Not all classrooms have four corners. SPU students enrolled in the master of arts (MA) degree program or master of divinity (MDIV) degree program find themselves at Camp Casey attending a core requirement class, THEO 6001. Most years Doug Strong, dean and professor of the history of Christianity, teaches this five-day, retreat-based, intensive course. This year however, the class was taught by Rick Steele, professor of moral and historical theology and associate dean, graduate studies. Together as a community, these students study and practice historic spiritual disciplines as a grounding for their seminary experience and a lifetime of ministry.
Strong has been quoted saying, “The change that takes place over our five days together is remarkable. Twenty-five strangers become a close-knit group of Christian brothers and sisters; feelings of anticipation and nervousness about beginning a rigorous graduate program are transformed into the first insights of theological learning; and their unfamiliarity with ancient Christian patterns of spirituality is changed into a deep appreciation for the ways these patterns are able to assist them in being renewed more and more into the image of Christ.” When asked why the department chooses to use Camp Casey as the ‘classroom’ instead of holding the class at the SPU campus, Steele said, “it’s a quiet, scenic place where all the basic needs are taken care of. It’s free of all the activity and outside stimulus that tends to be a distraction.”
The requirements of the class over the five days can be emotionally draining. Another benefit of holding the class at Camp Casey is the numerous opportunities for the students to practice community together by playing games on the play field or sharing stories around the beach-side fire pit. Quiet reflection comes easier for most when they can take a walk along the beach, listen to the soothing sounds of the waves, or take a stroll along any of the several walking paths through the surrounding forest.
For this particular group, it was also important to have space where students could spend time meditating and studying in quiet private areas, as well as meeting spaces where the class could gather and openly share experiences. The class has found that staying in the Bachelors Officers Quarters (BOQ) was the best option for them. The BOQ is well suited to groups of 30-50 people all year round. It is an all-inclusive facility, where groups can sleep, dine, and hold large and small-group meetings in one location. The large meeting space is equipped with podium, wall-mounted whiteboard, digital projector, screen, DVD and VCR players, and cables for laptops.
Groups who select Camp Casey Conference Center for their retreats almost always are looking for a venue that offers an environment that promotes community and discovery. Camp Casey has a variety of lodging facilities, all with unique attributes.