Church Group Retreat

  • By Richard
  • 27 Sep, 2016

Bethany Northeast Children's Group Retreat

If your group happens to be mostly comprised of families with young children and you are looking for the ideal location for a group retreat, look no further than Camp Casey. At least that’s what Sonja Erickson, Bethany Community Church Northeast children's director, tells everyone. This year’s group comprising about 100 adults and 20 children camped in the campground for their weekend stay. Sonja explains, “It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, but there’s nothing like a camping trip to shake things up, trigger new conversations, and create wonderful lifelong memories.” She said it adds an element of adventure to life, and “kids thrive on that, as do adults.”

The retreat’s goals were simple: to connect, build relationships, and have fun. The morning of the first full day, Sonja says they were well on their way. The children played in the woods while several of the adults gathered at the fire pit near the Colonel’s House to plan their day’s excursions. Hiking Ebey’s Landing trail, visiting the Admiralty Lighthouse, and Fort Casey were all on the list. The younger members of the group, however, seemed to be captivated by a comment about setting up a makeshift waterslide in the field. Okay, maybe there would be no hiking.

Even though Sonja has only been bringing her group to Camp Casey for two years, she is familiar with the area. The first clue that she has been around for a while is when she refers to the Colonel’s House as ‘the blue house’. For those of you who might have been around Camp Casey in the mid '80s, you’ll remember that at one time the Colonel’s house was painted blue. In addition to several sport camps, her family stayed at the Colonel’s house for weekend getaways. Sonja’s father has been on the SPU staff for most of her life. A benefit to SPU faculty, staff, and/or alumni is the permission to use parts of the Camp Casey facilities. Sonja is not the only group member with ties to Camp Casey. Jenni Gabhart, associate pastor at Bethany, came to Camp Casey for retreats as a Seattle Pacific University alumna.

It’s always great when alumni and SPU faculty or staff bring their groups to Camp Casey, but SPU employment is not a requirement. Our facilities are available to non-profit organizations and we love starting new relationships. If your non-profit group is looking for a historic venue surrounded by nature, give us a call.

Go Camp Casey

By Richard 18 Jun, 2017
Did you know that just a few miles off the western shore of Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor are the Smith and Minor Islands? The US Fish and Wildlife Service designated these 36,300 acres of tidelands and seafloor habitat as an aquatic reserve. An aquatic reserve is a State-owned land considered containing exceptional biodiversity. The Smith and Minor Islands have the largest kelp bed in the Puget Sound and provide a pristine ecosystem that attracts multitudes of migrating, nesting and foraging birds, fish and marine mammals.

The Reserve’s boundary includes the western coast of Whidbey Island from Joseph Whidbey State Park to just south of Fort Ebey State Park and provides several opportunities to access. Specifically, there are five access points. The first at Joseph Whidbey State Park, just northwest of Oak Harbor. West Beach Road, just south of the park. From here a public beach provides shoreline access as well as a view of the Olympic Mountains, the Reserve and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A third entry point where you gain access from the water to the reserve is at the Hastie Lake Road Boat Launch. West of Coupeville and north of Ft Ebey State Park, there is a small county park called Libbey Beach County Park (Partridge Point) which provides shoreline access to the Reserve. Lastly, Ebey’s Landing, located south of Ft. Ebey State Park offers shoreline access, as well as spectacular views of the Reserve.

Apart from Reserve serving as a nesting and foraging habitat for seabirds, it’s also part of the National Wildlife Refuge that offers a breeding ground and winter sanctuary for birds. Whales, such as orca, gray and minke can frequently be seen for the Reserve; and harbor seals, elephant seals, and stellar sea lions use the islands for water, rest, and pup-rearing.

The large kelp beds function as a rearing and foraging habitat for juvenile salmon, crab, and other fish. Lastly, many invertebrates – part of the Reserve’s food chain - such as snails, clams, crabs, shrimp and other critters are found around the waters and shorelines.
From Casey, these points of access to the Reserve are just minutes away. If you’d like a presentation made to your group, contact Robin Clark at or (206) 235-3321.

Find more information at
By Richard 30 May, 2017

Seattle Pacific University invites the public to visit the Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island, a historic military fort built at the turn of the 20th century, during their open house on Friday, June 16, 12-4 p.m.

The open house at Camp Casey will feature:

·        Guided tour of the Colonel’s House, which is used predominately as a retreat space for SPU leadership and special groups. The tour begins with a historical talk by SPU Professor of History Bill Woodward, and Fort Casey Volunteer Battalion member Steve Kobylk will lead the tour.  (Tours are at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.)

·        Tour of the Fort Casey Inn, a row of cottages formerly used as officer’s housing just before World War I. Rooms at the inn are now available for rent.

·        Admission to the “Sea Lab,” a marine biology teaching facility.

·        Tours of the barracks and mess hall.

·        Free admission to the swimming pool during the open house.

The Fort Casey State Park, adjacent to Camp Casey, will offer guided tours of the fort at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The Admiralty Head Lighthouse located in the park will be open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Camp Casey, originally known as Fort Casey, opened in 1890 by the U.S. military. Fort Casey, along with Fort Worden in Port Townsend and Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island, became part of the “triangle of fire” to protect the entrance to Puget Sound. Within 20 years, Fort Casey was the fourth largest military post in Washington state, housing ten officers and 428 enlisted men.

Fort Casey was decommissioned after World War II, and SPU purchased the property in 1956. The buildings have been updated and renovated to house school groups, churches, nonprofit organizations, and outdoor education classes.

By Richard 15 May, 2017

What will your high school-aged children be doing this summer? If they are looking for a summer experience that will change their lives, consider Immerse: Seattle Pacific University’s Youth Discipleship Academy. The program leaders challenge students to “invest in your faith and discover your identity as one of both knowledge and action.”

Students, currently in grades nine through 11, will gather at SPU’s Camp Casey Conference Center July 9-15. Students will participate in a program that Daniel Vanderwarker, Immerse program manager, says is for students who wish to think more intellectually about their faith and wish to learn how to put their faith into action. SPU School of Theology professors will provide in-depth teaching, while well-trained discipleship leaders lead activities to discover and expand spiritual principles and practices of thought, prayer, meditation, prayer walking, and Bible reading.

The Immerse program web page states, “Students will begin to form their identity around a God who is present, vital, missional, and powerful, and they will address particular interdependent and mutual faith characteristics: spirituality, narrative, vocation, and community as elements of their relationships with God and each other.” Classes are four hours in length, delivered in a pair of two-hour sessions. There are four courses, each held on a different day:

  • Story explores the basic meta-narrative of Scripture with introductory hermeneutical practices.
  • Creed explores the basic theological beliefs of the church with some Christian history that illustrates the emergence of those beliefs.
  • Mission explores the many ways that God’s mission is embodied in the global and local church in all its cultural diversity, with some understanding of the demography of global Christianity.
  • Connect explores the theology and practice of spiritual disciplines, sacraments, and symbols garnered from the rich well of Christian history.

There will be plenty of time for peer groups and mentors to explore the beaches, forests, lighthouse, and Fort Casey. Free time options are plentiful at Casey and include frisbee, kite flying, soccer games, scavenger hunts, volleyball, hiking, and tag football.

By Richard 25 Apr, 2017

Circadian rhythms – is not a group of musicians who will be spending a retreat at Camp Casey! We are talking about the human “body clock” that anticipates day and night and determines our sleeping habits. Sleeping habits, or the lack of good ones, can result in everything from morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity.

A 2013 study by the University of Colorado Boulder has found that sleeping in a tent can improve your health. How? If you abide by the sun’s schedule, you’re more likely to go to bed and wake up at a reasonable time. Just spending a weekend camping outside resets the human “body clock” and ultimately could help those who have difficulty getting up in the morning. 

Camping exposes your internal clock to more bright light in the day, and less at night. This can result in changes to your alertness levels, mood, physical strength, and time of sleep. Dr. Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado study says, "Artificial lighting means we tend to stay up way past sunset.” Getting away from artificial lights, alarm clocks, and smartphones, just for a weekend, exposes us to a regular summer day/night cycle, roughly 14.5 hours of sunlight, followed by 9.5 hours of night. This exposure pushes our biological urge to sleep back a few hours, closer to sunset.

The outdoors, especially if you’re a city dweller, are crucial for your mental health. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that just a few minutes walking in nature can reduce depressive symptoms. Stanford University research shows that spending time outdoors can reduce obsessive, negative thinking that could potentially lead to mental health issues. We’ve written about the benefits of taking a break from technology - turning off your cell phone, leaving your tablet and laptop computer at home, and just disconnecting. And let’s not forget, camping is a great way to spend quality time together with friends and family.

Ready to start planning a camping trip this year? Our Casey campground has 25 campsites. Each campsite has water and electricity, as well as a picnic table and fire ring. Some sites accommodate RVs and tents. Men’s and women’s showers and restrooms are available to campers.

Come camp and sleep well!

By Richard 18 Apr, 2017
Anam Chara refers to the Celtic spiritual belief of souls connecting and bonding. The Seattle Pacific University Anam Chara Women's Ministry "seeks to provide space and opportunity for refreshment and restoration for the women of SPU, as they strive to discern Christ's calling on their lives." One of the desires of the ministry is to provide contemplative retreats. Deb Nondorf, minister of discipleship, leads an annual retreat at Casey.

"Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer (Luke 5:16, CEB)." Nondorf attributes this verse as one of the reasons for selecting a destination like Casey. During this retreat, the participants were asked to be in silence for at least three hours. Students chose to be in silence for four hours, and to a person, they stated that it wasn't long enough. "Casey stretches time," says Nondorf, "the students reported that just as they started to settle into the quiet, their time was up."

Nondorf explained that being in silence for several hours is quite an accomplishment for young college students who are accustomed to the daily pressures of university life in an urban environment. But then again, the purpose of choosing Casey for the retreat was to get away from the energy of the city and into the quiet of nature. To retreat means to leave our occupied positions and go to a place of safety, quiet, and seclusion. By going on retreat, we physically remove ourselves from life's distractions, the call of chores, and the demands of people to make space for God. Even Jesus recognized the value and needed to get away.

Churches and faith-based organizations know that Casey is the right place for their members of all ages to worship, rest, and enjoy fellowship. Groups can worship on the beach, hear speakers in comfortable meeting rooms, take nature walks in nearby Fort Casey State Park, play outdoor games on the former parade ground, and much more. Call us for more information or help in organizing your next retreat.
By Richard 24 Mar, 2017

Admiralty Inlet Reserve, Crockett Lake,  Admiralty Head Lighthouse, and Fort Casey, neighbor Camp Casey. As if having a vast play field, long beaches, an outdoor pool, and historic buildings aren't enough, we are surrounded by other natural features and historic structures that offer additional opportunity to connect, learn, and discover.

Just a short five-minute walk along a wooded trail you will find the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and Fort Casey. The 1903 vintage lighthouse has its own interpretive center and gift shop. Visitors are welcome to climb the narrow stairway to the lantern room. Just beyond the lighthouse sits Fort Casey. The fort, constructed in the late 1800s, was equipped to defend the entrance to the Puget Sound up to the turn of the 20th Century and was used as a training facility until the mid-1940s. You can explore rare 10-inch disappearing and other mounting guns, which are on display in their original emplacements. Interpretive opportunities are available at both locations, as well as guided tours.

After connecting with the past, and learning more about the historical role our region played in maritime safety and national defense, move on to discover the abundance of plant and wildlife neighboring Crockett Lake and the Admiralty Inlet Reserve.

Crockett Lake is an open, shallow, estuarine lake, surrounded by marsh and grassland. This area is "one of the most productive birding areas in the Puget Sound Lowland" per the Seattle Audubon Society. Every year, groups like the Wild Youth service project come to Casey to learn about migratory birds. The Whidbey Island Audubon Society is always open to providing a volunteer as a guide to your groups birding adventure.

Another birding opportunity is hiking the 2.3 miles of maintained trails in the Admiralty Inlet Reserve. The 79 acres includes old-growth forest, a rare remnant prairie, and shoreline, as well the breathtaking views of Mount Baker, the Olympic Range, and the surrounding beaches and bluffs. Interpretive signs can be found all along the trail, identifying species and adding to the educational value of the hike. Groups staying at Casey can add a guided forest walk to their activities.

Whether it's outdoor education or adding an educational activity to enhance your team building program, Casey's unique location offers proximity to history and nature, as well as the instructional resources to guide your learning and discovery experience.

By Richard 14 Mar, 2017

Editor's Note: This event has been canceled.

This June, nearly 100 musicians will arrive at Camp Casey to participate in the Common Tone Arts Music Academy. In addition to focusing on strong music fundamentals, the Music Academy will introduce a rigorous and bold curriculum of mixed chamber groups, improvisation, composition, American pop, world music, and the entrepreneurial business skills that will create fearless and vibrant artists. Dr. Brian Chin, director of the Common Tone Arts Music Academy, says “we are nurturing a new generation of musicians and artists that will inspire positive change for our diverse world and become proactive instigators of collaboration within their own communities.” Chin is an associate professor of music at Seattle Pacific University, where he serves as director of instrumental studies and coordinator of music theory. He is very active in the music world including solo and orchestral appearances, commercial music, teaching, and leadership positions with music projects and associations.

Chin explains that the purpose of the academy is to supplement traditional music education with expanded skills and tools to inspire musicians to engage in an ever-changing musical landscape and share their creative vision with the world. The camp is set up for training the next generation of musicians to lead, create original music, thrive in the new economy, embrace technology, engage world and popular music, and build community.

While at Casey, and free of usual distractions, the attendees will benefit from the availability of multiple meeting spaces for classes, lodging, and meal service, all in one location. In addition, the large capacity auditorium provides ample space to accommodate the midday panel discussions, as well as the evening group rehearsals. Class session rotations will include chamber music, world music, fundamentals, improvisation, and composition. The Common Tone Arts Music Academy website states: “Your days will be filled making great music with your colleagues and our world-class faculty. But you will also have ample time to explore beautiful Camp Casey's miles of beaches, play games on a huge grass field, and enjoy campfires at night. Take time for hiking the trails, swimming in the pool, and find plenty of space to practice and create.” 

The Common Tone Arts Music Academy June 25, 2017 – July 1, 2017. Participation is open to everyone and is intended for serious music students ages 14 - 22. To find out more, please visit .

By Richard 21 Feb, 2017
The Shotokan Karate of America (SKA) Pacific Northwest Winter Special Training was held at Casey in January. Forty people from across the Pacific Northwest gathered for one of the most important events to any karate student. Many students agree that Special Trainings are the most demanding and strenuous mental and physical experiences of their lives.

This chapter of SKA has been coming to Casey since 1983, but unlike most groups, their reason for coming isn’t because of the natural setting and large playfields. Their event depends on students sharing a common experience by living, eating, and training together.  

Cost is also a consideration. Special Training represents an opportunity for the serious karate student to advance both mentally and physically. Special Training is passed on from established martial artists who seek a way to put their mental and physical powers to the test by calling upon their innermost strengths. Students realize the intense training experience that they, too, possess these strengths.

The ideals behind Special Training are most clearly articulated by SKA senior Sadaharu Honda. “We know that human beings are very kind to themselves and are living as easily as they can. In this situation, we only maintain what we have, and the only way to obtain something new is to push ourselves strongly forward. The purpose of practicing karate is to develop physical and mental strength by putting ourselves into hardship.”

The schedule for this year’s Winter Special Training reflected the ideals of the founder Tsutomu Ohshima. The day was filled with training sessions in the gymnasium from early morning until late evening. The first training session started at 5:45 a.m., the last at 8 p.m. There was time set aside for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a group meeting before the last training session of the day. Clearly, this group did not come for the forests or beach that border Casey, but for the flexible facilities Casey offers.
By Richard 14 Feb, 2017

One of this decade’s most memorable astronomy events will occur on August 21, 2017, when the Moon's shadow will pass over all North America. The path of the umbra, where the eclipse is total, stretches from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States in 38 years. From our location at Camp Casey, the eclipse will start at 9:06 a.m. PDT, reach its maximum at 10:19 p.m PDT., and end at 11:41 p.m PDT. Even though we are not on the direct path, the obscuration or point of the Moon being hidden by darkness, will be nearly 90%. This eclipse is being called the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

Observing the night sky is something humans have been doing with great excitement since the beginning of our existence. Today, aided by years of scientific discovery and technological advancements, we can view objects in deep space and gather data, at a level which eludes comprehension for most of us. Yet, the inspiration and awe of viewing the night sky with one’s own eyes or a simple telescope is still the subject of many stories we bring back home with us from camp.

Astronomy, or viewing the night sky, is one of the outdoor education programs available to campers at Casey. You don’t need to be here during one of the notable celestial events to take advantage of learning about the night sky. We have a working relationship with the Island Country Astronomical Society of Washington, who with prior scheduling, are available to provide knowledgeable instructors and facilitators to present astronomy programs. Campers can either request talks and programs on specific subjects or have the facilitator prepare a program of general interest.

Several time a year, Dr. Douglas Downing, an associate professor of economics in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at SPU, is on site viewing the sky with his 25” Obsession telescope. The telescope is housed year-round at Camp Casey, so it’s always ready for Professor Downing and other SPU faculty or qualified persons to roll out and use during their visit. Can you imagine how different the experience is between viewing images on a laptop to looking directly through this powerful telescope? Check out some of the celestial events happening in 2017. Why not add astronomy to your outdoor education program?

By Richard 30 Jan, 2017

Watching kids discover the world around them is one of the greatest joys adults share. Outdoor education is one of the many activities that bring groups to Casey. Our location is unique in that we are surrounded by beach, wetlands, and forest. These offer opportunities for guided exploration and discovery.

One of the things that most outdoor education group leaders have in common is their desire for children to “unplug” and leave their mobile devices at home. Their reasoning is quite sound - observe the wonders of the world around you. But what if those mobile devices could enhance the learning experience? How about some of these ideas:

·        When coming to Casey for Birding, download Birdsnap. This is an app developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. According to the iTunes description: “Birdsnap uses visual recognition technology to identify birds in images you upload.”  Based on your location and the time of year, Birdsnap knows which birds are present, and can use this to produce a custom guide to the local birds and to improve the automatic identification results. It covers 500 of the most common North American bird species.

·        It is amazing how many astronomy apps are available, ranging from very basic to very professional. Going outside in the evening after dinner can add to the magic of camp. Casey is away from the urban light pollution and on clear nights offers lots of stargazing opportunities. A simple app like SkyView provides plenty of functionality to satisfy your curiosity about what you are viewing in the night sky.

·        Interested in joining a community of naturalists? Check out iNaturalist. This app will use your device’s GPS to show you animals and plants others have observed and posted. It allows you to record your own photos and observations and share them with fellow naturalists using the app. Unsure of the species, no problem! The app connects with experts who will identify the organisms you observe. Imagine the excitement your group will experience by trying to find as many species as possible!

Depending on the focus of your group’s retreat or camp, bringing technology along can be an asset. It may take a little research and advanced planning to find just the right app for your event, but it will pay off in the end. Just remember, when not involved with the formal outdoor education events, the kids can still “unplug”!

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