About the Camp
A Brief History of the Camp
The camping program of the Christian Church in Tennessee began prior to 1944 with camps being held at facilities around the state. In 1944, the campground property in Kingston Springs was purchased.
The State Board (now the Regional Board) considered 62 suggestions for a name of the campground. Miss Diane Douglas of Eastwood Christian Church and Mrs. Walter M. White of Woodmont Christian Church had submitted the name Bethany Hills. Reasons given for the selection were that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived at Bethany; Jesus found Bethany to be a retreat for himself and a retreat center named Bethany could likewise serve Christians today; and Bethany was a favorite name of one of the Campbell founders.
The first camps and retreats were held at Bethany Hills in 1945. For the first ten years, estimates of 1400 to 2000 people attended camps and retreats. The State Conventions, now our Regional Assemblies, were held there in 1946 and 1947.
Many of the same camps are still held today. There is still Junior Camp, ChiRho Camp, and CYF Camp. Camps for younger children have been added: Firsters Camp for children in Kindergarten and First Grade and Discovery Camp for children in Second and Third Grades. The program of Eighters Camp deals with human sexuality. We continue to have "fellowship" retreats - ChiRho, CYF, Disciples Women's and Men's, and a Silent Retreat in the Fall.
Providing a Christ-centered camping program gives campers a chance to encounter God through nature, solitude, and a Christian community and builds leaders for today and tomorrow.
The Dining Hall circa 1912
"Camp is pretty much in my blood. After a ruminating count I can say I have been part of over 100 camps and uncountable number of retreats here and there. Rustic sites, not-so-rustic sites. Tents, hogans, cabins, conference centers. Ponds and lakes, rivers and streams, mountain and prairie and desert surroundings. While there are always things to complain about at any given site – housing, food, weather, the lake/pond/river/pool, these days whether the wi-fi works or not, and more – I cannot think of anytime I regretted going to camp. On the other hand, I do have some clear favorites.
Embedded perhaps deepest in my heart is Bethany Hills, our Disciples camp at Kingston Springs, Tennessee, about 30 miles west of Nashville, near White Bluff and around the corner from Craggie Hope, just down the road from Carl’s Perfect Pig BBQ. My grandfather, a Disciples minister, was a “dean” – like what we now call a “director” – at early camps after the Disciples acquired the camp in 1944. My mom attended the 1st CYF Conference on those grounds. I grew up going there beginning about 10 years old at Family Camp, umm, a long time ago. In our children’s younger years we took them there for Family Camp and gathered more recently for Thanksgiving at Bethany Hills with extended family and friends and more fine food than can be imagined. I have been a camper, counselor, and director there, served on the grounds crew setting up and cleaning up and washing dishes.
I remember fireflies in the night, blackberries on the hillside beyond the lake, and crinoids in the stream. “Flashlight-less” hikes and ghost stories. The old dorm where the rumored “Stomper” lived in the attic and renovations of cabins and grounds over the years. Fishing and swimming and canoeing the mighty Harpeth River. Skits and pranks, boomerangs and volleyball. Mud slides in the rain that evolved into mud fights and laughter. Campfires and serenades. Mentors and mentoring. Morning watch and keynotes. Small groups with questions raised and wrangled. Vespers, the night of silence, and so many closing circles. Practicing together opening ourselves to the Holy, walking in the Way of Jesus, being and building the Beloved Community among so many beloved friends.
I heard sacred stories and formed sacred friendships, both of which continue with and sustain me today. And, too, I remember the first inklings of what might be a call to ministry came there at Bethany Hills where, ever-present, down every path of those sacred grounds, in each person and prayer and whisper of possibility, was the touch of the Holy." - Randy Kuss
"I grew up going to Bethany Hills as it was the actual location where I found God and God found me. There is no place in this world where one can be fully accepted, find true peace and loved, and set ones moral and spiritual compass. To return with my own children and witness God transforming powerful grace working in them and so many other youth over the years is beyond words. Everyone needs a Bethany Hill's experience." - Rev. Tommy Henegar
"Outside of my home and my church, Bethany Hills has been that "third place" of significance in my life. Its beauty and the people I have met there over the last thirty years of my life have shaped me and changed me in profound ways. The camps, conferences and retreats I've been a part of as camper, counselor, peace intern, keynoter, and director have strengthened my faith, challenged my assumptions, taught me about friendships, shown me what God's love looks like and feels like. Feeling "held" by God's love through the life-long friendships formed there, I have been encouraged always to pursue my own unique gifts for ministry - many of which were first identified at Bethany Hills." - Tallu Schuyler Quinn
"Being a counselor at Bethany Hills is a great blessing. What's gone: burden of daily responsibilities like cooking, washing dishes, fighting traffic, answering the telephone and email. What's added: face-to-face relationships, meaningful conversation, space to breathe. The magic: being part of a community where EVERYONE leaves the daily stresses behind and reconnects with their own true spirit. It's great when I do that. It's truly amazing to be part of a community where EVERYONE is doing that. You realize how much stress we are all under, and how beautiful people can be when the stress is lifted." - Rev. Jay R. Hartley