Okanagan Anglican Camp — Past, Present, & Future

In the, untouched by fire, Chapel, a Service of “Lament, Thanksgiving, and Hope,”
By on November 30, 2023

Writing a feature article about where we are since the fire that burned down the Okanagan Anglican Camp seems like gathering pieces together after the fact. However, there is merit in re-evaluating the situation now that the drama and turmoil have subsided.

Burt out dock after fire destroyed the camp by wildfires September 2023

I first heard about the fires near OAC in an email from Dean David Tiessen. Dean Tiessen was excusing himself for not meeting his deadline for The HighWay. The reason was the camp was under threat of evacuation, and I had just sent an article advertising the camp to the printer. The piece did not mention that OAC could burn down at any moment. The report which was to appear in the 120th Anniversary of Kootenay Diocese edition of The HighWay might not reflect the present circumstances.

The event was, however, covered by The Anglican Journal which featured an article in its October edition, “Western Fires Wreak Havoc.” The article also announced that PWRDF had established a fund for in-Canada emergencies. The front page featured a photograph showing fires in the Shuswap region. Fortunately, the Sorrento conference centre was able to resume its activities.

These events caused me to evaluate The HighWay’s ability to report the news in a timely manner. Nevertheless, The HighWay not only reports the news, it provides inspiration that is relevant to our spiritual life.

Continuing the report on the situation surrounding OAC, Archbishop Lynne, in her article celebrating the Seventieth Anniversary of OAC in 2020, said:

“The presence of OAC is an immense gift to the ministry and mission of the Diocese of Kootenay, a place where children, teens and adults can experience the acceptance of living in Christian community where all are valued as beloved of God, where they can be surrounded by the beauty of God’s good Creation, where they can relax and unplug from the stresses and routines of life.”

Now, we are facing a loss due to the destruction of our beloved camp, but not the destruction of the spirit that created and maintained OAC over the years.

Archbishop Lynne in her letter to the diocese in October reported: More than 200 people gathered at Camp OAC on the afternoon of Saturday, October 7 to wander the grounds and mourn the massive losses to remember events of bygone days, to stare in amazement at sites that had survived the fire, and to listen with hope of plans for the future.

In the, untouched by fire, Chapel, a Service of “Lament, Thanksgiving, and Hope,” was led by The Very Reverend David Tiessen, Dean of Kootenay, and The Reverend Jackie Eaton, Incumbent of St. George, West Kelowna, and thoughts were shared by MLA Ben Stewart, (a former Camper at OAC,) Camp Director Ian Dixon, and Interim Executive Officer Bishop James Cowan.

Members of the Summer Staff led the singing of two Camp Songs, and led the Opening and Closing Doxologies as well. It was a gathering with many mixed emotions — laughter at remembered good times, mingled with tears over what has been lost. As a final act of Hope, the still living tree, planted in 2019 for the 70th Anniversary of the Camp, was watered by many of the people gathered.

Following the fire, Diocesan Council responded quickly to the Camp’s needs by appointing a Steering Committee to work with the Archbishop and with Ian. The purpose of the Committee is coordination; it is to be the gathering point for offers of help, for rebuilding and renewal plans, and for the receiving of donations.

Members of the Committee include, +Lynne McNaughton — [email protected],
Gwen Chapman, Trevor Freeman, Colin Heggie, Willa Holmwood, and John Lloyd.

Staff on the Committee are: Teresa Kennedy — [email protected], +James Cowan, — [email protected], and Andrew Stephens-Rennie — [email protected]. You can also contact them by calling the Synod Office —  778-478-8312.

Over the coming weeks and months the Steering Committee will work, primarily with Ian, on plans for demolition and clearing the site for construction, plans for holding Camps in the Summer of 2024, fundraising, and long-term plans for the rebuilding and renewal of the Camp. Demolition Permits have been received and demolition of affected areas of the Camp will begin this week. The Steering Committee reports to the Diocesan Council.

What was left of a building after OAC fire. The photographs was taken at Camp OAC on Saturday, October 7, 2023.


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