SHARON -- "I love this time of year!" said Jennifer Kronholm Clark, Administrator at Silver Lake Conference Center. "For me, this is the beginning of the summer. Registration opens on Sunday!"
Though it might seem early to plan for summer camp, online registration for Silver Lake's seven weeks of summer programming opens on Sunday, Jan. 15, at midnight at www.silverlakect.org
"I usually stay up the night before to see which conference gets the first camper," Kronholm Clark added. "And this year, that first signup will also get a free t-shirt!"
Silver Lake Conference Center, the Outdoor Ministry program of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, will celebrate its 60th summer in 2017. Each year, volunteers from throughout the conference come together to create opportunities for young people to explore their faith while making lifelong friends, learning new skills, and unplugging from the digital world.
Executive Director the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer and the Silver Lake Board of Directors have set a goal of welcoming 100 new campers to Silver Lake this year.
"I'm excited to meet these new campers," Gackenheimer said. "I'm excited for the new energy they will bring and the new possibilities that will open up. And I'm excited for them – and our returning conferees – to encounter God's love in creation at Silver Lake."
The 2017 summer conference lineup offers a broad variety of themes for young people entering grades four through twelve. There will be long-running, beloved conferences like Fun in the Son, Sing Praise, Water World, Rock of Ages, and Hammer & a Nail, a mission trip to Maine, as well as new programs with new deans.
"We are offering a number of new conferences with social justice themes this year," said Kronholm Clark. "Stepping Stones, led by Isaac Monts, the director of the Joseph Clemmens Training (JCT) Program, and the Rev. Rhonda Myers, pastor of United Congregational Church in Torrington, will examine racial justice issues with 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We are hoping that this conference will inspire some young people to apply, in a year or two, for the JCT program and eventually to Silver Lake summer staff."
Another new conference with an environmental justice theme is River of Dreams, led by Debby Kirk, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, and Keyairra Wright, a teacher trainer for Teach for America and former summer staffer. River of Dreams will explore justice issues around access to water and will engage in service projects at Silver Lake and off-site.
Silver Lake in the City is a brand new program that will examine issues of food justice in both urban and rural settings. The conference will spend half a week in Hartford doing service projects and half the week at Silver Lake, where they will get to experience the fun of camp while also learning about food justice in the surrounding rural community. The Rev. Erick Olsen, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Norfolk, and Tina Olsen, a special education teacher in the Canton School District, will lead this conference.
"Silver Lake in the City will explore the ways in which folks don't have reliable access to healthy, good, affordable food," said Gackenheimer. "This will be an opportunity to learn about the challenges and experience that is foreign to you: If you're from the city, you'll have the chance to experience the country, and if you're from the country, you'll have a chance to experience the city. You'll get to meet people from different settings and do fun camp stuff, along with some hands-on service."
As an incentive for families to register early, Silver Lake is offering $50 off registrations made between January 15 and 31. Use coupon code EARLY17 at checkout. The discount will be taken off the balance of the conference; the full $150 nonrefundable deposit is still required to register.
Open House will be Sunday, May 21, from 2-4 p.m. The website has a lot of information for parents, or call the office at 860-364-5526 or email Kronholm Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brochures are beginning to arrive at churches and in mailboxes. The full 2017 summer calendar is available for download at www.silverlakect.org
"Whatever you're interested in, there's a conference for you this summer," Gackenheimer said. "We can't wait to welcome you to Silver Lake!"