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Generation to Generation: Outdoor Ministry History

Photo of Rev. Richard Neal (left) and Bishop "Buck" Moyer (right) showing the 3D models of the cabins and lodge, circa 1964

Outdoor ministry at Caroline Furnace first began as a vision from Rev. Buck Moyer to “draw small parish members beyond the walls of their own congregation and strengthen Synodical ties”. At the time, Rev. Buck Moyer was serving as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Shenandoah VA.  The Caroline Furnace property (400 acres) was purchased in 1957 after being recommended by Howard Walter, the postmaster of St. David’s Church. Several people were influential in the development of the master plan, to include: Joe Insley (ULCA Staff - Parish Life and Christian Education), Dr. L.B. Sharp (a specialist with Outdoor Education Association), and Paul Cornell (LCA). Construction began with the Retreat House (also known as the Staff House; currently the Farmhouse) in 1958.  Summer Camp started at Caroline Furnace in 1959 after 11 summers at Powell’s Fort Organization Camp. Camp was held in both locations that year. At Caroline Furnace, hogan-style tents were set to the north of the Retreat House (Farmhouse).  The Lodge and Cabin Village were built in 1965 with designs from a firm in central Pennsylvania. Two of the cabins were completed by that summer. The remaining six were at various stages of completion. The cost of Summer Camp was $20 per week, paid upon arrival. In an article from the Northern Virginia Daily (Aug 26, 1965), Moyer shared that “the camp is designed to help meet the needs of the church youth of today.” From Dr. Mauney, President of Virginia Synod: “Boys and girls attracted by the adventures of life in an outdoors setting surrounded by the eager spirits of fellow campers and leaders, confronted by the learning experiences of a church camp program, are encouraged to build and enlarge upon a lasting set of Christian values” Buck Moyer served on Dr. Luther Mauney’s staff in the Virginia Synod from 1959 to 1967. After a call to Grace Lutheran Church in Winchester VA, he became President of the Virginia Synod, LCA in 1976 (Lutheran Church in America, predecessor to ELCA). His title changed to Bishop in 1980. He was a lifelong supporter of outdoor ministry. Other influential people listed by Buck Moyer include Charlie Shenberger, Peggy Johnson, Rev. Bill Kinser, Rev. Dick Neal, Willard Deal, Raymond Buschong, and Hilda Bredamen. Caroline Furnace was a property of the Virginia Synod of the LCA from 1957 to 1988. Now the organization remains separately incorporated and affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center, Inc. Note: Most of this information comes from an interview in 2005 with Rev. Wayne Shelor and Bishop Buck Moyer.

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