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Camp at the Core

Updated: May 7, 2019

Ever since I was invited into serious conversations about leading Briarwood into its next phase of its life as a Lutheran ministry, a single question kept resonating in my mind: what IS Briarwood anyway? 


What I soon realized is that many people were asking the same question. Another early realization is that many other people—even if they were asking what Briarwood actually is—had some anxiety that the question was floating around. 

Now, as we head toward the NT-NL Synod Assembly and the Briarwood Gala (May 4 - reserve your tables now!), I’ve been working with the Briarwood Board, volunteers, and staff members to offer a definitive answer to that question. 


Since I hope you'll participate in the Gala (did I mention it will be held on May 4?), I won't offer a complete response to the question just yet. Nevertheless, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate and reaffirm that, at Briarwood, Camp is at the Core.

Camping ministry is the reason Lutherans purchased Briarwood's beautiful acreage in the 1990s. Because of the immersive experience of community and the opportunity to commune with God in the great outdoors, camping offers unique possibilities for spiritual and leadership development, from children to senior adults. 


At the same time, Briarwood has had unique challenges when thought of solely as a camp. Briarwood is the youngest Lutheran camp in Texas. It is highly valued, but doesn't have the same possibilities for childhood memories among our older congregational members. And now, Briarwood is being surrounding by a growing suburban reality unlike the areas around most Lutheran camps in the US. It's nice to have a Whole Foods Market just down the street, but that can mean going to Briarwood doesn't always feel like going to camp. 

With all that said, we can strongly affirm that camping is now and will continue to be the core of Briarwood. As we transition toward understanding Briarwood as a Leadership Center rather than a retreat center or solely as a camp, nothing beats camping for promoting leadership among children, youth and young adults. This is our foundation, our core.

For that foundation to be strong, we need your participation and support. We need your congregation to organize a group of young people to come to Briarwood during a specific week. We need you to partner with other congregations to identify a group of teens who can be Counselors in Training—a wonderful way to keep them busy for the summer while developing essential skills and capacities. We need you to invest in the future of Briarwood and the young people it serves by increasing your contributions to the Briarwood budget.

Camp is at the core of what the people of the NT-NL Synod understand Briarwood to be. And Camping will continue to be the core of Briarwood activities. I'll be saying more about that in the coming weeks. I invite you to join me in this important conversation.

Rev. Robert O. Smith, PhD