engagement as it relates to the United States arms sales and security assistance. ASAP has as its core mandate: Oversight, Reform, and Accountability.

According to ASAP, the United States is the worlds leading arms seller, selling more than the next three nations combined. This makes it likely for US weapons to fuel violence, corruption, and abuse abroad. Simply put, where there is an incidence of violence, war, or abuse abroad, the chance that such violence is perpetrated by US weapons is high.

The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy considers the work of the project crucial in waging peace and believes that through this partnership we can continue to advocate for Brethren values within the context of US policy. Arms sales go against the Church of the Brethren’s position on war, violence, and the use of firearms.

The ASAP website is a useful resource for the work the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy does as it brings together every piece of information needed as far as US policy and arms sales are concerned, ranging from why the United States sells so many weapons to where those weapons go and what reforms are needed.

This coalition is coordinated by the Centre for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC).

The project encourages citizens to demand accountability from their congressmen and women regarding US arms sales. They encourage citizens to demand that their representatives perform better oversight functions in demanding that the US government not sell arms to human rights violators, war criminals, and corrupt officials and show them how to do that.