Pilgrim Pines Shut Down after Massive Rainfall

After a major storm dumped historic rainfall in the nearby area, Covenant camp Pilgrim Pines has been temporarily shut down. According to executive director Jim Condap, this kind of extreme weather is unprecedented. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” said Condap, who’s been either serving in leadership or faithfully attending Pilgrim Pines for more than four decades. “The volume of the rain, it was just so intense, so fast, and there was so much of it.”

It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 9th, when a storm system brought an onslaught of extreme weather to the area near Swanzey Lake in southern New Hampshire, where the camp is located. According to local news affiliate WMUR, the Swanzey area overall experienced flash flooding, washed-out roads, and mudslides, prompting emergency responses from area police and fire departments. There was even a report of a young woman at the camp who experienced a lightning strike, although all indications are that her injuries were minor.

Covenant worship leader Chris Logan had just arrived to drop off his daughter at Camp Squanto at Pilgrim Pines when he could tell something was wrong. He’d seen rain before, but this was something different. “I felt bad for all the staff,” said Logan, “because most of them were running around wearing ponchos, but it was raining so hard, it didn’t even matter.”

Eventually, Logan and his daughter huddled with several hundred or more people inside the chapel, hearing thunder and seeing lightning, attempting to wait out the storm. After the rain had partially subsided, Logan says he heard and felt a deep rumbling sound, and heard someone yelling for everyone to get back inside. He later found an explanation for the ruckus; a nearby landslide had stopped uncomfortably close to the camp property, prompting no small amount of fear and panic.

Their hopes for a reprieve were not answered. Not only didn’t the rain subside, but the rainfall eventually washed out the only access roads to the camp. And even if the roads had been passable, according to Condap many of the families couldn’t have accessed their vehicles because they were entrenched in mud, rainwater, or both.  Eventually, all the people in the chapel were relocated for safety reasons to the youth camp dining hall.

“We’d lost power by this time,” says Condap, “so we were on somewhat of an island at this point, just trying to survive… we had no phones and cell phone service was iffy.” Nevertheless, the staff was able to use their backup generators to begin food service, and Condap says over the course of a few hours they were able to get everyone fed and into some sort of temporary accommodations.

“Jim and the summer staff did an amazing job keeping everyone safe in a very chaotic moment,” said Pastor Chris Ek, who serves on the board of Pilgrim Pines. “They had a plan, they followed their plan and made great decisions every step of the way on Sunday and into Monday.” Condap agrees, crediting his staff for working hard at not only providing food and shelter but regular communication updates so that people could stay calm and know there were in a safe place. “I’m just so proud of our staff,” said Condap. “They went above and beyond the call.”

After a brief break in the storm, they were able to evacuate about fifty or sixty people from the property with the help of local first responders, who Condap says were very helpful in helping them navigate the emergency. Nevertheless, the rest of the people stayed overnight, including not only children and parents from the family camp but children who’d been dropped off by parents earlier in the day who still needed care and supervision, as well as senior citizens and other adults who’d been camping on the property.

By Monday the roads were passable again, and by 5 pm that day, they’d gotten the last family on their way home. When I spoke to Condap on Wednesday, most of the summer staff had been sent home, and he and other full-timers switched into assessment mode, trying to work together to get a handle on the extent of the damage to the property. And so far, the damage is extensive.

“It will be a very long haul to safely reopen this camp,” said Condap, referring to the youth camp, the family camp, and the open camping area. According to Condap, there are “buildings on the property that were upended, basements with several feet of water damage, and just overall a lot of damage to the functional infrastructure of the property. Appliances, heating and cooling systems, electrical controls, circuit boxes, phone lines… a lot of stuff that will take a while to properly repair. It’s gonna take an awful long time and an enormous amount of resources and help to get us where we need to be to safely reopen.”

Despite the bleak prognosis, Condap is still hopeful for the long-term future of Pilgrim Pines. “Sending kids to camp is one of the best things we do in the Covenant,” he said.

And Chris Logan agrees. “They do a great job every year with the kids, my kids absolutely love coming here,” says Logan, whose daughter was crushed to have missed out this year after previous years of pandemic-related cancellations. “To give to this camp is to invest in a time of joy and rest for families.”

Learn more about Pilgrim Pines and how you can help >>


  • Jelani Greenidge

    Jelani Greenidge is the missional storyteller for the Evangelical Covenant Church and ministers in and around Portland, Oregon, as a worship musician, cultural consultant, and stand-up comic.

Share this post

Sign Up for Make & Deepen Disciples Updates


* indicates required
Mailing Lists
Email Format