Finally, the Rev. John Galbraith, 54, has the job he has always wanted — director of Camp Medley.
He had it once, from 1989-1992, but other opportunities took him away. But since then, you might say he’s been a bit obsessed with the Anglican summer camp on the banks of the St. John River at Upper Gagetown.
“I have never stopped thinking about Camp Medley,” he said. “Everything I do, everything I see, I process through the eyes of Camp Medley. I’ve never been able to let it go.”
He always knew when he left the first time that he’d be back, and he’s been preparing ever since he left. Wherever he went camping, he’d have a good look around, noting the layout, what worked, what programs were offered, taking mental notes for the time when he’d put them to use.
Now is that time. The role began the first of January, is part-time and year round. It involves oversight, managing and marketing a facility that has a lot of untapped potential for rentals, retreats and other uses.
Former acting director Allyson Caldwell will take on the role of summer camp manager, dealing with the day-to-day demands of operating the summer program. John, a priest in the Parish of Douglas and Nashwaaksis, will continue there part-time.
John’s first introduction to Camp Medley came in 1982. Someone called him and asked if he’d like to be the canoe instructor at Camp Medley. He’d never been in a canoe in his life and he had never even heard of Camp Medley. It was a church secretary in Saint John whose sister was dating John’s brother that thought John might be a good fit for camp.
So he took a weekend canoeing course, and he asked his mother about the camp. It turned out she was very well acquainted, having taken hundreds of girls from a Saint John orphanage and Girl Guides to the camp every summer for years.
“Even my grandmother would go and help the cook — and I never knew any of it,” said John.
John considers that first summer at camp pivotal in his life. He had been Anglican as a child, then switched to the United Church with a friend in his teens, and he was a Christian. But working at camp cemented his life’s path.
“There was this guy at high school that was different from everybody else,” said John. “I wanted to get to know him but I never had the chance. He was older than me. On the first day of camp, he was the first person I saw — (the future Rev. Canon) Chris VanBuskirk.
“We were roommates, and that summer was a big part of changing my life,” said John.
John continued as the canoe instructor for two more summers. But by then he’d graduated from high school, was studying carpentry and took a job at Moosehead Breweries. And he spent a summer on a mission trip to Honduras. He arrived back just in time to be a counsellor for senior teen week.
“That’s when I met my future wife,” he said. “I was standing there with some other guy and saw her and said ‘who’s that?’ The guy said, ‘you don’t have a chance!’”
It took him seven years to convince Jackie Mollins to marry him! In the meantime, he came back to camp in 1987, rising to director in 1989.
Through these years, John attended Ontario Bible College studying youth and camping ministry. He and Jackie married in 1993 and for several years John worked with inner city kids in downtown Fredericton through Christ Church (Parish) Church.
It was the Rev. Canon Pat Drummond who asked John if he was going to apply for the youth ministry job open at St. John the Evangelist on the north side of Fredericton. He hadn’t known about it, but he applied and got it. With a short break of 18 months along the way, John has been there ever since, ‘falling in love with parish ministry,’ he said.
“I’ve done ministry my whole life, but being a priest was not really my intention,” he said. “It’s not that I didn’t think about it, but it wasn’t mine to pursue. I had to wait until God opened a door.”
God opened the door using Bishop David Edwards, who made the suggestion one day during a meeting the two were having. That led to his ordination as a deacon in 2017, and as a priest in 2018.
Now that John and Jackie’s children are teenagers, John believes the timing is right to pursue his camp calling. Members of the congregation at St. John’s have already pledged support for him at camp, he said.
“It’s my calling to grow the ministry of camp,” he said. “One of my greatest assets is hospitality, and I think that’s an important component in ministry.
“My goal is that everyone who comes through the door at Camp Medley feels ministered to when they leave. They’ll know it was worth it — campers, staff and volunteers.
“The timing of this is unbelievable,” he said. “I think I’m ready and prepared for the task at hand.”
NOTE: Job applications for summer staff are due Jan. 31. Visit http://campmedley.ca/