Kavanaugh suspends operations

May 03, 2020

The 145-year-old Kavanaugh Conference and Retreat Center is suspending operations, effective immediately in response to short-term and long-term financial challenges.

The recommendation from William Moore, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Conference, was made in consultation with the Bishop, Conference Treasurer, Chair of Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, the Camp & Retreat Ministry team (CRM) and the Kavanaugh Committee.

“Over the past several years, Kavanaugh and CRM … have made great strides and we have been witness to many blessings during this season of ministry,” CRM said in a statement. “Kavanaugh served over 6,000 guests and campers in 2019. Guests and campers were challenged to grow in their faith as passionate spiritual disciples. The ministry has moved to a more fruitful phase encouraging participation in missions, allowing individuals to make decisions of faith, and helping others grow in their faith and action.

“Unfortunately, there are short-term and long-term financial concerns that have become magnified by COVID-19. It is our hope that this ministry pruning will allow CRM to continue in the Kentucky Annual Conference.”

Kavanaugh Director Nathan Calvert and CRM Executive Director Warren Hopper met via Zoom to inform Kavanaugh’s five staff members that their jobs were being eliminated. They had been temporarily furloughed because the camp had shut down as part of the COVID-19 quarantine protocols.

Calvert, who also is the Associate Director of Ministry with Young People, will remain on staff and will oversee the winterization-type work at the Kavanaugh complex, which is located adjacent to the Kentucky Conference’s headquarters on the south edge of Crestwood. He became director of Kavanaugh in 2016.

In a statement, Calvert said: “It has been an honor to serve. I am eternally grateful to the churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations that chose to experience God’s presence on ‘Holy Ground’ here at Kavanaugh. Through Kavanaugh’s Mission Basecamp program, we were living a new missional narrative that brought the love of Jesus to the community.”

“While the news of the suspension of our operations has come suddenly, we know that what God has in store next for Kavanaugh will be a blessing to the United Methodist Church and the Kingdom of God.”

Rev. Craig Taylor, who serves as Chair of the Kavanaugh Committee, added: “Despite the work of Kavanaugh’s ministry through its Mission Basecamp and its abilities to connect campers in discipleship and mission to its community, it did not have the strong financial foundation it needed to weather this storm.”

Conference leadership including the Bishop, Cabinet, Missional Priorities Team, Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, Camping and Retreat Ministry Team, Conference Trustees, Connectional Ministries, and others will consider the next best steps for Kavanaugh.  Lay and clergy members of the Kentucky Annual Conference will make the final decision on the future of the 55-acre facility.

All groups currently booked at Kavanaugh have received notice about how the suspension will impact them moving forward. Full refunds of their deposits will be provided.

Kavanaugh was founded in 1875 by Bishop H.H. Kavanaugh. About 37 of the 55 acres are dedicated forest with walking trails. The site also includes several historic buildings. Through the years Kavanaugh has been the site of countless retreats, camp meetings, revivals, weddings and other large-group events.