By The Rev. Robert S. Lawrence
The relationship that St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center enjoys with the various entities of Seabrook Island, and most especially the residents, is one that from its inception has proven to be mutually beneficial. While St. Christopher sits tucked away at the far northwest end of the island, at one time it included almost all of the land that is now recognized as the Town of Seabrook Island. As development began in the early 1970s, and St. Christopher welcomed its new neighbors onto the island, friendships were formed and relationships were forged that continue to bless us all. The membership of the Seabrook Island Natural History Group has been particularly generous through the years with both time and resources in their support of the Barrier Island Environmental Education ministry of St. Christopher. Many continue to share a deep love of this incredible island community, with its well preserved natural beauty. And many earnestly desire to steward the treasures that have been entrusted to our care.
Here at St. Christopher, one of those treasures is the children and guests that we welcome onto our property throughout the year. While we know that we are blessed to be located within a gated community that affords a level of protection and security that could easily leave us complacent, we also know that we must be ever vigilant. It is our responsibility to be diligent in providing a safe and secure environment for those who come to us for rest, restoration, and renewal in any of the programs we offer. In particular, the most vulnerable are the children. Each year, over 10,000 children participate in summer camp and our Barrier Island Program. We have strict guidelines and training for our staff and we require strict compliance for those groups bringing children, all which seek to avert and prevent any opportunity for child abuse and child sexual abuse to occur. We take very seriously the trust given us for the care and protection of the children.
In order to honor this trust, St. Christopher is not and never has been an open facility that just anyone can enter and use at will. This includes curious bicyclists, dog walkers, and window gazing motorists. While this has indeed occurred over the years, I have realized since beginning my ministry here as the Executive Director back in October 2010, that we need to increase our diligence.
Our entrance gate is open and welcoming, and some of our physical boundaries are not well delineated. While this is intentional in conveying the genuine welcome that we hope to offer to all of our guests, this has also been misunderstood by some as an implicit invitation that anything goes. For those of you who are fellow residents of Seabrook Island and have long enjoyed your visits, strolls, and exploration of our property, we do indeed welcome you as neighbors, but we also realize that we have not clearly communicated some necessary limitations and boundaries – boundaries that all good neighbors need for both mutual joy and respect.
While our entrance gate will remain open and welcoming, a new sign will soon appear specifically welcoming expected and registered guests. Others will be welcomed too, but only by prior arrangement and at specified times that will not interfere with our programs. Pets will be prohibited from entering the property due to safety concerns that are inherent in having animals around unfamiliar people. We have unfortunately had two incidents of pets biting children in the past year, and we simply must enforce this restriction. We have also had recent incidents of vandalism and arson on the Crab Dock and along the perimeter of our property on Privateer Creek. While the SIPOA Security personnel and the Sheriff’s Office have increased their patrols of our property to assist us all in vetting out those that would seek to harm and destroy, we also know that we cannot easily expect compliance of rules, limitations and guidelines if we have not clearly communicated them.
I thank you for understanding the necessary restrictions that we must enact. I also thank so many of you for your care and love of St. Christopher as a place set apart on this island that does preserve the natural environment and habitat of a barrier island. I welcome your interests in this place and I invite you to visit and learn more about all that we do. I just ask that you do so at a mutually agreed upon time when we are prepared to receive you as our guest. You can call St. Christopher at 768-0429, Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to arrange a visit. Weekend visits are also possible, but must be prearranged during these weekday office hours. So, please do come. Come and visit St. Christopher where we know that the Glory of God meets the Glory of His creation to revive the Glory of His people. May God continue to bless all of Seabrook Island.