For many, the “Camp Artaban experience” is a deep-rooted one; generations have known the camaraderie of the dining hall, the joy of morning worship in the outdoor chapel, the round of craft, sports and waterfront activities, and the smell of smoke around the evening campfire.
For others, “Camp Artaban” is just a name, and not a very familiar one at that. But since being established at the end of Long Bay on Gambier Island in 1923, Camp Artaban had been home to decades of ministry to parish youth as well as thousands of campers with no church affiliation. Following several years of negotiations, the Diocese of New Westminster’s affiliation was officially removed in 2014 from the Camp Artaban Society through a number of resolutions passed by Diocesan Council. Camp Artaban and the D of NW came to an arrangement that provided dispersal of the debt and a fresh start for the Camp. There were many in the diocese who were disappointed and many in the diocese who were excited about entering an era of new development in camping and youth ministry with the Artaban site as a possible location for these initiatives.
The now independent board has since 2014 endeavoured to continue the Artaban tradition of offering Christian camping opportunities and rental of the Gambier Island site to other groups. However, in 2020, camps aren’t being offered due to the pandemic. Turning lemons into lemonade, a group of us took the opportunity to experience “camp-in-a-day” and introduce the Artaban experience to a new generation of clergy and retreat leaders who may not have been aware of its potential to host retreats of all sizes, parish camping weekends, or new offerings such as Queerest & Dearest begun in 2018, with some of its funding obtained from the Anglican Initiatives Fund.
The day began with an exhilarating, 30-minute water taxi trip from Horseshoe Bay to the Artaban dock, where we were greeted by board members Nancy Farris and Sandi La Charite along with summer staff members who are onsite to support volunteer work parties and ongoing camp maintenance.
Our walk from the wharf took us by the swimming and boating dock, past the chapel under the trees and into the dining hall where tea, coffee, and fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon buns awaited us. It was a good start to the rest of the day, which included a wooded hike around the camp perimeter, a tour of the rental facilities such as the renovated, self-contained Somerville House that sleeps 16, midday prayer in the chapel, a mini “Cootie” tournament in the dining hall, and a campfire that featured the Rev. Cameron Gutjahr’s uke playing, Bible story charades and Nancy’s retelling of the Artaban story first imagined by Henry van Dyke in his 1895 work, The Other Wise Man.
Our group reflected on the potential for the Artaban site to be a place that parishes might rent for retreats and family camps.
Our time at camp only lasted a matter of hours, but it was enough to get a taste of the Camp Artaban spirit. “So much fun,” wrote one clergy 'camper' in an email that evening. “My heart certainly opened for the ministry of Artaban.”
Are you curious about how Camp Artaban might fit into your dreams for ministry, fellowship and fun? Artaban is happy to work with rental groups in a flexible manner to make the experience a happy one, and as affordable as possible. If you would like to think through some ideas for hosting events at Camp Artaban, please contact email@example.com or 604-379-9074.
All photos by Peggy Trendell-Jensen except where noted