A devastating July 4 fire heavily damaged the kitchen and dining facilities at Pilgrim Point Camp, the UCC camp in Alexandria, Minnesota. The camp now faces extensive rebuilding. All camps and retreats for the rest of the summer have been canceled, and leaders are contemplating the next steps.
Robbinsdale United Church of Christ was hosting a fund-raising dinner Aug. 8, and the camp will announce work weekends soon. The camp is also seeking donations.
Leslie Amundson, chair of the Pilgrim Point Camp Committee, published this report on the aftermath of the fire in COMMAntary, the newsletter of the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ:
“The Pilgrim Point Camp Committee had a meeting last weekend at camp. As I drove under the green canopy of trees lining the road, I immediately experienced that “sacred ground” feeling we all get as we enter the space. The fields were verdant green, the air was cool, a breeze enveloped me as I drove quickly past the blackened dining hall, not wanting to examine it too closely yet. I wanted to wait for the company of the other committee members.
“After supper and getting settled in the lodge, we walked over with Kevin and Lori. The first thing you see is the blackened side of the building, and the grill that exploded and did the damage. The building actually didn’t look that bad yet. We entered the office area cautiously, immediately smelling that wood-fired air, noting holes in the walls and ceiling of the kitchen, ruined floors from the water from the fire hoses, the devastated dish room, floors buckled, broken windows.”
Dining hall damage
“The dining hall itself – new flooring ruined and soggy under our feet, holes in the walls and rafters as the firefighters tried to determine how far the flames traveled. And that unmistakable smell of fire. There was a hush in the group as we took in the damage. After a minute or so, I knew this for certain: there is no way we could have held camps this summer, with the damage basically in the middle of the grounds. The children I know that love Pilgrim Point would be devastated to see and smell this place, and, no matter how well it was secured during construction, they might be tempted to explore. There are other good reasons, but that one came to mind first.”
“As a group we rallied a bit to think about the future, what could be done to make it more hospitable, whether the kitchen could be re-built to be more efficient, how the bathrooms could be brought up to code, and access to the building improved. Maybe a deck? With screens? We got excited thinking about the possibilities. And maybe that’s what God does – bringing hope to a difficult situation, showing us the phoenix rising out of the ashes, guiding us to a spirit of renewal that helps us to move forward. I’m hoping the images of destruction will fade in my mind, replaced by something new, as, together, we build a new gathering place for ALL of us, no exceptions.”