Humans of the CSA

Inspired by the work of New York City photography project Humans of New York (, we walked around the CSA and asked people about their favorite CSA memories, funny stories, the first time they came up here, and more. For the full album click here!


 "My first visit to the CSA came in 1942 and Jack Terry brought me up here with a group of other boys just before we went into the military service in World War II. We stayed here three weeks and I always held a fond memory of that time. In 1965, my family and I were living in Virginia and we wanted a place to go on vacation and couldn’t quite decide, and I said, “Let’s go to Crystal Lake!” And we have been here year after year ever since that date. I’m still going at 93, and my goal now is to be here when I’m 100."


"When I was in college, I was working the Assembly office, and we worked for Tom Williams, who was very strict. One evening, I coerced one of my very proper friends - we knew the doghouse was going to be repainted white – so we went down late at night and we painted polka dots all over the doghouse." [Pictured in her hat from the Operetta] 


"My favorite memory of the CSA is going to bonfires at Lake Michigan."


"When I was about 10, David Eley and I went to sleep out on lake Michigan. It's all grown over now, but between where the new stairs are and the old stairs, there used to be an area that was kind of hollowed out that was all sandy. But it was kind of on a hill. So we slept out there, and when we woke up we had slid down the hill in our sleeping bags and we woke up in the bushes. Being 10 year old boys, we thought we must’ve slept for 100 years and that the bushes had grown up around us!"


"In the winter, we miss our CSA friends the most."

Making the CSA a Better Place at the Annual Meeting

By Julia Davis

If you’ve passed by the Crystal View recently, you may have noticed commotion at the fire pit with kids roasting marshmallows and adults having a good talk and a laugh. Or maybe you have gone by the Meeting House and suddenly a new Wi-Fi network appeared on your Smartphone. Ever wonder how those changes—small yet significant—came about? Well, it all happens at the CSA Annual Meeting.

That fire pit at Crystal Lake and the internet at the Meeting House wouldn’t have been possible without CSA’ers just like you coming to the Annual Meeting and proposing them. Along with other important business that gets discussed, one of the things that is a constant conversation—both at the meeting and on the beach— is what would you do to make the CSA a better place?

For some, it was having a fire pit installed to make up for the lack of a sandy, bonfire-friendly beach at Lake Michigan this year. For others, it was getting free Wi-Fi for all to use, especially those who need to check their work emails. As we prepare for this year’s Annual Meeting, it’s important to take stock in terms of the history that has been made at these yearly meetings. And what improvements that might come next season from this year’s annual gathering.

The biggest concern at the Annual Meetings of the early 1900s was the growing desire of CSA residents to build barns on their property. The board was not happy with this and ultimately decided on banning the building of barns on CSA grounds. It’s hard to imagine the Assembly woods dotted with bright red barns. They likely didn’t have to worry about Swimmer’s Itch, a topic that will surely come up at the meeting this year. Recently passed proposals include a ban on smoking at Crystal Lake Beach,  and the existing policy on jet skis has been changed to say that they are to be operated and moored under the same guildlines as all power boats. Paddleboards will also now be specifically mentioned along with kayaks and canoes in the Fee Schedule under Type C Beach Boat Storage. If you have any questions or concerns about these policies, you are welcome to attend the meeting this Saturday and have your voice be heard.

The Annual Meeting is a great place to learn about what all of our committees have been working on this summer. Each committee presents a report detailing what they have been doing in recent months. You may be surprised to find out that some of the committees that were being formed at the Annual Meetings in the early 1900s still exist today. These committees include Spiritual Life, Buildings and Grounds, and Nominations. Another thing that happens is that the people in attendance at the meeting can vote on certain issues. What you may or may not vote on depends heavily on your membership status. According to the bylaws, Members, otherwise known as CSA lot owners, may vote on bylaw amendments, proposals that may involve a major change to the appearance of the Assembly, proposals that might involve a major change in the uses or availability for sale of Assembly property, a major purchase of additional Assembly property or a major change in the character of the Assembly. Associate Members, on the other hand, may vote on any other issues like the fire pit proposal.




Many issues discussed at the Annual Meeting require financial support. The CSA has a budget every year, which comes from various sources including membership fees, the Crystal View and donations to the Pilgrim Fund. See chart of the breakdown of the CSA’s revenue.

If you have any ideas on how to improve the CSA, you too can bring your own proposal and present it to the Board of Trustees. And it takes 40 people for a quorum---so get the coffee brewing and please come out at 9:30 Saturday morning, August 4, 2018

The Women's Association: Past and Present

By Julia Davis - July 21, 2016


The Women’s Association has been a staple of the CSA for over a century and has been running the art fair since its inception 38 summers ago. But times have changed with many women (all CSA female members are automatically members of the Women’s Association) no longer able to be at the Assembly for the entire summer nor able to commit to taking a board position within the group. Recent bylaw changes have transformed the organization into one that solely funds events rather than hosts them. I talked to Susan Baker and Sandra O’Neal, the current co-chairs of the Women’s Association, about the challenges the Women’s Association faces, how they fill leadership positions and their favorite anecdote from their time serving the Women’s Association board.


What is the history of the women’s association and why was it founded?

Sandra O’Neal (SO): I do not know why it was founded, but at that time it was very common for women in church groups to gather together for the purpose of both social activities and volunteering.


All women who are members of the CSA are automatically members yet it seems like many women do not know this and are surprised when they are told this is the case.

Susan Baker (SB): It doesn’t matter how many times you say something; it doesn’t necessarily sink in until you’re ready to hear it. It started as a social group, a service group, a way for women to get to know each other. As women’s lives have changed and families’ lives have changed, that has also changed. A few years ago, there was a bylaw change for the Women’s Association. Now there are a few things that the Women’s Association specifically does and the art fair is the biggest one and essentially our reason for being. The wonderful traditional things the Women’s Association has done for decades, like Lemonade Sundays, art workshops, and programs for children are now done on an ad hoc basis. If you’re interested in having something done, you approach the Women’s Association by filling out an application on the website, asking for funding, coming up with your idea of how this could happen.


So it’s primarily an organization for ad hoc funding.

SB: Yes and that also opens the door for new and wonderful ideas to come forth such as the Ecology Fun program.


I know you give a lot to Ecology Fun, but where else does the raised money go?

SO: We fund four specific categories: donations to charities in the community, scholarships, one- time projects like the butterfly garden, the defibrillators and pickle ball equipment, and on an annual basis programs including potluck dinners. See the full list here.


How important is the art fair and Cottage tresaures to the Women’s Association?

SB: It’s one of the biggest community events the CSA does. I love the fact that so many of us have things in our cottages that came from probably 10 other families in the CSA because of Cottage Treasures. And the fact that if you have somebody come over for dinner, there’s a fair chance that when you put that serving bowl on the table, somebody’s going to say, “You know, that’s my aunt Molly’s!”


How do you foresee the Association’s future?

SO: We are at a point where we need to ask questions about the ongoing viability of the Women’s Association. Not the ongoing viability of the Arts and Crafts fair, which can keep going on run by a committee of the Trustees. But the Women’s Association for the last decade has had more and more difficulty getting women to commit to serving on the board and considerable difficulty getting leadership positions filled. This is Susan and my last year as chairs of the association and we have spoken to at least 60 women about taking on these roles and have been unsuccessful in finding anyone to do so. That alone is not a reason for the association to dissolve but over time there’s simply been less and less interest. Our leadership team asked Beth Wolszon and Jennifer Daly, the past president and vice president of the Board of Trustees, to consult with us this year on the future of the Women’s Association.


Any fun Art fair anecdotes while you were co-chairs?

SO: I had to adjudicate a conflict at Cottage Treasures in which two men had bought the same canoe at separate cashier stations. They both went to pick up the canoe, and one picked up the stern and one picked up the bow and they both looked at each other and I was asked to sort this out. I said to the two men, “would a coin toss satisfy you?” And one of them produced a coin and flipped it and walked away with the canoe and we gave the other one their money back, but it was a great illustration of the fact that we have terrific values at the fair.

The Ecology Committee: Turning Research into Action

By Julia Davis - July 28, 2016

On a hot afternoon in late July, a group of children are eagerly gathered around the picnic tables next to the Assembly Building. Kevin Kinnan, a Benzie Central high school teacher and main instructor for the Ecology Fun program, is creating a glacier out of ice cream scoops, chocolate chips and coconut. Kids watch wide-eyed as he piles vanilla scoop on top of scoop until gravity gets the best of the ice cream tower and the scoops topple to the bottom of the pan - a fun and tasty way of illustrating the formation of a glacier. The crowd is huge, about twenty children have come out for this popular day of Ecology Fun, and not just because there is ice cream involved.

The Ecology Committee was formed in 1990 and has been hosting the popular program for kids for almost 10 years now and although this program is a CSA favorite for kids the Ecology Committee actually does a lot more than just Ecology Fun. According to Committee Chair Linda Campbell, the purpose of the committee at the time of its formation was to report on the condition of Crystal Lake and the erosion of the Lake Michigan shoreline but it has expanded greatly since then.

One of their biggest successes besides the Ecology Fun program has been a major environmental assessment of the CSA grounds, which was completed in 2009.  Using a random sampling of plots on the CSA, two interns worked alongside three university professors to take data on what species of trees make up our forest, what invasive species we have, and more (see chart). This is the most accurate information we have to date about our forest, and the report can be checked out from the office anytime. This research has been the basis for the committee’s activities and program decisions. Committee member Nancy Baglan emphasized that taking a scientific approach and making sure actions are based on scientific research is a core part of the Ecology Committee’s mission. The committee strives to be action oriented. This means not just putting out information to the community, but using that information to create meaningful programming and inform future endeavors.

Some recent examples of putting this information to work are the new Butterfly Garden on the east side of the Assembly Building and the committee’s small forest restoration projects – like the wildflower garden on the east side of meeting house and a few trees planted on the other side of the building. Nancy and Linda agree that these projects are important as a way to let people know that they can do small things to restore their little section of the forest at their cottages. As Nancy pointed out, “We shouldn’t try to make our woods look like a park-like setting. It can be a bit messy looking, but diversity is really important.” Diversity in the forest creates a healthy environment.

The main challenge the committee faces is similar to that of many other committees at the CSA: getting volunteers, and figuring out the best way to access them. The Ecology Committee is still using porch sign-ups and word of mouth to garner extra hands to help with activities. Another struggle is that their only sponsors are the Women’s Association, Pilgrim Fund, and donations; they are not an official budget item for the CSA.

A big upcoming problem for the CSA environment is an invasive grass, an example of which is on the Assembly Building porch and figuring out how to get rid of this. Because of the discovery of this grass, the Ecology Committee has made its next big project taking on invasive species like Dame’s Rocket and Baby’s Breath. They are partnering with the invasive species network in Traverse City to tackle these, which are quickly spreading in the CSA. Their goal is to get to a point where we can recognize invasive species early, before they spread making eradication impossible. They also want to go beyond beauty: taking out invasive species, like Dame’s Rocket, that may look pretty, but are really a danger to other plants.

Nancy pointed out that not all non-native plants are invasive— in fact most are not. But the invasive species crowd out the native plants and the native plants are a vital part of our woods and the wildlife that live here. For example, monarch butterflies will only lay eggs on a milkweed plant; if milkweed plants were to be crowded out by invasive species, then there would be no monarchs here. Community efforts to keep invasive species at bay make a huge difference. Nancy and Linda agree that the push to get rid of garlic mustard a few years ago has been highly successful in decreasing the overall amount of it at the CSA and making our environment healthier.

Some of the Ecology Committee’s upcoming events are the Wings of Wonder presentation, co-sponsored with the Women’s Association on August 2 at 10:00am in the Assembly Building. Later that afternoon, they will host a bird banding demonstration at 5pm at the Michigan tennis courts and on Wednesday morning at 11am at the corner of M-22 and Thomas Road. The committee is also looking for volunteers to help restore and clean up Crystal beach of invasives on next Wednesday, August 3rd. Meet at 9:30am at the Doghouse. (Bring your own gloves.) Anyone who is interested in learning and contributing even a little to the CSA environmental future can join the Ecology Committee and all are welcome to attend workshops and volunteer.

Upcoming Guest Speakers and Concerts This Season

By Julia Davis - July 14, 2016

One of the best things about the CSA is the sheer volume of activities that get organized and put on each season. Some are new – like our first Open Mic Night this Friday— while others like the Water Carnival and the Children’s Operetta have been going on seemingly forever. For the last few decades a number of concerts and lecture series have been organized to highlight not only the talent and knowledge of CSAers but also of friends, guests and locals. Here is a roundup of some of the enticing and interesting events happening this season:

The Dutton Concert: Saturday, July 16, 7:30pm Meeting House

The annual Dutton concert will be a duet vocal recital featuring the Winter sisters— Shannon (Wise) and Erin (Jones). Shannon holds degrees in Vocal Performance from Illinois Wesleyan and the University of Illinois. She made her professional signing debut in 1990 and currently performs recitals in the northern Virginia area and singing concerts with the Pax Dei Tria, a professional ensemble combining voice, harp, and flute. Erin also holds a degree in Vocal Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University. She sings with the Annapolis Opera chorus and is a frequent soloist in the Annapolis area. They will be presenting vocal duets, including original music by Steven Rainbolt, professor of voice at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD.

Martha & Jim Reisner Presentation: Sunday July 17, 7:30pm Assembly Building

"Hope Rising"

Martha and Jim Reisner will be giving a presentation on their recent mission trip to Hope Mission School in Liberia. Their presentation will include photographs from their visit to Monrovia and Paynesville, where their congregation supports the Hope Mission School. All are welcome to attend. 

The Burrows-Getz Concert: Saturday July 30, 7:30pm Meeting House

“Italian Gems from the Renaissance and Baroque”

The Burrows-Getz Concert will feature Renaissance and Baroque music from Alexandra Snyder Dunbar on harpsichord, Jim Bates on viola da gamba and Hajnal Pivnick on baroque violin. Alexandra is an administrator at Special Music School in New York City. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and Interlochen Arts Academy. Jim is the D-director of orchestral activities at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. He also co-directs the junior orchestra program and junior advanced string institute at Interlochen. Hajnal is a member of the violin faculty at Interlochen and holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary. The concert will include pieces by Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Handel.


Raptors of Michigan: Tuesday, August 2 at 10am Assembly Building

Rebecca Lessard, Wings of Wonder

There will be a presentation on the raptors of Michigan with Rebecca Lessard of Wings of Wonder in Empire. Wings of Wonder is a non-profit raptor sanctuary. The program will include live raptors so audience members will get an up-close and personal look at these incredible birds. Rebecca will also be bringing a hands-on display of raptor artifacts such as wings, talons, and feathers for her presentation.

Armstrong Concert: Saturday, August 6 at 7:30pm Meeting House

The Armstrong concert was originally started by the Armstrong family in honor of Harriet and Louise Armstrong who were lifelong music lovers and CSAers. Pianist Thomas Lymenstull will be playing the concert this year. Lymenstull will be playing solo piano music by Haydn, Liszt, Beethoven and Chen Yi. He has played nationally and around the world. He works at Interlochen and has built a studio of outstanding young pianists from around the world.

Gibson Lecture Series: Monday, August 1 – Friday, August 5 at noon Assembly Building

Todd Weir

Todd Weir is the professor of history of Christianity and modern culture at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. Though Todd is originally from Seattle, after a formative experience as an exchange student in East Germany in 1988, he became hooked on German history.  His graduate studies took him from Berlin to New York, where he received his doctorate at Columbia.  Todd has a connection to the CSA and has been coming here since he was very young. His lecture series is titled “The Clash of Religious and Secular Worldviews: A History from Germany to America” will be focused on how religion, science and politics interacted and evolved in European and American modernity.

Have an idea for a guest speaker? The Women’s Association might be interested to fund it. Apply here: