Important Update on the

2020 Lutheran Summer Gathering at Silver Bay

Dear Friends of the Lutheran Summer Gathering,

I pray that this note finds you and your families healthy during this pandemic and unprecedented time in the United States, as well as across the world.

It is hard to fathom the impact this virus has caused leading to death, economic collapse and how we live our lives each day. During these past few challenging weeks, I have found myself replaying wonderful Silver Bay memories of great times we have shared on the shore of beautiful Lake George to clear my mind of our current reality. In our previous 87 years there, members of the Lutheran Summer Gathering have used it for spiritual rebirth, relaxation and building cherished memories. We always feel like we are closer to Heaven when we are there surrounded by the gorgeous mountains, the shimmering lake, soaring eagles and cherished family and friends.

As you can imagine, your planning committee has been staying very close to the Silver Bay YMCA leaders during the COVID19 crisis. The great news is that the staff at Silver Bay are healthy and are dealing with this issue one day at a time. The campus remains closed for now and they are monitoring the Federal and State guidelines for how they might be able to re-open moving forward. We also heard from many of you with questions and concerns arising around what the status was for the 2020 LSG and what steps Silver Bay would be able to take to ensure the health, well-being and safety of its guests.

We are deeply saddened to share that after much prayer, significant consideration, and collaborative discussion with Silver Bay, we will be postponing this year’s Lutheran Summer Gathering until our week in 2021 – July 17th -23rd.  This was not a decision we made lightly.  We would have avoided it if we could. However, we also felt strongly we needed to put an end to speculation for each of you, so you could have closure sooner rather than later for this summer.

Through multiple conference calls and emails with Silver Bay CEO Steve Tamm and conference leaders, we evaluated every option we could think of before arriving to the final decision: first  we renegotiated our contract’s cancellation terms to protect the LSG from monetary exposure, then we explored what the LSG week in July might look like with social distancing, or if we moved the LSG to later in the summer during a different week or sponsored a reduced program over a three-day weekend.  However, the deeper we became involved in discussions of all the “unknowns” as to when the virus would be under control, when states would begin re-opening, social distancing guidelines for things like dining, church, the beach, group activities, etc., the more we realized that the LSG would most likely be impacted significantly no matter when it was held in 2020.

In the end, we believe the many health concerns, the virus’s uncertainty, and personal economic impact make it unrealistic to hold our beloved LSG in 2020. After making this extremely difficult decision on a committee conference call, we ended our call in prayer with tears falling softly across the committee members faces on video. Though the pain in making the right decision sometimes seems far worse early in the process, in this case we believe it will prevent undue risk and hardship to our LSG community.

The bright spot amid all this craziness is that we have spoken to Silver Bay about rolling the entire 2020 program over to our week July 17th - 23rd, 2021, and they have agreed with full understanding. Furthermore, the committee is working with the chaplain, faculty, and overall LSG program to bring our same schedule and attendees to 2021.  Finally, the summer plans for Silver Bay itself are not fully clear.  They are currently technically open, but with significant limitations.  If they are able to re-open, we promise to share with you information directly from Silver Bay if it may be possible for you to take a personal visit to this beautiful place!

Please know that this is not the first time we have “skipped” a year for the LSG. During World War II, the LSG was cancelled because of the war being fought on two distant continents resulting is unimaginable loss of life, and a country hunkered down support the war effort to rid the world of Nazism, Fascism and saving the Jewish people in Europe. Now we face a different kind of war against an unseen enemy, here on our own soil and infecting every corner of the globe. We will do our part to eradicate this enemy, though loss of life and personal sacrifice will impact us all in one way or another.

 

Pastor Jim Bresnahan reminded us all of Martin Luther’s famous words when back in 1527, when a deadly plague hit his town of Wittenberg. He wrote a letter to a friend, explaining how churches should deal with such complicated circumstances. The essence of his advice rings true today:

 

“Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city,” Luther advised. “What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?” 

As I mentioned to the committee, and now to you, though we are disappointed and sad during these days, Christ walks with us each step of the way, and carries us during great portions of our journey. We can never forget that! We will stay connected to each other along this journey in the new ways we are learning like Facebook and Zoom.  More details to come on ways we might gather virtually over the coming months.

 

I am reminded of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring quotes, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” How true that is during these challenging times when we all have the need for hope, and absolute belief in the One that created all.

 

May hope and love fill your hearts today, and always, until we meet each other again on the porch overlooking beautiful Silver Bay in 2021.

 

God’s blessings to you all and be well,

 

The Lutheran Summer Gathering Committee

Chad Volkert

Director

The Lutheran Summer Gathering is a joint program of the Upstate New York and Metropolitan New York Synods of the ELCA