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.)

One thought on “Peacefully, simply, together in the great outdoors

  1. Wow how i wish to be among you brethren to experience the fellowship with you in this great ministry from Nigeria Amos Ashifa Agyigra

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