Cruisin’ to Skycroft for “Ports of Call”  

The below article appeared in our special Skycroft Conference Center 50th Anniversary edition of BaptistLIFE magazine. 

Fun had by all at bingo! (photo submitted)

For over a decade, senior adults headed up South Mountain in the springtime for “Ports of Call” (POC) retreats designed to encourage fellowship, missions, and pressing on — finishing well. The name refers to the idea of a cruise and relates to life’s journey, with seasons of joy, sorrow, and continued and sometimes increased opportunities to share the love of Jesus.

Keith Corrick, a past Potomac Baptist Association director of missions, who served as a retreat pastor, said, “When we hit our 60s and 70s, we may be just hitting our stride.”

Trey Wooten, formerly the senior adults and children’s pastor at Oak Grove Baptist Church (OGBC) in Bel Air, initially had the vision for POC. He invited Ken Tipton, formerly minister of music at OGBC and later Calvary Baptist Church (CBC) in Bel Air, to help bring the vision to fruition with the help of Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Community Engagement Consultant Ellen Udovich and the Skycroft staff. A few years later, Richard Weih, who now serves as minister of pastoral care and senior adults at OGBC, began assisting them.

Ports of Call worship time was a favorite! (photo submitted)

POC was always a highlight of the year for us. We went all out in the early years,” said Grace Schofield, a former Skycroft assistant director. Schofield, with the help of an intern, Andi Sweeney, had fun decorating and planning. “We had goldfish on all of the dinner tables and made the dining hall doors look like portholes. We took trips to Antietam Battlefield to learn local history, and we played a lot of Bingo (Andi was the best Bingo player).”

Weih recalling the many “shore excursions,” said, “We did prayer walks in different neighborhoods. If we saw someone working in a yard, we’d talk with them and make them aware of the local church in the area and its activities.”

Other activities included gardening, making booklets for children’s ministries, light home repairs, and helping as needed at the nearby Frederick Rescue Mission.

Jim McBride Sr, the pastor of New Harvest Baptist Church in Dover, Delaware, and his wife, Daphne, have attended and led the retreat multiple times.

Daphne especially enjoys the mix of music, including hymns, Billy Graham revival songs, Southern Gospel, and some contemporary pieces led by Tipton.

“Occasionally, we had hymn sings in the evening while sipping lattes and eating ice cream in HeBrews Coffee & Ice Cream shop,” Jim said.

Western Baptist Association Director of Missions shared at Ports of Call. (photo submitted)

Meals are also a highlight. “Both of us enjoy the fellowship around the meal tables and the buffet-style food that is so filling it leaves us waddling back to our rooms,” Jim said.

Diane “Di” George attended several retreats with her husband Bill, who recently retired from Kensington Baptist Church. Di led several crafts sessions for men and women. The women were particularly excited about the crafts. “They’d skip meals so they could sneak down to the craft room to work on their projects,” Di said, adding that they really enjoyed sitting across the table talking and getting to know one another.

Reflecting on favorite memories and the impact of the retreat, most referred to the beauty and peaceful setting.

Jim said, “The stress leaves as soon as you step out of your car.”

Tipton said, “My favorite part of the retreats was getting up in the morning early, walking down to breakfast, and looking at the peacefulness of God’s great earth – with the fog settling in the valley below. It’s a wonderful, peaceful walk.”

Guest Services Manager Taylor Tuel, who now helps coordinate POC is passionate about the retreat. Normally, when people think of camp, they think of teenagers and kids. I love that these seniors get to experience some of what they did in their childhood. They look forward to it so much they call and ask if they can do it twice a year. (OGBC and CBC started partnering to host mini versions of POC in the fall) I can’t wait until we can do it again.”

Ports of Call temporarily stopped due to Covid, but there are tentative plans to offer it again in the future. 

Feature photo: Ports of Call attendees head out together to do some local missions.