3-16-17 by Esther Cottrell
Like the Tabernacle in the Old Testament stood as a symbol of a place to meet with God, for nearly 50 years the Chapel in the Woods stood as a symbol of the mission and purpose of Camp Marengo: to evangelize and disciple Ohio Church of God youth. It was a place to meet God. In this article, I invite you to read the following stories of how this place was made holy by the prayers of God’s people and the presence of the Holy Spirit
Perhaps you gave time and energy to helping build, or re-build the chapel. If so, the reflections of beloved pastor, Ron Fowler, may resonate with you:
“I had newly assumed the Senior Pastor role at what was then the Roberts St. Church of God (now Arlington) in Akron when the chapel at Camp Marengo was being built. I have many fond memories of the chapel in the woods and helping to be a part of its construction. There were many people involved in that project. It was a labor of love, given freely to develop the camp for both evangelism and discipleship of our young people.
I remember George Reed, pastor at Fairborn, was the construction manager. He directed the volunteer work crews. James Hall, pastor at Barberton, and I would frequently ride down together for those volunteer work days at the camp. Jim Hall and I dug the footers for the chapel. As we worked together and, at times, stayed overnight in the cabins, we delighted in times of rich fellowship and often imagined how the Lord might use this structure to develop future leaders in our churches.”
Rev. Dr. Ron Fowler
Pastor Emeritus, Arlington Church of God (Akron, OH)
Perhaps you were one of the thousands of campers who met Christ, felt a call to ministry or even got married in the chapel. If so, the testimony of Rev. Steve Chiles, may resonate with you:
“I attended Camp Marengo for the first time in the summer of 1970. I had just finished 9th grade. At that week of camp, at the end of one of the evening services in the chapel, I knelt at that old wooden bench altar and committed my life to Christ. It was during that week I also met Wanda Kujawski who would later become my wife. In the summer of 1971 I prayed in that same chapel as I answered God’s call to become a pastor. My last year as a camper was in 1973, but I would return three years later as Wanda and I were married in that chapel on June 12, 1976. To say that chapel was a holy place for me is not an understatement. God met me there for the most significant moments of my life.”
Rev. Steve Chiles
Pastor, Shartel Church of God (Oklahoma City, OK)
Although the chapel has been a centerpiece of worship through the years, it has had structural problems. The original chapel had to undergo major repair in the 80’s due to water damage. Rev. Dan Betts remembers being in the chapel to rehearse with the camp choir when the roof collapsed.
“I remember the first time the chapel at Camp Marengo began to collapse. I think it was 1986. I was on staff as the Music Director that summer. It was 9th-10th Grade camp and we were having choir practice during the morning Instructional time. We had a soundtrack playing through my sound system as we were practicing either “How Majestic Is Your Name” or “Great Is The Lord”. As the music played I heard a loud cracking sound. As I looked up I noticed the Ceiling moving. Panicking, I quickly ran out from under the roof behind where the stage was. When I turned around I saw that the campers were still standing inside wondering what was going on. I immediately began jumping up and down and screaming, “RUN, RUN, RUN!”. The campers quickly vacated the building. Because of water damage at the foundations, two of the three legs of the building cracked right at the base and broke off falling down only a couple feet to the concrete floor. The roof was still intact but choir practice was over for the day.”
Youth Pastor, Wintergreen Ledges Church of God (Akron, OH)
Like the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, the camp chapel was also a temporary structure that served the Church for a grand season. Due, however, to severe structural issues, resulting from water damage, the chapel was deconstructed in late February of this year.
The Decision to Remove the Chapel
In late summer of 2015 the Chapel was inspected by Todd Gindelberger, an architect, member of the Camp Committee and lay leader at First Church of God, Huber Heights. Noting that some of the beams that supported the roof were exhibiting severe wood rot, extending as much as twelve inches into the sixteen-inch beam, Todd consulted with a structural engineer and an expert glue-lam. Their conclusions were that the building was deemed unstable and unusable. The Governing Board took those recommendations to heart and for the safety of all camp guests, discontinued use of the building.
In the ensuing months, the Board commissioned a study to determine costs to repair and even the viability of repair. When the study revealed that the estimated costs approximated replacement (exceeding our current ability to finance) and that there was serious question to the long-term safety of the structural design, the Governing Board made the painful decision in January 2017 to approve a plan to demolish.
On February 23-25, 2017, Rev. Marvin Schooler (chair of the Disaster Relief Team) and Rev. Vernon Maddox (Special Projects Coordinator) assembled a team of volunteers to remove the building. Vern noted that he was part of the volunteer work force that helped to build the chapel in the 1960’s so it seemed appropriate that he was there to help in its removal. The work was overseen by Jeremy Tillotson, a licensed contractor who stepped up and volunteered himself and a couple of his crew to work with members of the Disaster Relief Team to raze the building. We are grateful for these volunteers who worked hard on this project.
Special Thanks to the Disaster Relief Team
- Vernon Maddox
- Jeremy Tillotson and work crew
- Marvin Schooler and his lay leader, Fred
- Pete Eyer, Meadow Park Powell
- Dave and Patty Woodward
In the coming months the Camp Master Planning Team will be working with the staff to redevelop the chapel area to be usable for summer youth camp activities. This could include fire ring area/prayer walk/outdoor worship center.
Develop the building, currently called the pavilion, as a new worship center and multi-activity area. This area has been the primary worship area for summer youth camps and big events such as the annual Men’s Ox Roast for a few years. The plan is to cultivate this existing space to become the central focus of the camp.
How Can You Help?
Across the state I am often asked how someone or a church group can help undergird the camp ministry. Certainly, special, beyond budget giving to state ministries, financial giving will always make a difference. We have several projects ranging in cost from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousands. As you and/or your group can invest in the camp I would be delighted to talk with you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-747-2916.
Additionally, Facilities Manager, Dave Woodward has scheduled the following days as weekend work days for volunteers:
Some things to know about the Work Days
- Volunteers of all skill levels are needed.
- Camp Marengo will house and feed the volunteers
- Bring your own bedding, linens, and toiletries.
- Basic tools are always a needed item so bring (and label) what you like to work with
- As a volunteer we understand that your time is valuable and that calendars can be complex. Honoring your gifts of time, the work weekends will begin at 10 am on Friday and conclude at 3 pm on Saturday. If you need to work a different schedule please let Dave Woodward know so that appropriate meal and work planning can be made.
- Although the work weekends are free, we do ask that you register with Dave Woodward. Either call him at 740-513-6829, or email email@example.com.
Here’s a sample of work that is being planned to make this year’s summer youth camp the best yet:
Landscape around the new worship center; tree and stump removal; spring cleaning of cabins and other buildings; indoor and outdoor painting projects; re-establish electrical and water supply to construction site; open up pool and shower houses.
Let’s work together to create a place where our youth can meet God and be forever changed!
State Pastor and Director of Ohio Ministries of the Church of God