OCF Timeline—God’s Spirit at Work in OCF
It’s less the history of Officers’ Christian Fellowship than it is His story—God’s enduring faithfulness in 75 years of the kingdom work He’s given OCF to do for Him. The timeline points are not a complete history of OCF; the images aren’t always meant to match timeline dates. Rather, these memorial stones are just a few signposts of the people, places, and activities culminating in eternally changed lives for Christ.
Following a dangerous, isolated tour in India, Captain John Trotter of the British Forces expresses the need for a prayer fellowship among service men. Known as the Army Prayer Union for Officers and Men, it merges with the Naval Prayer Union and is called the Army-Navy Prayer Union.
On 17 June, a two-story hotel officially opens for business in rural Manns Choice, Pennsylvania. Its owners will never know how important their building will be, first as the White Sulphur Springs Hotel serving thousands of guests for half a century; and then as the eastern conference center of Officers’ Christian Fellowship, providing a thriving ministry for military service men and women, as well as their families.
The Army-Navy Prayer Union becomes the Officers’ Christian Union (OCU) in the United Kingdom. Captain Hartley Holmes began a significant 35-year ministry with the OCU.
Groups of OCU associate members began praying for OCU members and for OCU associates to spring up in other countries. Miss Dora Little, of the Edinburgh, Scotland, associates group, began praying that God would raise up an OCU in the United States.
Christians from the military of four nations meet in Holland under the banner of the Fellowship of National Officers’ Christian Unions, adopting Galatians 3:28: “All One in Christ Jesus,” as their motto.
The prayers of the Scotland associates group bore fruit in the life of Hayes Kroner, then an American colonel, who was brought into a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in 1938. Through a friend who was a British general, he met Captain Hartley Holmes. The two concluded that God wanted an American OCU to be started in the early 1940s. Back in Washington, D.C., General Kroner opens his home on Tuesday evenings for Bible study and prayer, concluding with fellowship and a proper cup of British tea!
Encouraged by the British OCU, Brigadier General Hays Kroner, Major Gordon H. Nichol, and Mr. Irwin H. Linton, Esquire, file documents on 31 December to incorporate Officers’ Christian Union of the United States of America. OCU spread as members were posted around the world during World War II.
Following World War II, demobilization dealt OCU a hard blow. Still, General Kroner saw the need for Christ in our Armed Forces. He visits Annapolis after it was decided that initial efforts would focus on the midshipmen and cadets of the service academies.
OCU leaders begin an occasional publication, THE OCU BULLETIN; early outreach ministries are under way at Annapolis and West Point.
The first OCU banquet is held following the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. The banquet continues to this day!
Members establish home Bible studies at a growing number of bases; the BULLETIN is divided into the quarterly COMMAND magazine and a monthly newsletter/prayer reminder (now POWER IN PRAYER). There were 50 members and 75 on the mailing list.
The OCU Council (formed in 1950) appoints Captain Cleo Buxton, USAR, as the first general secretary of OCU. Captain Buxton was a highly decorated officer during WWII and held a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. At the time he served as regional director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. He was still in uniform, having been recalled for the Korean Conflict.
OCU conducts several weeks of training at Hudson House in Nyack, New York. Original proposals for a camp and conference ministry included locations in Mackinac Island, Michigan, and Idaho, but they were not readily available to the membership and the focus shifted to the Rocky Mountains.
Staff member Arnold Belgum hears of a site in Colorado called Spring Canyon which is for sale, with 120 acres of pine and aspen trees surrounded by national forest. The spring flows at the rate of 500 gallons per minute.
Buxton develops a corps of Bible teachers, and a growing conference and retreat ministry begins at many bases in the U.S. and overseas; OCU adopts the British OCU’s Pray and Plan (now called Pray, Discover, and Obey) as the fundamental approach to OCU ministry decision making. Summer seminars are held in 1961 in the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. In 1962, the first full summer program took place at Spring Canyon. ROACT controlled and maintained Spring Canyon year-round, with a full schedule of summer and winter programs planned and directed by Officers’ Christian Union. At the time it was referred to as OCU’s “Western Conference Center.”
ROACT acquires Poundstone Lodge, its property, and a few small cabins from Mrs. Ethel Poundstone and her brother, Mr. Ray Summe, who had wanted a Christian organization to purchase the land. (Mrs. Poundstone lived to be 97 years old and died in Salida, CO, in 1981.)
Cleo (“Buck”) Buxton prepares “Report and History of OCU’s Summer Training Programs.” He believed these were essential, in addition to Bible study and fellowship, to prepare for Christian witness in the military society. His vision is for OCU to provide a spectrum of summer conferences and training programs, ranging from inspiring vacation time to intense training for young officers and cadets. From his involvement in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Buck strongly believes in Christian camping, with canoe trips in the north woods, meetings in the forest or mountains, on lakes—all supplementing formal conferences.
Spring Canyon introduces a complete program, with 454 “guest nights.”
The first American OCU “Winter Sports Party” is held at Spring Canyon. Based on the British OCU model, it mixes skiing with Christian fellowship and spiritual teaching.
1963 – 1973
“Chalets” are built for families or small groups at Spring Canyon and are named after peaks of the Rocky Mountains surrounding Spring Canyon: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Antero.
The Twenty-fifth anniversary of the Officers’ Christian Union of the United States of America, with 2,000 members, regular and associate; a dedicated national staff; a witness to Allied officers studying in America; and outreach to officers around the world through Bible studies at military installations.
OCF headquarters moves from East Lansing, Michigan, to Denver, Colorado.
- Officers’ Christian Union officially changes ts name to The Officers’ Christian Fellowship of the United States of America (through a Certificate of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation). Paul Pettijohn becomes Executive Director of the newly renamed Officers’ Christian Fellowship of the United States of America; LTG William K. Harrison Jr., USA (Ret.) steps aside after serving as president of the OCF Council for 18 years.
- OCF and ROACT jointly fund a “Study, Report, and Master Plan for Future Development of Spring Canyon.”
- Dedication of Fort Jonathan C. Shine at Spring Canyon, OCF’s western conference center, Buena Vista, Colorado, named in honor of First Lieutenant Jonathan Cameron Shine, U.S. Army, who was killed in action in Vietnam, 15 October 1970. General Ralph E. Haines, Jr., USA, dedicated the building on Memorial Day, 29 May. General Haines was Continental Army Commanding General.
- In March a testimonial dinner is held to honor Lieutenant General William H. Harrison, Jr., USA. He served as the president of the American Officers’ Christian Union from 1954 to 1972. LTG Harrison was commissioned in 1917 and retired in 1957.
Hartley Holmes Lodge groundbreaking ceremony held on Memorial Day, 28 May, at Spring Canyon. The plans call for over 750 logs (three miles of logs, if laid out end- to-end!). It becomes a beautiful building that has served thousands of military service men and women and their families.
OCF begins to appoint staff couples for the service academies and other major military education centers; assists in the start-up of Christian Military Fellowship (CMF) to expand outreach throughout the entire military society.
Hartley Holmes Lodge at Spring Canyon is dedicated on Memorial Day, with principal speaker Admiral Sir Horace Law, Chairman of the British OCU, and second-in-command of the British Royal Navy. Spring Canyon director Colonel George Meaders, USA (Ret.), wrote in the Winter 1974-75 Roact Report newsletter, “Spring Canyon is a facility dedicated to the Lord to provide a ministry to the whole military family. I firmly believe that as long as we keep the purpose of Spring Canyon and our part in the ministry in sight, the Lord will provide the necessary tools to do His work through His dedicated people. We praise Him for His provision.”
At its Oct/Nov meeting in Washington, D.C., the OCF Council agreed to purchase Maranatha Mansion, located just one and one-half blocks from the Naval Academy, providing a beautiful setting for OCF ministry.
After searching for years for a suitable East Coast conference center, OCF is made aware of the availability of the historic White Sulphur Springs Hotel in Manns Choice, PA; discussions begin with owners Paul and Patricia Cochran.
On March 17, the stewardship of White Sulphur Springs is transferred from Paul and Patricia Cochran to Officers’ Christian Fellowship. On June 18, formal dedication services are held, with the first OCF seminars conducted at White Sulphur Springs that summer. On November 19, Paul Cochran dies; Patricia continues to reside in the cottage next door to hotel until her death in 1995.
LtCol Tom Hemingway, USMC, initiates Rocky Mountain High, an outdoor adventure Christian leadership training program based on biblical principles for cadets, mids, and young officers at Spring Canyon, Colorado; White Sulphur Springs initiates a similar activity for high school youth (Allegheny Outback!).
Father/Teen Adventure starts at Spring Canyon.
ROACT merges with OCF on January 1.
OCF members reach out to the military of the former Soviet Union under the banner of the Association of Military Christian Fellowships (AMCF); OCF members lead fruitful ministries in their units during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
In October, OCF expands its White Sulphur Springs Conference Center through the “Caleb Project” acquisition of 500 adjoining acres; OCF property now encompasses a total of 1,050 acres.
OCF hosts the World Conference of AMCF, with over 1,000 delegates from 92 nations. LtCol Art Athens, USMCR, new OCF Executive Director, asks members to organize “Sound the Trumpet: A Day of Prayer for the Military.”
- At its spring meeting at White Sulphur Springs, the OCF Council agreed to purchase a bed-and-breakfast facility in Highland Falls, NY, near West Point. It becomes OCF’s Fellowship House and is blessed by God for ministry to thousands of USMA cadets and their families.
- LtCol Art Athens, USMCR, steps down as Executive Director. OCF has 10,985 members, budgeted expenses of over $2.3M and permanent staff reps at USMA, USNA, USAF, USCGA, NCR, Maxwell/Gunter, Fort Leavenworth, Spring Canyon, White Sulphur Springs, and ROTC.
Lt Gen Bruce Fister, USAF (Ret.) becomes Executive Director of OCF.
OCF members and their spouses again lead extensive ministry activities at home and overseas during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
OCF launches a 40-day prayer vigil seeking God’s guidance about expanding the facilities at the conference centers.
The OCF Growing and Buidling capital campaign, “Growing Together . . . Building the Future,” launches in the fall with the goals of building the new Heritage House at White Sulphur Springs; new lodging structures, as well as expanded dining and outdoor facilities at Spring Canyon; and the establishment of an endowment for conference center scholarships.
At Spring Canyon, Hemingway Operations Complex’s initial dedication is held on Memorial Day, 31 May.
- OCF proceeds with plans for new Heritage House main lodge while preserving and maintaining all of the original White Sulphur Springs facilities, including the Harrison House, the former hotel building.
- On Veterans Day, 11 November, the official groundbreaking for Heritage House takes place at White Sulphur Springs. The new facility will host thousands of OCF members and their families for generations to come, and provides a place for them to refresh, rejuvenate, and reconnect with friends and others in the OCF family.
- Lt Gen Bruce Fister steps down as Executive Director. OCF has 15,492 members, budgeted expenses of $3.3M, and has permanent staff reps at all four academies, four education centers and two other major installations.
- Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.) becomes Executive Director of OCF.
- Dedication of Heritage House at White Sulphur Springs, Manns Choice, PA, takes place on 30 April, providing a retreat and refuge, a place of restoration and resiliency of building relationships and creating memories in the kingdom of God—a place where OCF members are equipped to serve Christ and our country with excellence.
- Hemingway Operations Complex final dedication takes place on 1 October at OCF’s Spring Canyon Conference Center. OCF Executive Director Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.), is the main speaker. The center was funded by a gift in memory of LtCol Tom Hemingway, USMC (Ret.), who served as camp director from 1980 to 1997.
The Veterans Memorial Lodge groundbreaking takes place at Spring Canyon on 13 October with OCF Council President MG Jim Coggin, USA (Ret.), OCF Executive Director Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.), architect Christina Brandenburg, project manager Joe Orosz, and general contractor Matt Young on hand. The new lodge will honor men and women in the combat of wars, including the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Veterans Memorial Lodge dedication takes place on Memorial Day, 27 May, at Spring Canyon with OCF Executive Director Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.), and Lt Gen Bruce Fister, USAF (Ret.), speaking. OCF has 16,765 members, budgeted expenses for the year of $3.9M, and permanent staff reps at two conference centers, four academies, four education centers, two centers of mass, strategic partnership/NCF, and one at-large.
- Spring Canyon celebrates the 30th anniversary of Rocky Mountain High.
Fort Shine Lodge recommissioning and dedication takes place on Memorial Day, 26 May, at Spring Canyon with members of the Shine family, OCF Executive Director Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.) and former OCF Executive Director Lt Gen Bruce Fister, USAF (Ret.), on hand. This new lodge, complete with eight family-sized rooms and handicap facilities, was planned as part of Phase Two of OCF’s Growing & Building capital campaign. It greatly increases the capacity for ministry to military service men and women and their families. The ceremony includes the renaming of the original Fort Shine Lodge to Cornerstone Lodge.
The EXSEL Discipleship Program, a yearlong Christ-centered discipleship program for young adults ages 18-24, begins at White Sulphur Springs.
OCF Council signs contract for expansion of Hartley Holmes Lodge dining room and construction of new classrooms at Spring Canyon.
Hartley Holmes Lodge dedication of expanded dining room and new classrooms takes place over Memorial Day weekend, 29 May.
The 2018-2022 Strategic Framework (SF), a living document collaboratively developed by council and staff, is launched. It’s designed to achieve the strategic intent of the OCF Council: “To glorify God by emboldening, equipping, encouraging, and engaging OCF members toward holistic growth, who are effective in living out their Christian faith as servant-leaders with transformational effect in the military society. OCF is a healthy lay-led organization that faithfully stewards OCF’s resources and people with wisdom and transparency and is postured to develop premier Christian military leaders who effectively deliver the message of Christ.”
In early 2018, OCF released the first episode of OCF Crosspoint, a biweekly podcast with the goal of sharing stories of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession.
OCF will launch the “The Timothy Movement,” a major operational-level effort focused specifically on junior leaders to help equip them for Christ-like service in the military. The objectives: prepare aspiring leaders to thrive in their early post-commissioning years, connect them with authentic OCF fellowship, and engage mid and senior-grade leaders, and retirees as partners in development.