If I have ever visited your church on a Sunday morning, or you have heard me speak at an Annual Meeting, I am sure you have heard me say, “Silver Lake changes lives.”
I believe in the deepest core of my being that Outdoor Ministry has the capacity to changes lives — even save lives. I have seen it myself. I grew up with dozens of people whose lives were changed, and several even saved, by their experience at a UCC church camp.
One of the most profoundly sad things I can think of is a summer without that experience. As hard as it is to miss a summer of camp for most of us, young people and adults alike, I worry most about those campers who truly believe they are only loved at camp, those young people who don’t hear anything affirming, welcoming, inclusive, loving, or even friendly the rest of the year.
But at Silver Lake, they know that they are always welcome, that they are loved just as they are, that they will encounter Christ in themselves, in creation, and in one another at camp.
I am so sad to think of them this season without the opportunity to experience God’s unconditional love, to have a summer without hearing, seeing, feeling, and knowing they are loved just as they are, immersed in creation, surround by a welcoming Christian community.
And for those campers who were coming to Silver Lake for the first time this summer, now they don’t get the opportunity to know that this is a place where you can find the hope to keep going, where you can be received for who you are — all of who you are. Those who would have been first-time campers don’t yet know the joy that camp brings and don’t yet have that hope to carry them to summer 2021.
I know this is depressing. I am sorry. I am also aware of how blessed I am to be a part of this ministry, to be a part of the Silver Lake community, with you, that changes lives.
At the end of each week of camp, I invite the campers to take Silver Lake home with them. I ask them to think about the places that they can make a little more like Silver Lake.
One of the saddest things I hear at camp is, “Camp is the only place I can be myself.” I love to hear how safe they feel at Silver Lake, but I feel really sad for the other 51 weeks of their year. This year it is especially hard, since instead of 51, it will be 103 weeks.
I pray that you will help make sure Silver Lake is around for another 60-plus years to change lives. Silver Lake has always been evolving, and this is another step in that journey. It is a profoundly powerful time to consider how we equip our young people and adults to take Silver Lake out in the world, to explore the ways we can make the rest of the world more like Silver Lake.
My hope is that as we move into the next evolution, we will hear campers say, “At Silver Lake I can be my whole self, and because of that I have created space for those around me and for myself to be my true and beloved self, all the time.”
I pray you join me in this grand adventure as Silver Lake changes lives in new and exciting ways.
Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer