SHARON (11/23/2015) -- Silver Lake Conference Center's new Executive Director will be the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer, Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi announced today in a message to leaders around the Conference. "We are convinced that Ryan brings the right combination of gifts, skills, and commitment," he said, "to ensuring that Silver Lake continues to be a vibrant place where lives are changed and leaders are nurtured."
Rev. Gackenheimer will begin his ministry at the Conference's outdoor ministry center in Sharon beginning on February 1, 2016. Andy Wicks will serve as Bridge Executive Director through December and January.
"I'm excited to be part of this vital ministry of the Connecticut Conference," he said in a telephone interview. The Conference's commitment to the Silver Lake community and the vitality of that community itself, he affirmed, drew him to apply for the position.
"Camp is a place of transformation and growth," he said. "It's a place set apart from the world where people can explore their true selves and be in a relationship with God. They can be transformed and go back home, where they can serve God and live their faith."
In his application, he wrote: "Campers are invited into moving, living, breathing, hearing, feeling, and knowing the Divine in profoundly new ways... a place to experience a radical love that receives you just as you are, regardless of what the world tells you at home.
"And it empowers people of all ages to live that love, grace, and forgiveness throughout the year."
The Search Committee found encouragement in the number of outstanding candidates who applied, said Rev. Siladi. "Ryan is well equipped to serve as the next Executive Director," he declared. "Ryan's passion for this ministry is evident."
Currently serving as Associate Pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Essex Junction, Vermont, Rev. Gackenheimer's passion and experience run from coast to coast. A member of the Vermont Conference's Outdoor Ministry Taskforce, he has served for six years on the Board of Covenant Hills Christian Camp, a joint UCC/United Methodist program in Cabot, Vermont. A member of the UCC Outdoor Ministry Association Board, he filled their Chaplain's office in 2010.
He has led camp programs in a role similar to that of one of Silver Lake's deans at Covenant Hills and at N-Sid-Sen in Harrison, Idaho. A graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, he pursued a Masters Degree in Philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and earned his Masters of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in Eden, Missouri, in 2008. He was ordained in Veradale, Washington, that same year.
Rev. Gackenheimer delivered a well-received opening address to the 2015 Deans at their training retreat last spring, and is well known to youth program leaders in New England for his assistance with their unified bus trip to the 2012 National Youth Event.
He does not just bring passion, skills, and experience, however. He and his wife Abby (also an ordained UCC minister) have a fourteen-month-old son, Keadyn.
Expect to see the tall and smiling new Executive Director out and about at Silver Lake after February 1st. He loves "all things outdoors," ranging from walking to running, from swimming to rock climbing.
"Camp is sacred," he wrote. "It is Holy Ground. It is a place in which we are reminded to take our shoes off for we know God is in this place."