Song & Story Fest 2017

Big Rapids Song & Story Fest:

Rafting in the Hollow of God’s Hand!

July 2-8, 2017

Camp Brethren Heights, Rodney, Michigan 

A Family Camp featuring Brethren musicians and storytellers in the woods and lakelands of central Michigan!

camp brethren heights sign

Surrounded by four of the Great Lakes, lower Michigan looks like a mitten or hand on the map. With Camp Brethren Heights situated in the middle of the state, you could say that we will be gathering in the palm of God’s hand for this 21st Song and Story Fest!

But it doesn’t feel particularly comfy in this land just now.  Rather than being dry and snug in the Creator’s hand, it seems like we are coursing down a raging river of ignorance and regression.  Bouncing around and over big and dangerous rapids that threaten to capsize us, we are in the midst of deep waters on all sides: religious, political, and economic differences that divide and conquer any unity we might experience as one people, under God’s care and guidance.

So, Where is the hand of God in all this? What does it mean to be cradled in the hollow of God’s hand. Does it mean that we will always be safe and secure?  Free of conflict or struggle?  Or does it mean that we are being grasped and instructed to go forth in faith and service?  It certainly means that we are not alone.  It means that danger and even death itself cannot separate us from God’s love. Or from the beloved community. 

That’s why we gather every year for these Song & Story Fests.  Together we’ll find some islands of hope and understanding to rest upon and regroup, and to re-engage with the waters and the people around us.

Climb aboard, our lifeboat is big!  These people will help us navigate the rapids!

Storytellers and Workshop Leaders:

Susan Boyer       Kathy Guisewite  Matt Guynn

Jonathan Hunter    Lee Krahenbuhl    Jim Lehman

Campfire, Workshop, and Concert Musicians:

Greg & Rhonda Baker         Jeffrey Faus & Jenny Stover-Brown

Louise Brodie     Friends With the Weather     Bill Jolliff   

Tim & Byron Joseph    Peg Lehman    Lilly Nuss    Mike Stern

Join us on the lakeshore at Camp Brethren Heights!   

    An Intergenerational Camp for All Ages -

Single persons and families of any size and shape will enjoy this combination of performance and participation in the wooded hills and lakes of central Michigan.

Mornings  -  Intergenerational gatherings and worship will be followed by workshops for adults, children, and youth to help us: 

  •   Reconnect with the God of all creation and with each other
  •   Tell the stories that make for peace and rekindle faith
  •   Sing the words of our hearts in gratitude for the unceasing power of life
  •   Root and ground ourselves in the Jesus Way
  •   Deepen our connections with each other and the earth
  •   Celebrate peace, creation, and life
  •   Dance in circles, lines, and squares
  •   Learn the skills of peace-making and justice-seeking 

Afternoons  -  Free for family time, recreation, nature walks, story swaps, and music making. 

    Evenings  -  Campfires, snacks, and concerts or a folk dance 

    Song & Story Fest #21:

This is the twenty-first summer in a row for these Song and Story Fests and is our second venture into the great state of Michigan, home to a number of regular participants and leaders. The Fest will begin on Sunday evening, July 2, with supper at 5:30 p.m., an opening campfire, and some music and dancing.  We’ll close the Fest on Saturday morning, July 8, after breakfast, worship and hugs. 

On Earth Peace will again co-sponsor the Fest, providing leadership and administrative support.

Camp Brethren Heights is located amid the lakes of central Michigan near Rodney, Michigan, about 64 miles north of Grand Rapids off US-131, Exit 139 (Big Rapids), and then approximately 16 miles east on M-20 and other roads. Check out the website at for directions and more about the Camp.

The Camp overlooks Jehnsen Lake which is great for swimming, canoeing, and fishing.  The Camp even owns a small island in the lake, a favorite destination.  There are plenty of opportunities to interact with nature on hiking trails, mucking in the swamp, watching the eagles and loons, and more!

Lodging  -  Campers will sleep in rustic cabins or dorms furnished with bunk beds, or in your own tent or RV.  Plan on sharing cabin space with other individuals or families, so please, on your registration indicate anyone with whom you want to share space.  Please bring your own bedding and towels as the Camp doesn’t provide these.  There are a number of hookups for RVs with electricity (20 or 30 amp). Hot showers are provided in common bathhouses.  There are no motel style rooms available in camp for those with advanced age/special needs.  If needed, look for hotels in Big Rapids, a 20 minute drive.

Food  - Arlene Kindy and Judy Gump will be cooking for us again this year, so complete vegetarian options will be available at every meal.  If you have special dietary, health or housing needs, please note them on your reservation and we’ll do our best to meet them.  Please bring a new table grace to add to our repertoire.

Craft Project  -  Contact Ken if you have a good craft project to share and lead.

Registration and Fees:

Registration includes all meals, on-site facilities, and leadership; and is based upon age.  Children 4 and under are welcome, no charge.

                                        Adults                                  $      320.00

                                        Teens 13 - 19                       $      200.00

                                        Children 5 - 12                     $      150.00

                                       Maximum Fee per Family    $      900.00

Please register now and remit the entire fee by June 1.  Registrations post-marked after June 1 should add 10% as a late fee.  No discount for off-site, tent or RV housing.

Daily Fee -  $40/adult, $30/teen, $20/child, $100/family, includes all meals and program. Lodging is an additional $15/night/person.

Contact Ken Kline Smeltzer at if you need financial help.

Download the registration form:

Call Darlene Johnson at 410-635-8704 to pay by credit card or ask registration questions; you may also mail registrations and checks to the address below:

                     On Earth Peace, P. O. Box 188; New Windsor, MD  21776

                     Phone: 410-635-8704; Fax: 410-635-8707;

For additional information or with program questions contact:

           Ken Kline Smeltzer, Director, 1452 Willowbrook Drive, Boalsburg, PA 16827-1668

           814-571-0495 (mobile); 814-466-6491 (home); or

We expect a high turnout, so be advised to register early!

If you live nearby, please bring a lawn chair to sit on.

Travel  -  Grand Rapids is the closest airport, about 80 miles away.  Email Ken if you would like assistance with ground transportation from the airport or Annual Conference.