Silver Lake Conference Center is famous all over the United Church of Christ. It truly is a remarkable ministry, and I often feel like a broken record on the topic – I’ve probably written about SLCC before, I’ll probably write about it again. It’s great. Send your kids. Send yourself. Registration for summer opens on January 15; Clergy Camp is June 26-29. www.silverlakect.org
BUT! I don’t want to write about the ministry that happens at Silver Lake this week. Instead, I want to write about a Silver Lake ministry that happens outside of the camp: the actual, genuine friendships that form and continue beyond one week in the summer, or one weekend-long retreat.
On the morning I was all set to write my blog reflection (about something else entirely, I swear!), I pulled my car into the parking lot of the CTUCC office in Hartford just as my phone buzzed: it was a text from a woman I’d gotten to know through SLCC events like Spring Action and the Fancy Camp fundraisers. She asked me to pray for her mom, who was right-now undergoing a risky surgery at Hartford Hospital. I replied that I would definitely pray, and also that I happened to be in town and could swing by later to keep her company if that would be helpful. She said it would, so after my day-long meeting ended, I headed my car toward the hospital. As I walked from the parking deck to the main entrance, my phone buzzed again: the surgeons were able to remove all of the tumor, and were finishing up!
When I found her in the family lounge, another SLCC friend was there who had rearranged her work schedule to spend the afternoon waiting as well. I sat with the two of them for nearly four more hours. Four more hours of, “We’ll get an update any minute now; they said they were almost done.” And we waited and waited and waited. And waited. It was Advent, after all. We talked about our work lives and our social lives and our churches. We learned the full run-down on the surgery, including diagrams and a photo of the doctor. She decided that she needed a plan for when the waiting was over: say hi to Mom in the recovery room, then leave her to sleep for the night… but then what? I declared: we’re going to dinner – there’s a great restaurant nearby – and then you will go home and rest too.
The plan didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to, and the other SLCC woman and I waited in the main lobby… talking about our favorite books of the Bible, imagining the stories of people passing through the area, celebrating the new babies being taken out into the chilly world, trying not to overhear sensitive conversations in a too-public space. It became a sacred time: holding not just our friend’s mom but the whole hospital in a kind of prayer. Our eventual dinner was a kind of communion, as well, sharing French fries and Brussels sprouts in a hip spot whose past life as a mill or barn we also tried to imagine.
As I dropped off my friends at their cars and turned my mind toward the reflection I still had to write, I thanked God for the gift of being part of a faith community whose impact carries beyond one weekend or one fundraiser, into the past and the future and the right-nows when we need each other most.
Rev. Mary Nelson is the South Central Regional Minister for the CT Conference, UCC.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Mary Nelson's primary work is with congregations in transition and crisis and providing leadership resources. She works with clergy of the Region in offering counsel, support and advice as well as pastoral care. Raised in Plymouth UCC in Des Moines,...