by Rev. Chris Mereschuk
For the past several years, my kiddo and I have volunteered as Chaplains during the final week of conferences at Silver Lake. It's something we look forward to all year. When I plan out my daily devotions, I first look at the theme for the summer. I found this year's, "Fearless Faith: Courage in Community," to be an inspiring challenge both personally and pastorally. With the themes of fearlessness, faith, courage, and community in mind, I read through the suggested scriptures and stories until a collection of devotions emerged.
Courage looks different for different people. Sometimes finding courage or showing courage can seem like such a small thing to some of us, but is a tremendous undertaking for the one who is being courageous. I like to think of everyday acts of courage that we can accomplish, ways that we can nurture courage in ourselves and others, and how we might pause to recognize opportunities for courageousness.
When the campers arrived on Sunday, I asked them to have the courage to try something new — even if they think they know everything there is to know and have experienced everything there is to experience, there is always something new. It often takes courage to try something new.
Each morning I shared a new "Courage Challenge." On Monday, we considered how you often need courage just to be yourself — without fear of judgment or rejection. We must be ourselves, because God loves us, has loved us, and will continue to love us for who we are. But loving yourself and being yourself takes courage.
And while we must always be our true selves, we must also have the courage to be in covenant with others and be willing to be changed or transformed by others. Tuesday's challenge called upon our courage to let others into our lives.
When we begin to love and understand others, then we are called to have the courage to stand up for justice. Just as Queen Esther was born to save her people, each one of us was born to find those ordinary and extraordinary times when we need the courage to stand up for justice.
On Thursday we reflected on the power that fear can have in our lives. Fear keeps us from taking risks, meeting new people, understanding ourselves and others. Fear's deadly cousins are hatred and violence. We must have the courage to reject fear.
But we cannot do any of this if we do not have love. Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, all of our actions, causes, prayers and praises are simply empty gestures if we do not have love. And loving is risky. Despite the risks, we must have the courage to live our lives guided by love.
Saturday brings the departure of the campers and volunteers, and this particular Saturday closed out the summer for a number of staff members as well. But the "Courage Challenges" don't lose their importance once your car turns onto Low Road. We must have the courage to continue. We must lean on each other, our communities, our faith, and our God to find the perseverance and the resilience to keep going despite hardships and setbacks. And when our courage is lacking, we must kindle the courage to find it again.
My hope for everyone who heard these messages and for all of you who read them here is that you would "be of good courage." I pray that you would find within yourself and within your community the courage to try new things, be yourself, be in covenant with others, stand up for justice, reject fear, love, and continue.
Rev. Chris Mereschuk is the Associate Pastor of Haydenville Congregational Church in Haydenville, MA, and the chaplain for Week 7 at Silver Lake Conference Center.
The Rev. Chris Mereschuk is the Associate Pastor of Haydenville Congregational Church in Haydenville, MA, and the chaplain for Week 7 at Silver Lake Conference Center.