“I believe that I am a better pastor…”

Pastors Mary and Tim Canniff-Kuhn concluded their final summer as program directors at Lutheridge in 2019. For 25 summers, they nurtured, trained, and equipped an entire generation of summer staff with skills that have changed the church, our synod, and the world well beyond the boundaries of camp. “I believe that I am a better pastor for having spent summers under their leadership and guidance,” says Lauren Carlson, pictured above as a counselor and now serving as pastor at Calvary, Morganton.

In 1994 when “Forest Gump” was in theaters and O.J. Simpson led police on a chase on the freeways of Los Angeles, Pastors Tim and Mary left parish ministry in Florida and moved along with their three little boys to begin serving outdoor ministry at Lutheridge in Arden, NC. Since then, they have made Lutheridge their home, nurtured and raised their own family that now includes a handful of grandchildren, and have creatively shared their gifts and talents with campers and guests of all ages. Perhaps the largest impact, however, has been in the way they have loved and encouraged young leaders.

Many of their former summer staff are now serving as lay leaders and rostered ministers in congregations across the ELCA, many in our own synod.

Pastor Paul Wollner, now serving at Augsburg, Winston-Salem, and his wife, Katherine, both served as counselors at Lutheridge. Pastor Paul shares, “Pastor Mary and Pastor Tim were always great examples of the meaning of a Christ-centered non-anxious presence. Pastor Mary’s prayer for ‘a calm heart and a clear mind’ is one I recite to myself, and others, on a regular basis. I am continually grateful for their part in God’s call in my life both professionally and personally.”

Pastor Carlson spent many summers at Lutheridge before discerning her call to ministry. There is no denying the Canniff-Kuhns’ influence on her call to ministry: “They have a way of helping people to see the best in themselves and to recognize the ways in which we have been uniquely gifted by God. They are kind, patient, and encouraging when addressing areas of growth, and their sense of pride and joy in their summer staff is palpable each year as they watch the lessons learned start to take hold. Things I learned in staff training from my very first summer have stayed with me all these years, and I find myself referencing my time at camp on a regular basis in ministry. I have often continued to seek their wisdom and love as I continue to discern my gifts and my call in God’s church.”

Megan Downey uses the gifts and skills she honed as a counselor and area director at Lutheridge in her call as the Director of Youth Ministry also at Calvary, Morganton. She says, “Tim and Mary provided a beautiful example to me that every child deserves to know God and have a loving relationship with Him. They helped me discover the beauty in each child that came to Lutheridge, and the power in which ministry, especially outdoor ministry, can foster and change a child and their relationship with God.”

Pastor Naomi Carriker, currently serving at Nativity, Arden, adds her thoughts about her summers on staff with Pastor Tim and Pastor Mary, “I know that camp tends to be a holy breeding ground for church leaders, but I know without a doubt that I would not be the leader that I am today without the guidance and example and nurturing and grace that Pastors Mary and Tim showed me as a leader at Lutheridge. I learned from them that building relationships and trust are some of the most important first steps in leadership and I also learned that setting personal boundaries for health and family needs are also important. Also, to keep asking questions and never stop being curious. I learned from Mary the importance of having the words of institution memorized and that when the Spirit moves one to go ‘off book’ with the Great Thanksgiving, to just go with it. And, I learned from Tim that vulnerability is a superpower.”

Pastor Carriker is married to her husband, Deacon Chandler Carriker, Vice President for Program and Engagement at NovusWay Ministries, who has also been serving as Interim Lutheridge Program Director since January 1, 2020. Chandler spent eight summers at Lutheridge, including two summers as assistant program director.

These leaders are just a few of those whose lives have been shaped for ministry by the Canniff-Kuhns. On Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. you are invited to join in a worship service of Godspeed and gratitude celebrating 25 years of lives impacted by the ministry of Pastor Mary and Pastor Tim. We will gather at the Faith Center at Lutheridge for worship, camp songs, and communion. A reception will follow at the Linberger Dining Hall. Learn more about the celebration.

The NC Synod invests in the ministry of our camps. In 2019, not only were NovusWay Ministries (Lutheridge, Lutherock) and Agapé+Kure Beach Ministries (Camp Agapé, Kure Beach) included in the synod’s budget, but both ministries also received additional financial support from the synod thanks to your generous mission support that exceeded our budgeted needs. Thanks be to God!

Besides continuing to give to our synod’s mission support, how can you support Lutheran Outdoor Ministries and future leaders of the church? Send your children or grandchildren to camp. Encourage college students you know to apply for summer staff positions (camps are hiring now). Ask your pastor or deacon about their camp experience and call to ministry. Invite one of our synod camps to join your congregation for a special “Camp Sunday.” Pray and donate.

Read this NovusWay story about how camp has changed over the last 25 years, but more importantly, about how it has not.