Outdoor Ministries Committee

Marc Stewart

Trudi Downer

Nate Podgajny

Gus Byrom

Nicholas Knoblauch

Walt Gulick

Dee Dee Welhaven

Katie Bennett

Dylan Blodgett

Axel Blodgett

Laura Folkwein

Lynne Spencer Smith

Terri Goodsell

Jennifer Penfield

Conference Minister








Young Adult Member

Youth Member

Faith Formation Liaison

Ex-officio Moderator

Ex-officio Treasurer

Conference Administrator

New Focus Chart

Outdoor Ministries Report - December 2019

Trudi Downer, Chair of Outdoor Ministries

My name is Trudi Downer. I live on a farm outside of Molt which is a small community just west of Billings. I love being part of our small Church and working with our youth. I am a retired teacher. I am serving as chair of Committee for Outdoor Ministries for the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference for the second year. In 2019,  I am served as Program Director for Camp Mimanagish as a volunteer. It was a wonderful experience. I am excited by the challenge of developing a new approach to Outdoor Ministry as a conference beyond our wonderful legacy at Mimanagish and I am excited that we can partner with Christikon for our 2020 Youth Camps. It will be a new experience which will bring a broader faith community and enrich our understanding of our sister denomination. 


Each year, the highlight of my summer is the time I spend at Grandparents & Me camp with my grandchildren which I have been doing since 2007. Since 2011, I have been directing this Camp with Molt Church as my supporting cast, creating a lifetime of memories to treasure. Now that we have a 2020 opportunity for our youth, COM will move to find a space for our adult and intergenerational camps to happen. Christikon is unable to accommodate these Camps, but COM hopes to find a way for them to happen in 2020, Stay tuned for further news of these wonderful outdoor experiences. Even better, let us know your ideas and suggestions for this transition year and help us work to establish a foundation for the future.

Marc Stewart, Conference Minister

Marc Stewart is the Conference Minister supporting Outdoor Ministries



Nate Podgajny, Member

Nate has worked in outdoor education for his entire adult life. Along the way he has
worked in fields as diverse as mental health care and logging, earned a B.A. from the University of Montana in American Environmental History and an M.S. from Montana State in Neuroscience. As someone who has always found home at the end of a long dirt road, he is profoundly grateful for the time he spent on staff at Mimanagish and hopes as a member of COM to continue to work to honor the 90-year legacy of outdoor ministry in the Conference by working to create more outdoor opportunities for spiritual renewal.. 

Gus Byrom, Member

Gus served as Conference Moderator during 2017 and early 2018. As part of his responsibilities as moderator, Gus helped prepare the Long Range Plan for Mimanagish that was submitted to the Forest Service and has served as a member of COM for several years. Gus and his wife, Brenda, have been attending Plymouth Congregational in Helena since 1979. They have two adult children, Kendra and Andrew.  Gus is employed at the Montana Department of Commerce where he assists Montana local governments and Tribes with their community development needs. Gus’ dream for COM is that our Conference will continue to support opportunities for all ages where all persons can develop a deeper relationship to our Father God, the Holy Spirit, and our Lord Jesus Christ in special outdoor settings and places.   

Nick Knoblauch, Member

Growing up in Ohio, my home congregation was like my extended family. When I was a church I was always welcomed to participate and unconditionally loved, nurtured, and cared for. But perhaps the best part of my congregation was their commitment to sending the youth to church camp. As the years grew on, so did my anticipation for the coming summer where I would be able to return to those sacred hills that ignited my faith and feed my spirit. As my faith and leadership matured, so did my commitment to outdoor ministries. As a teenager, I would begin volunteering as a counselor in training. After my first year in college, I would join the summer staff in Ohio. After four years on staff with the Ohio Outdoor Ministries, and successfully graduating from college, I would move to St Louis, where I would begin my pastoral training at Eden Theological Seminary. During my summers of seminary, I would expand my experience once again. This time, instead of heading back home to Ohio, I would join the staff of the Illinois South Conference at the Dubois Center. A year later I would head north to Wisconsin and join the staff at Pilgrim Center and Moon Beach. When I graduated from Seminary and followed my call to the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference. I have been serving Powder River Congregational United Church of Christ in Broadus, MT now since August of 2016.

Walt Gulick, Member

This is my second year serving on COM. I first attended Mimanagish in 1974. My wife, Barbara, and I attended the old Labor Day weekend gatherings quite regularly. Since those days, I've attended camp most every year, serving as a counselor and, last year, a chaplain along the way. My support for outdoor ministries acknowledges three important qualities that camp offers: (1) the various shared programs and experiences create meaningful community, so important in our individualistic times, (2) camp provides a respite from everyday busy-ness, allowing time to recharge spiritually, and (3) camp reconnects us to the natural world, reminding us that we are at home in an amazing, sacred universe.

Diane Welhaven, Member

My name is Diane “DeeDee” Welhaven. I am a retired teacher from Billings. I have been a member of Mayflower Church since 1966. My favorite ministries are helping others and, of course, anything to do with helping our youth have positive experiences. I served as a Chaperone to WRYE in my home state of Hawaii in 2018, and this my second year on Committee for Outdoor Ministries. I serve on the Recruitment Team. I have loved all my Camp Mimanagish experiences and want to see these experiences continue to all generations. I attended Camp Opening and Closing when my children were young. I have attended many day camps for adults and have served as Assistant Cook with Jonna Mandeville. I have served as a Camp Counselor for 3rd and 4th Grade Camp. My favorite experience was serving as “Camp Grandma” for 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Camp. My goal for serving on COM is to keep the “outdoor ministry” experience a vital ministry in the Conference.

Dylan Blodgett, Young Adult Member

Hey, I’m Dylan Blodgett. I am in my second year of helping on COM. I started attending Camp when I was seven when I went to Grandparents & Me Camp. I loved it and have been going to Camp since. I have attended youth camps each summer along with Grandparents & Me; you are never too old to go to Camp. I have served as a counselor, attended work camps, and have volunteered on work projects for Camp. Camp has been an important part of my life. I am currently working as an electrician’s apprentice in the Bozeman area. While I cannot attend  COM meetings all the time because of my schedule, I am excited to be able to share input and ideas as we move into new ways to do Outdoor Ministry. I am excited with the partnership with Christikon which will allow youth to meet new people and have new experiences while we move forward. I am excited to work to find places to hold our adult camps.

Axel Blodgett, Youth Member

Hi, I am Axel Blodgett and it is my first year on COM. Being a camper for ten years, the location of Mimanagish is special to me as are the traditions, relationships, and the building of new communities. These reasons are what I look forward to each year when I go to camp. That is why I am excited to be working on COM because we can find new places to have camp like Christikon. This partnership will help us make new traditions, bring back the old ones, and most importantly, Christikon will help us build a new community with God. I am greatly excited for the future of camp and the future of outdoor ministries.  

Terri Goodsell, Ex-officio Treasurer

Terri Goodsell

Jennifer Penfield, Conference Administrator

I work on the administrative side supporting Outdoor Ministries. Finding great peace in the outdoors, I highly endorse our our outdoor ministries team connecting people together with God through nature. Originally from Seattle, I now enjoy spending my weekends exploring Montana with my husband, Tim and our beloved golden retriever, Rosebud.

Montana - N. Wyoming Conference, United Church of Christ

Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference UCC
2016 Alderson Avenue - Billings, Montana 59102
406-656-8688 / ucc@mnwcucc.org

Monday thru Friday - 9:00 to 4:00
Saturday and Sunday - Closed

National Holidays - Closed