By Debby Kirk
Sharon, CT-- As the cars turned off of Low Road and crept down the hill and a friendly voice leaned out of the brightly lit hut greeted each one. “Welcome, we’re glad you are here! Do you know where you are going? Have a great weekend!”
Our outdoor ministry site at Silver Lake is more than a summer camp and Friday, March 1, was the beginning of a typical ‘off season’ weekend. Youth and adults came from CT, MA, and RI to deepen their faith, create beloved community, learn leadership skills, and encounter God in nature.
“We have a full house with a Women’s Retreat from New Milford, the Counselor-in Training program, and a CTUCC confirmation retreat with eight participating congregations” said Ryan Gackenheimer, Executive Director of Silver Lake.
Eighteen CIT’s under the guidance of Betty Geiling and Maureen Montrose learned how to run ice breaker activities, deal with homesick campers, and maintain safe camp boundaries. After breakfast, they worked in the dish room and at the end of the day they shared prayers and songs by candlelight.
“These are kids who have attended SLCC conferences and been identified by staff or Deans as having leadership skills. This is a great program for youth who want to give back to Silver Lake and prepare for future camp employment,” commented Betty Geiling. “CIT’s will ‘shadow’ counselors and provide valuable support for summer conferences."
Meanwhile in the Cedars, the third of four annual Confirmation Retreats was led by Dave and Becky Stambaugh, of Greens Farms and Guilford, respectively. Seventy youth engaged in conversation and developed connections with friends from other congregations. Participants from Burlington, Durham, Guilford, Middlefield, Norfolk, Plainville, Portland, and Westbrook talked about core values of their own congregations and compared them to the mission of the wider church. Dave shared a six-word memoir that names the values of the United Church of Christ: “We welcome, worship, watch, witness, and work.”
Becky Passero, faith formation leader at the First Congregational Church in New Milford noted, “We hold an annual ladies retreat for us to get away and explore our faith in-depth. The Retreat Center has space for large group and small group discussion as well as areas for the crafting projects we bring. Silver Lake is our go-to place and we all love the food!”
Retreaters stepped outside to a fresh blanket of snow on Saturday morning and were surrounded by the beauty of creation and a tangible experience of God’s peace. Youth, who had been only acquaintances the night before, were now talking and laughing easily together as they walked to breakfast.
Silver Lake magic happens throughout the year!
Debby Kirk is Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Connecticut Conference.
(Note: One more Confirmation Retreat this season is scheduled for the weekend of April 5-7. Contact Karen Ziel, Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for more information.)