More than once I have been asked: Exactly what does the Silver Lake chaplain do? It's a good question, but a difficult one to answer because every day is a unique and wonderful experience in God's backyard. Here's what one day looked like.
After my morning run I sat in the Adirondack chair in front of the Chaplain's Cottage. It was early in the week and the sun was rising above the trees on the other side of the ball field. Just before 7:30 a large group of conferees filled with energy and enthusiasm strolled by on their way to morning dip. I greeted them with a hearty "good morning" knowing that by Friday many of them would be choosing an extra 30 minutes of sleep rather than a refreshing swim in the lake. I felt God's presence in the energy and possibility of the week that had just begun.
At breakfast I sat with the year-round staff hearing stories of the summer so far. God's presence is so evident in the people who give their lives to this ministry of faith formation -- whether it be caring for the property, paying the bills, keeping track of registrations, cooking healthy food, or helping conferees adjust to a week away from home -- our Silver Lake staff share God's love in all they do.At the end of breakfast the chaplain shares morning devotions. I took a selfie with the whole camp in the background from the stage of the Social Hall, and told them a story about how the little things that we do to spread friendship, kindness, and compassion make the biggest difference in making God's world a more just and loving place.
After breakfast I visited one of the conferences, God's Imaginarium, and talked with them about how God imagines a peaceful world, showing a multimedia presentation of the wonderful children's book, Old Turtle. The wisdom and thoughtfulness of those 5th and 6th graders was so impressive. Yet, they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They know what stands in the way of peace: racism, terrorism, war. They worry that they won't be able to make a difference, but they are not without hope. I pray that their time at Silver Lake will be one of the ways God helps them move the world toward peace.
After lunch, staff and conferees always sing, with voice and body and soul. They sing silly songs and sacred songs, songs that celebrate life and songs that praise God. They sing songs that make them laugh, like the one about a moose covered with juice.
During the afternoon, I walked around camp watching kids climb an inflated Mudge Mountain in the middle of the swimming area, or work in the garden, or make ceramics projects, or play field games. I watched them cheer each other on as they climb Jacob's Ladder on the high ropes course.
Before dinner I strategized with the deans of one conference about how to deal with the disruptive behavior of a conferee. Then the whole camp enjoyed a tasty meal of pulled pork and grilled vegetables.
With dinner over, it was time for worship. Each night one of the conferences leads worship. We sat together in the amphitheater as the Family Camp conference, through music, skits and readings, showed us how God wants us to be neighbors to everyone, and we were blessed.
As the day ended, I was back in the Adirondack chair, cheerfully tired from a full day, as darkness covered Silver Lake and stars began to appear. Bats darted around overhead catching mosquitoes. Conferees played parachute games on the ball field in the darkness sending glow-in-the-dark bracelets high in the air - a game they call fireworks. Then all was quiet, and the camp fell asleep, resting, anticipating all that God has in store tomorrow.
And I fell asleep too, with a prayer of thanks; God is surely is in this place.