by Eric Anderson
HARTFORD (02/29/2016) -- The Connecticut Conference released a new edition of the Vantage Point video series today, celebrating the arrival of the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer as Executive Director of Silver Lake Conference Center. Rev. Gackenheimer spoke with Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi just a couple of weeks of beginning his ministry at the Conference's outdoor ministry center in Sharon. "Outdoor ministry has always been a vital part of my call," said the new director, the first ordained minister to lead Silver Lake. "I'm excited to be at Silver Lake because it's, for starters, one of the premier outdoor ministry sites in all the United Church of Christ — also because of the profound role that outdoor ministry has played in my life as a place to give my faith substance."
"I think that embodied faith, a faith that transforms who we are and enlivens our whole being in the ways we live, is important to all of us," he told Rev. Siladi, "and I think camp has a unique opportunity to do that."
Rev. Gackenheimer comes to Silver Lake after seven years as associate pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Essex Junction, Vermont. A member of the Vermont Conference's Outdoor Ministry Taskforce, he 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.
During his first weeks, he smiled, he has had to learn a good deal of new vocabulary — the nicknames and references which the Silver Lake community has developed to identify places and activities. He has also come to know many "wonderful people," he said, "that love Silver Lake very dearly."
In the conversation, the two stressed the year-round ministry of Silver Lake, which offers retreat services during the fall, winter, and spring that are somewhat unusual for summer camp facilities. He spent his first weekend on the job, in fact, greeting retreat groups from several churches for the Confirmation Weekend and Thinking About Working For God Members' Retreat.
He raised the idea of thinking of Silver Lake as more than a place: of thinking of it as a ministry. "How do we live out the Silver Lake ministry throughout the Conference?" he asked.
That is a question that he, the Silver Lake staff, its volunteer program leaders, and particularly the conferees, will wrestle with often in the years to come.