"Something Truly Special"
TayLa Fugate, Wesley Forest, PA


TayLa Fugate's early years were all about church and youth activities—never camping, though. She hated it, especially after a memorable run-in with granddaddy longleg spiders on a tarp during a campout. She was that camper, you know, "behaviorally challenging," just not feeling the outdoor vibe. But surprise - things took a turn when she got roped into helping with an all-girls' sleepover during a tough time in her life. That gig stuck, and soon, camp became her safe haven. Even college didn't break the bond, thanks to a Cedar Crest shirt-wearing friend in Tennessee. Camp life? Turns out, TayLa just couldn't quit it.

When TayLa first did a spiritual gifts assessment during her first staff training at Cedar Crest, she wasn't thrilled with the results—pastoring and shepherding didn't seem exciting. But her Director, Russell Casteel, saw potential and sensed a call to ministry in her. His recognition and support became a guiding force for TayLa as she explored various opportunities at Cedar Crest—summer staff, retreats, growing programs, and an internship. During that period, Russell viewed the UMCRM community as an avenue to further invest in TayLa's leadership and as a supportive environment for TayLa to find connection and growth. So, the camp leveraged the UMCRM network and invested in her, sending her to the 2019 National Gathering, where she absorbed knowledge from willing leaders. When she started the Compass Points Program, connecting with instructor and camping veteran, Cat Holbert, became pivotal. The UMCRM Immersion Experience further provided a space for deep conversations and a supportive community. TayLa, guided by the mentors she met, began to see a larger picture and embraced the uniqueness of her journey, realizing that UMCRM was more than just a source of professional development—it was something truly special.

In seminary, TayLa delved into leadership roles in campus ministry and local churches, and found that her UMCRM experiences had equipped her with incredible tools applicable to any ministry setting. UMCRM Gatherings and events became transformative for TayLa, where she discovered that even seasoned leaders were approachable and willing to connect. She embraced the inspiring spirit of a learning, healing, safe, and loving community, realizing its impact on her own practice. While some may say that ministry at camp is tough, TayLa, inspired by the ethos of "good trouble" championed by John Lewis, believes that camp work is the kind of challenging, yet worthwhile, endeavor that truly matters.