SHARON (05/15/2015) -- The second annual Clergy Camp retreat brought sixteen UCC ministers from around the state to Silver Lake Conference Center for two days of laughter, song, silence, challenges, worship, games, and inspiration. They paddled canoes, played under the rainbow panels of a parachute, scaled tall trees, and reveled in the scents of a Connecticut spring.
Led by co-Deans the Rev. Liz Miller (Congregational Church of South Glastonbury UCC) and the Rev. Kent Siladi (Connecticut Conference Minister), each day's activities were clearly set out — and quickly adapted to the inclinations of the group. The assembled clergy were clearly attracted by bright colors, whether it was the small group hovering over the table where the puzzle came together, or the tie-dye T-shirt prepared by the Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer (First Congregational Church UCC, Woodstock).
Some of the participants have served the United Church of Christ for decades, and one will begin his first call in June. They came from different settings of ministry, including senior pastors, solo pastors, associate pastors, and conference staff. Each brought a distinct sense of joy and wonder, which they applied to varieties of tea (a group left the camp for an hour to explore a tea shop in nearby Millerton) and to climbing the trees of Silver Lake's High Ropes Challenge Course.
In addition to finding refreshment, these church leaders gained a deeper appreciation for the each other. Shawn Fisher (Groton Congregational Church UCC) sang two of his original compositions during communion worship, and the Rev. Erick Olsen (Norfolk Church of Christ UCC) got everybody around the parachute. Worship included a bowl to receive stones emblazoned with cares to be left behind, and water which floated flowers of new commitments. Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi and the Rev. Sandy Koenig (North Congregational Church UCC, Woodbury) presided over the taste of grace in the service of communion.
This experience of wonder, refreshment, and grace is renewed each week during the summer at Silver Lake Conference Center for the young people who come to run, sing, shout, climb, explore, learn, worship, and renew. The assembled ministers returned home with the summer calendar and a new determination to share the blessings of God's Back Yard with those whom they serve.