top of page

“Passing Domain Love to the Next Generation”

I started going to the Domain in the summer of 1985.  At age 10, I had no idea what a profound impact it would have on my life.   I remember hearing stories from my friends at St. Peter’s (Paris) about all the fun times they had there the summer before.   I didn’t want to miss out again, so I enthusiastically signed up for Girls Camp, packed my suitcase full of favorite t-shirts and mix tapes and headed to the mountain.  It was a magical week that went by way too fast.   I was determined to come back every summer.

The following year I had an amazing counselor, Ann, who I completely idolized and taught me to appreciate alternative music.   That was also when I discovered my love of writing letters and exchanging as many as possible with my camp friends when we were not at Domain.   Looking back, I can’t believe Ann made the time during her freshman year of college to correspond with an 11 year-old camper, but she did!

I met many of my very best, now lifelong friends at Junior Conference.  We became pen pals too, writing about the cars we dreamed of having when we turned 16 and recounting how much fun we had together singing songs, going on hikes and just talking openly and honestly about what we thought it meant to be an Episcopalian.  Reminder, there are no Episcopalians down in hell! My last year of junior conference, friends Nancy, Heather and I sang “You’ve Got A Friend” a cappella style during the final service.  We rehearsed every day in Trinity and memorized all of lyrics.  To this day, I am immediately transported back to the view from the top of Wolf Pen whenever I hear that song.

In high school, I experienced Happening (#13) and became active at the Domain throughout the year.   I staffed Happenings #14 and #15, attended Winter Workshop, Fall Ball, New Year in the Spirt – basically any excuse to go back to the mountain!  Being at the Domain has always made me feel very centered. I was the best version of myself there and over time, I learned to take that version of me back home and to school too.

I also became a counselor myself during this time, which I absolutely loved. It felt like I was finally “giving back” to the Domain.   However, I’m sure former campers are still recovering from my military style pursuit of the bead bell!

I remember my last summer as a camper, 1993.   It was so much more emotional to “graduate” from camp than it was from high school for me. I was more than ready to go to college, but I clung to every last minute of Senior Conference.   Saying goodbye to my camp friends as we scattered off to different campuses in the fall was hard, but (you guessed it) we wrote lots of letters back and forth.   I think email was invented my freshman year, but only a few friends had it back it then.  Real letters prevailed as my preferred method of communication.

There was also a period of my life when I didn’t visit the Domain for several years.  After college, I lived in Washington D.C. (three times), Chicago and London (twice), so I wasn’t always in close proximity to be able to make the trip to Highway 1746.   No matter how far away I might have been physically from the mountain though, my Domain friends were always just a phone call, email, text or yes, a handwritten letter away.   I still have shoe boxes full of letters, alphabetized by last name, from all my Domain friends and I will never throw them away!

When it came time to make one of the biggest decisions of my life, I turned to my Domain friends for support and guidance.  I decided to become a parent AND move back to Kentucky after being away for over 20 years.   They assured me that I would be a great Mom and we talked about how great it would be if we could all take our children to the Domain together one day! 

Fast forward to 2017.   My daughter Alice (15 months) has already visited the Domain twice.  She loves staying in Deanery and discovered baked beans as a new favorite food at the dining hall.  We enjoyed being part of Trinity’s annual Labor Day weekend as a family.  And one day, Alice will be a camper and meet her own group of lifelong friends.  She probably won’t write them letters, but I’m confident there will be some form of social media that hasn’t even been invented yet to keep them connected.   I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.

There is no greater gift than passing Domain Love to the next generation.  I am so grateful to have this special place in my life.  It has taken on a whole new meaning for me this year.  As a result, I decided to join the Domain Society and commit to an annual gift every year.

I encourage you consider supporting the Domain for this and the next generation.  A contribution of any amount can go a long way to ensuring we always have the mountain! 


Domain Love,

Shelby Thompson


The Cathedral Domain means so much to so many generations.  Won’t you join us in helping to continue reaching future generations by making a donation today?  

bottom of page