The property of Camp Edgewood is a land steeped with memory. It echoes with the voices of seven decades of beloved ministry – camp-outs, late-night cabin confessions, closing candlelight services.
So when it came to making the difficult but necessary decision to sell Edgewood, the guiding question above all else was this: how do we honour all those years of Lutherans cherishing this land?
For starters, accepting the decision to sell was not easy. But after nine years of dealing with issues concerning land title, personnel, drinking and waste water, the future of Edgewood was clear. Despite the best efforts of numerous management boards, synod involvement, countless volunteers hours and donor contributions the options for continuing ministry on this property had come to an end for us.
And so, on a Sunday in early October last year, five months after the members of the Edgewood Camp and Conference Centre passed a resolution to cease operations and dissolve the corporation, a leave-taking ceremony took place. It resonated, like the land itself, with songs, laughter and ministry. In his sermon at the event, Bishop Michael Pryse spoke of how, despite the faithful efforts of so many people, the combination of time, circumstances and a changing context had led Camp Edgewood to this “gracious conclusion.” But as he told the people gathered, “There should be no shame in this. We are in the dying and rising business and we should expect to experience such necessary transitions in our institutional life together.”
And in that transformational moment, came the time for brainstorming. First, the management board reviewed its financial and legal obligations to its debtors and donors of unspent designated funds. In November, Nathan Mantey, a Lutheran in the area, led the charge at a Synod Council meeting to talk about the synod’s willingness to donate a portion of the land to a conservation authority. The voices were heard and the synod responded positively.
In the coming weeks, 17 different parties pronounced their interest in purchasing the property. While some would have paid more than the appraised value of the property, the Synod Council felt strongly that respecting the views to safeguard the property should be the first priority.
Careful and caring conversations began with the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries to help bring some of the interested Eden Mills parties together. These were people who wanted to be able to preserve the land as a natural setting and minimize the development of the property.
Over the course of nine months, negotiations took place. The Bishop and Synod leadership blessed every step along the way, and they were vetted by our lawyer. With the assistance of the Director of Property Transformation, we paid no real estate fees for this transaction, saving the church $40,000 in the sale. Our only cost for the sale was the price of legal advice for a complicated property with encumbrances and title issues.
In the end, the land was sold for $800,000, somewhat below the appraised value. The net proceeds from the sale after legal fees were $776,678.00. This is a significant sum that will allow a new opportunity to emerge from Camp Edgewood. Those discussions are already underway. Our Youth and Young Adult Ministry Committee have made a recommendation to Synod Council concerning the proceeds of the sale. A second suggestion was made by a group of delegates at Assembly 2018. Both will be considered at the next Synod Council meeting.
But this sale has accomplished more than dollar figures. By focusing on protecting the land, we have made it possible for all Canadians to still enjoy its beauty. The people of Eden Mills plan to donate a large portion of the land to a conservation authority as required in the sale agreement. As Edgewood’s closest neighbors, we expect the residents group to be invested custodians of the property’s next phase.
This sale did not come easy for anyone. But it is an example of responsible stewardship – cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and collaborative. This process balanced bottom dollar against our forward-thinking, big-picture mission. It was truthful to the will of the people who signed the petition brought forward to Synod Council, wanting to ensure that the land was conserved. Indeed, the final decision also respects the Reformation Goal - ‘Creation Is Not For Sale’ – in a serious and intentional way, giving due honour to a meaningful piece of our Lutheran history.
As we say goodbye to over 70 years of ministry, it is only fitting to quote the last words shared by our Camp Edgewood Management Board Chair, Rev Fred Ludolph, at Edgewood’s final annual meeting:
“Let us thank God for every summer of camp ministry, for every term of school and every weekend retreat that happened at Edgewood. Let us thank God for every camper, student, or adult who played, sought the grace of God, and grew in faith and maturity at Edgewood.
Let us thank God for the young people and adults who volunteered or worked at Edgewood, offering and honing their skills and passion for ministry through Edgewood’s programs. Let us thank God for the beauty of Edgewood - it’s waters, trees, meadows and creatures, the oxygen its forests provide and the carbon they hold, and every gift of creation that is sheltered there.
And having given thanks, let us rededicate ourselves to discipleship and ministry to which God will surely call us.”
Written by the Director of Property Transformation, Rev Joel Crouse