Reflection on Summer 2021


It is the tail end of August, and the summer camp activities of 2021 are almost all finished with the last campers leaving in a couple days. And what a summer it was! Silver Lake truly was the magical place that it always has been. Three 2-week sessions and two 1-week day-camp sessions hosted campers that were coming out of COVID mandated seclusions. Deans, counselors and summer staff came out of remote work and remote learning. COVID affected everything, yet the summer happened and overall it turned out stupendously well. Here’s a brief glimpse at how things went and how the miracle of Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center continues to foster God’s infinite love.

There is something truly amazing about this place we call Silver Lake. Year after year a group of deans, counselors and summer staff put together shoe-string programs that manage to inspire and lead campers – they grow and learn who they are, in a safe and welcoming environment. This summer was no different in the magic, but it was very different in that there was a much-reduced staff. All staff wore multiple hats and constantly juggled responsibilities to ensure coverage where needed. The special nature of Silver Lake is what allowed people to go the extra mile to make things happen. In comparison, throughout the US, it’s estimated that more than 100 campgrounds were never able to open because of a lack of staff. Others started the summer and then had to close because of COVID outbreaks or insufficient staff. The Silver Lake deans, counselors and staff somehow managed to hang on and let Silver Lake happen – with not a single recorded COVID case and with a much lower than normal percentage of injuries and other mishaps. Clearly, God was at work through their minds and their hands, keeping everyone safe.

Because of mandated COVID pods and 2-week sessions, there were fewer than ¼ the normal number of campers. And many of the campers weren’t socially, emotionally and physically ready for camp, especially for a 2-week session. Coming off as much as 16 months cooped up in their homes, they hadn’t interacted in-person with new friends in a long time. They spent 16 months sitting at computer screens in virtual classrooms, and very little time running around outside with friends. The lucky kids that did make it to Silver Lake are so much the better for it. The deans, counselors and staff marveled at watching them slowly come out of their shells and blossom into Silver Lake kids.
To the deans, to the counselors, and to the summer staff – we offer our collective heart-felt thank you. You accomplished more than humanly possible, and you did it with humor, patience and grace. We are humbled by your awesomeness. Thank you!

The counselors and summer staff didn’t make it through the summer alone. The volunteer medical staff had a person on-duty 24x7 for the entire summer – that’s more than 1000 hours of effort among just those 3 people. In addition, more than 30 volunteers donated more than 3000 hours to the effort, helping anywhere it was needed. To the long list of volunteers who helped make summer 2021 a success, again we are humbled, and we offer a huge heart-felt thank you!

The last group in need of a big thank you is the full-time staff: Ryan, Jenn, Lynn, Ruth, Matt and Ashley. The summer staff is exhausted, but the full-time staff is even more so. These six people entered the summer already tired after a marathon year where they completely reprogrammed the Silver Lake experience to fit COVID requirements. You are amazing and special. We are blessed and forever grateful that you chose to be part of the Silver Lake family, and we pray that the relative calm of the fall will allow time for healing and rejuvenation.

There are also a few nuggets to take-away from this summer. We learned that Silver Lake can adapt and pivot when necessary. We also learned that the historic Silver Lake model is really good. When the structure of summer 2021 was being planned in the fall of 2020, COVID mandated pods meant 2-week sessions. Now, having lived through it, we have every intention to go back to 1-week sessions in the future. We learned how important is the commitment that Silver Lake inspires, in the deans and summer staff, the volunteers, and the permanent staff. The Silver Lake experience is powerful and empowering – and it’s what allowed everyone to make it through the summer. It’s not possible to emphasize too much the importance of the Silver Lake experience and what it means to alumni, staff and volunteers – with God in their midst, everyone pulled together to create something that probably shouldn’t have worked.

So, yes, a group of dedicated and talented staff and volunteers somehow managed to allow the magic to happen yet again. Silver Lake was, as it always will be, that amazing green place where all people can safely gather to grow, play, and learn amidst God’s infinite love. The lake, cabins and trees certainly did host the gleeful laughter of God’s children - they played, they learned and they grew. Thank God for Silver Lake.

Jonathan Russell
Chair, Silver Lake Board of Directors

Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center

Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center is a ministry of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Click here to read our Mission Statement.

223 Low Road | Sharon, CT 06069 | 860.364.5526 | Fax: 860.364.1000 |