New Camps and Retreat director takes ministry to next level

By Jessica Connor

S.C. United Methodist Camps and Retreat Ministry has a new director at the helm, and he’s hoping to take the group into a brighter tomorrow.

Longtime development executive Arthur Spriggs became new executive director Feb. 1, replacing the Rev. Jody Oates, who stepped down at the end of October.

Camps and Retreat Board Chair the Rev. Smoke Kanipe called Spriggs “the perfect fit” for camping and retreat ministry in the South Carolina Annual Conference.

“We received over 40 resumes for this position, including some very qualified applicants. But when I began calling Arthur’s references, I was really struck by their enthusiasm,” Kanipe said. “These were people who had known him over the years in a variety of settings, and each one said, in effect, ‘I would love to have this man leading my organization.’ Sure enough, as we went through the interview process, we were all impressed by Arthur’s warm personality, his extensive background in camping ministry, his proven track record as a fundraiser and his deep but relaxed spirituality.”

With a background in development, Spriggs spent more than 17 years with the nonprofit YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) before shifting gears to lead an independent United Way fund for seven years. Much of his YMCA work involved leading outdoor centers and directing facilities and programs. Originally from East Tennessee, he has traveled the nation extensively in his work with retreats, most recently Indiana, and he’s happy to be back home in the South.

He feels he can bring a fresh set of eyes and a somewhat different background to an already excellent operation.

“My strengths are in the area of development, and from what I gathered from the board, they really want to push the envelope on that,” Spriggs said. “We know what we’d love to do at (Sewee Coastal Retreat Center), know there are lots of opportunities around the state, so how do we get there?”

Initially, Spriggs said he will work with the board to identify a short-term plan while he crafts a long-range development plan for Camps and Retreat.

The ministry currently manages two properties: the thriving Asbury Hills acreage in the upstate mountains, which is a highly popular summer camp, and the 40-acre Sewee Coastal Retreat Center, which is on pause as a ministry-led operation and is being leased by Clemson University while the board decides what to do with it.

Spriggs said he sees a lot of potential in Sewee as an adult retreat center. Sitting right on the Intracoastal Waterway between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, Spriggs said Sewee is worth about $8 million and is an incredible location.

The issue is not whether Sewee is a viable property, but rather whether the board can raise the kinds of dollars to bring Sewee where it wants to be.

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