Epworth Forest

Epworth Forest Conference Center is located on the north shore of Lake Webster. From State Road 13 on the north side of the town of North Webster, follow the Epworth Forest Road east approximately one mile to the camp entrance.

The Epworth League, a national Methodist youth society, had chartered groups in Indiana churches beginning in 1889. Inspired by the summer program of the M.E. Northwest Conference offered at Battleground, Indiana, the North Indiana Conference began holding its own annual Epworth League summer institute in 1916 at Oakwood Park, the EUB facility on Lake Wawasee. But the search was on to purchase a suitable campground site.

An ideal site was found just a short distance south of Oakwood Park, near North Webster. In 1923, one hundred acres (later expanded to 243 acres) on the north shore of Lake Webster was acquired for $25,000 and given the name "Epworth Forest." Soon most of the 437 lots were sold, and cottages and the Epworth Hotel were built. A guest could enjoy room and board in the hotel for $3.00 a week. By 1924, the year of its first institute, the enterprise was off to a good beginning.

An 1,800-seat auditorium was completed just in time for the Day of Dedication, August 10, 1924, and the first Institute was underway. Immediately the enrollment exceeded the accommodations. In the first few years, Epworth Forest's attendance soon ranked it as one of the largest camps in American Methodism, and Epworth Forest's program and organization became a model for church camps throughout the country.

Two major programmatic emphases were practiced over the years. From the first, there was the old camp meeting format, cultivated by the North Indiana Conference's Camp-Meeting Association. Then, in 1933, this emphasis grew into the Epworth Forest Assembly. Meanwhile, the number of Institutes held each year went to two, then three, and then six, eventually by the 1950s drawing an attendance of more than 2,000.

Early on, separate threads known as Boyville and Girlville were begun and, in 1941, merged into Camp Adventure. (Today, the Conference Camping Program operates Camp Adventure as a separate facility.) Over the years Epworth Forest added Cokesbury Inn, a tennis court, a ball diamond, an amphitheater, a hospital unit, and increasingly modern lodges. It has also conducted among its various camping activities, a Junior Mission camp, a choir school, an orchestra, a playhouse, and publication of its own newspaper.

Today the Epworth Forest Conference Center is the flagship of a remarkable camping program, one of the strongest in the United Methodist Church, operating sites across the Conference. The Center offers programming for high school students, youth groups and adults with special needs. Year round, the camp site is also rented out regularly for retreats, staff outings, camps, family events, banquets, weddings, and more.

GPS at entrance to Epworth Forest: 41 20 04.79, -085 40 55.46

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