Wild wisdom from dung beetles and their friends

You have to like this book title: Ostriches, Dung Beetles, and Other Spiritual Masters, A Book of Wisdom from the Wild.

Dung beetles, yeah.

McLaughlin Janice CroppedIt’s a new book by Sister Janice McLaughlin, president of the Ossining-based Maryknoll Sisters, who did missions work in Zimbabwe in Central Africa for the past 30 years.

It’s been described to me as “a lovely little book of meditations on African animals from the wild, their characteristics and what they have to say to us.”

McLaughlin explains: “From Kilimanjaro to Cape Town, I have been privileged to interact with the people who live in harmony with nature and with the abundance of wildlife that make the continent such a Garden of Eden.”

She will be available to sign copies of the book at the Maryknoll Sisters’ annual International Bazaar on Saturday (Oct. 24) at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, 10 Pinesbridge Road, in Ossining.

Booths will display items from Africa, the Americas, East and South Asia and the Pacific Islands, areas where the Maryknoll Sisters work in mission. The purpose of the bazaar is to raise funds to support the sisters and their work.

Directions are HERE. The bazaar is from 10 to 4 and Sister McLaughlin will be there all day.


A summertime revival in the country

I’m just back from CampWoods Grounds in Ossining, where a century ago thousands of Methodists and other Protestants would gather each summer to hear preachers and pray several times a day.

Imagine: They took a steam boat up from the city and then a trolley to Ossining. The men wore suits and the ladies long dresses. At the end of the day, they slept in tents or simple cottages.

Boy, they must have been hot.

I have before me a post card written in 1911 from the camp by Ethel A. Uhlson to Ellen Erickson in Wilmington, Del. She wrote: “How lovely this camp is. You can not imagine until you have been here.”

Another fellow wrote: “Dear wife, We arrived safe and having a good time. Henry”

It was a different time.

I’ll be writing more about CampWoods Grounds — including who lives there now — for LoHud/The Journal News over the next week or so.

Old Methodist campgrounds still standing in Ossining

Methodists used to have the run of this region.

Around the turn of the 19th century, Methodist circuit riders roamed the country, including the Lower Hudson Valley, to visit churches and preach just about anywhere.

The most famous circuit rider, Francis Asbury, the founding bishop of American Methodism, traveled about 275,000 miles on horseback in the East and the Midwest. He is said to have preached 16,000 sermons and to have started countless churches, such as the Crestwood church known as Asbury United Methodist Church.

Even Bruce Springsteen’s adopted home, Asbury Park, has his name.

During the same period, Methodists founded many camp grounds for evangelism and prayer revivals. One of them, I recently learned, is in Ossining.

It’s known as CampWoods Grounds.

A group of Swedish Methodists organized their first meeting there in 1854. According to a history on the CampWoods website:


The pre-Civil War period of the camp meetings at CampWoods maintained its character as a religious jubilee in the countryside.  During the 1850’s, the atmosphere on the boats, trains and wagons coming to the 10-day meetings in the woods of Ossining and during the religious retreats themselves were jubilant and celebratory.  A typical camp meeting in August 1868 attracted an estimated 15,000 attendees.


Later, cottages were built in place of tents. Some people would stay for months.

The grounds were eventually winterized and secularized.

CampWoods is still there, home to 45 families that live there full time. The board that oversees the place still tends to the main church and summer services are open to the public.

In fact, for the next few Sundays, through July 5, CampWoods is hosting a Vesper Series at 7 p.m.

This Sunday (June 14), Jaime Rickert, a self-described “wandering minstrel,” will perform.

Next Sunday, on Father’s Day, the Rev. Gordon Anderson, the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Ossining and a veteran evangelist of radio/TV ministries, will preach, as he has done in summers past.

On June 28, the Emanuel Ringers, a bell choir from Emanuel Lutheran Church in Pleasantville, will perform.

And on July 5, there will be a “bluegrass blessings” sing-a-long.

I hope to get to CampWoods over the next few weeks and write something about the place.

The pictures are from the CampWoods website.

The top one, I guess, is from back in the day. The bottom one is the “Swedish tabernacle” as it currently looks.

Me at Maryknoll next Sunday

While I’m thinking about it, I’ll be speaking next Sunday — April 26 — at Maryknoll in Ossining about my years on the religion beat.

I’ll start talking at 2:30 p.m.

Here’s the title: “Following God Through the Lower Hudson Valley.” I kinda like it.

When I was putting together an outline for what I might say, I filled up a page pretty quick: What exactly is religion news? How do you write about faith? How does one (one being me) cover so many different religions in a place like New York? How are reporters seen and treated by religious authorities? Which religions are most difficult to cover? The most interesting?

I can go on and on.

And I will, next Sunday at Maryknoll.

Okay, not on and on. But I’ll talk for a while and answer questions.

Free. Open to all. Directions and other info HERE.