Silliness and Stillness: A History of Covenant Point Bible Camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

reviewed by Phil Carlson

Silliness and Stillness: A History of Covenant Point Bible Camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Mark Safstrom
Covenant Point, 2017

To order a copy, contact the camp at 906.265.2117, or download and mail a printable order form online.

Mark begins this book with a paragraph of context called “Bearings” (p. 7): “The experience of going out into the wilderness involves getting one’s bearings. This can mean reading a compass or map, negotiating hassles and hazards on the way, or leaming how to relate with fellow travelers. It also means reflecting on one’s relationship to the people and places that have been left behind, and ultimately, for the Christian, one’s relationship to God. Storytelling is a large part of this process. . . “ So it is as a fellow traveler that I engage in this story and invite you to do also.

This story has its roots in the late nineteenth century with the arrival of immigrant Mission Friends from Sweden who settled in a number of Upper Peninsula communities somewhat isolated from one another. “The advantages of cooperation in these remote settlements was readily apparent, and resulted in the formation of the Northwestern District Association... in 1886 just one year after the Mission Covenant denomination was formed” (9). The custom of having revival meetings brought these isolated congregations together at various churches on an annual basis. During the 1897 gathering in Iron Mountain, the Young People’s Conference began to regularly meet the first week of August each year at a local church. This continued for a number of years until they began to outgrow the facilities of the local congregation as host. Thus began the search for a permanent site of their own, resulting in the purchase of property on Hagerman Lake that became Covenant Point Bible Camp in the late twenties. “That the Bible Camp movement emerged during the cultural extravagance of the Roaring Twenties and then the subsequent austerity of the Great Depression is worth keeping in mind” (16). At this time Covenant Point and Mission Springs in California were the only camps owned by young people societies - the rest used rented facilities.

The early years operated with basic facilities. This lack was realized the very first year when rain and mosquitoes were the motivating force for the first major building project: the construction of the Tabernacle in 1930. (It still stands as a witness to the devoted work of the pioneer camp enthusiasts.)

Over the years, from humble beginnings, the camp expanded in scope and size. Age specific weeks were instituted, an all volunteer staff was replaced by a moderately paid core staff on a seasonal basis, to a full-time staff year-round. Programming expanded from the mainland camp to island camping, canoe trips, hiking trips and other year-round activities, including women’s and men’s retreats, fall youth retreats and family camps. The outdoor/environmental education program, Agents of the Earth, reached the surrounding communities both in their schools as well as the camp’s environmental center.

Mark’s story of Covenant Point draws upon careful, scholarly research as well as on-site experience. His years on staff give him a personal feel for the spirit of this ministry. He chronicles the development in a detailed and sensitive manner. Many individuals and their contributions are included. Photographs illustrating the book open the mind’s eye to more than the printed word. The appendices along with the design of the finished copy by Sandy Nelson, make this a volume to be easily accessed and not hidden on a dusty bookshelf.