topnav search

topnav links

Stony Point Center 5th Annual Summer Institute 2014

Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit: A Multifaith Peace, Justice and Earthcare Program for Young Adults

Monday, June 2 – Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Stony Point Summer Institute is seeking Jewish, Christian and Muslim young adults, ages 19-29, who are grounded in their religious tradition, serious about spirituality and the state of the planet, and excited by social activism in a multireligious context. We are looking for people who have begun peace, justice or earthcare projects--or want to begin them.

We are offering a rich opportunity to live in supportive community with peers from different faiths and with similar interests. Together we will study the wisdom of the three Abrahamic traditions, and develop skills and projects for faith-based personal and social transformation as we strengthen our relationship to the earth.

This year the Summer Institute includes the Jewish observance of Shavuot, the Christian observance of Pentecost, and the Muslim observance of Ramadan.* Institute students of these traditions will have the opportunity both to learn and to share their experience, and all will be welcome to explore the richness of these ancient celebrations.

dsc06549Our Philosophy

In peace and justice work, appreciation of difference and the ability to engage with people of diverse backgrounds have become virtues of paramount importance. At the same time, environmental science has demonstrated that variety and interdependence are crucial to the survival of life on this planet. These two fields of endeavor offer complementary insights into the highly interrelated nature of all creation.

At Stony Point Center (SPC), we believe that the religious traditions of the world are also interrelated. Together, they constitute a spiritual ecology. The welfare of humanity now requires that we consciously rebalance that spiritual ecology -- acknowledging the precious uniqueness of each tradition while strengthening their mutual relations.

Every religious tradition is a deep ongoing human conversation about the things that matter most. Each of these conversations is irreplaceable. We believe they also have important things to say to each other. We invite you to participate in this conversation of conversations! The Summer Institute provides you an opportunity to explore new languages of doing and being while increasing your vocabulary in your own spiritual tongue.

flgs shabbat

Living in Community

Throughout the 10 week residential Summer Institute, students will be active members of the Community of Living Traditions (CLT), the multifaith community of Muslims, Christians and Jews that helps run the Stony Point Conference Center and engages in social activism. During the Institute, students will be paired with CLT members to help orient them to Community life, including CLT meetings, daily operations and ways to contribute to the life of the Center. This Community life also includes serendipitous opportunities of lively discussion forums, encounters with visiting speakers, and recreational adventures such as swimming, boating, hiking and trips into New York City.

Within the larger CLT context, Summer Institute students will create their own more intimate community as they live together in a large residence with several separate bedrooms for women and men. You and your peers will have ample time to share insights and perspectives as well as care of your common space.


Most weekday mornings, students will work together in the SPC vegetable gardens growing their relationship to the land. Afternoons will be devoted to studying the Abrahamic social justice, peacebuilding and earthcare traditions, as well as social activism skills and personal reflection practices. These learnings will help Institute students develop their individual peace, social activism or ecojustice project. Time will also be spent in one-on-one mentoring sessions with the elder from your faith tradition.

Each week, there will be three “Wisdom from the Faith Traditions” sessions--each one led by a faith leader from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions. There will be a variety of faith leaders over the course of the Institute.  To learn about some of  those who have agreed to come and teach so far, click here.

img 0579

Communal Celebrations and Field Trips

We will incorporate the celebration of the Sabbath into our program each week, allowing for rest and spiritual reflection. This could include weekly Shabbat observances, as well as time for students to attend houses of worship of their choice. In addition, we will take field trips as a group to houses of worship of the three Abrahamic faiths, as well as to other relevant locations. Time and space will also be made for holy day observances over the course of the summer, including the two- day festival of Shavuot beginning the evening of June 3, Pentecost on June 8, and the holy month of Ramadan beginning approximately June 28. There will be a short Eid recess around July 28.*

More Information and How to Apply

If you are accepted into the Summer Institute, there is no charge beyond the cost of travel and personal expenses. Room, meals, Institute transportation, and laundry are covered. Travel scholarships can be made available on the basis of need. At the end of the 10 weeks, each student will receive a certificate of completion. If you are enrolled in an academic institution, you are encouraged to seek academic credit for participating in the Institute. Some academic institutions offer money to students for undertaking summer experiences. The Summer Institute leadership is happy to work with you to apply for such money or academic credit.

Click here to go to our online application. Rolling Admissions.  Muslim, Jewish and Christian cohorts are open until filled.  Decisions will be made within 2 weeks of receipt of complete applications (including one letter of reference).

Help us spread the word with this flyer.

Summer Institute Leadership Team

Joyce Bressler, a multifaith resident of the Shomer Shalom House at SPC received a BA in Government and an MA in Student Personnel in Higher Education. A veteran political activist and community organizer in the movements for peace, civil rights, and women’s liberation, she ran political and media campaigns and helped build the food coop movement. Joyce was the Administrative Coordinator for the Jewish Peace Fellowship and worked at the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s national office for two decades. She also brings experience in grant writing, counselor education and conflict resolution.

Spencer Chiimbwe worked in South Africa for five years where he coordinated the work of the ACTION Support Center. The ACTION Support Center is the Africa Regional Hub of a Global Network of Individuals and Organizations Committed to Positive ACTION to Transform Conflict. He is currently a multifaith resident volunteer at SPC where he is part of CLT and also contributes to the center’s marketing and outreach efforts. Spencer is passionate about conflict resolution, social justice and public service. He has experience in organizing and coordinating parallel thematic conflict dialogue forums at the United Nations and he is also part of the 2013/2014 Leadership Rockland cohort, volunteers in the office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s office and at the same time, he will be working as a Legislative Intern in the New York State Assembly in Albany in 2014. His interfaith journey is informed by the Conflict Transformation Courses he used to coordinate while in Southern Africa and being a member of the CLT community at SPC. Spencer serves on the Adventist Peace Fellowship Advisory Board and is an Elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is married to his wonderful wife Esther Chimalya Chiimbwe and they have three children.

Rabia Terri Harris is chaplain and Scholar in Residence at the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, an Abrahamic intentional community dedicated to the pursuit of peace and justice through the practice of hospitality. She also trains chaplains in Clinical Pastoral Education, serves as an adjunct professor in the Core Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and edits Fellowship, the magazine of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

In 1994, Rabia founded the Muslim Peace Fellowship (MPF) the first organization devoted to the theory and practice of Islamic nonviolence. As a theorist and investigator in Islamic peacebuilding and multireligious solidarity for justice, Rabia has written extensively and lectured and offered workshops nationally and internationally for two decades. In 2009, her thirty years of experience in spirituality and community service led to her being chosen as the first president of the Association of Muslim Chaplains.

The child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Rabia embraced Islam in 1978. She holds a BA in Religion from Princeton University, an MA in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, and a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary. Rabia is a senior member of the Jerrahi Order of America, the American branch of the Halveti-Jerrahi Tariqa, a three-century-old traditional Sufi order headquartered in Istanbul. She is the translator, from Arabic, of several significant works from the classical period of the Sufi discourse.

Kitty Ufford-Chase is Co-Director of SPC with her husband, Rick, and serves as the administrative point person for the Summer Institute Leadership team.  She is a life-long Quaker from New Jersey and spent close to 20 years in Tucson working on food justice and US-Mexico border issues before coming to Stony Point Center in 2008.  She has a BA in Political Science and an MA in Intercultural Relations.  She is passionate about exploring how contemplative and activist lives complement each other, eating local food, studying strategic nonviolence, and making connections between ideas, people, histories and cultures.  She and Rick are the parents of three teenagers.

In addition to the Leadership Team, other religious leaders and educators from the three faith traditions will be participating in the Institute.


Observant Muslim students will find Stony Point Center a comfortable location for Ramadan, as well as a stimulating one. Our community Islamic Center, Anwar as-Salaam House, is available for salah throughout the day, as is the Meditation Space at the center of campus. Several local masjids offer tarawih prayers nightly. Pork is never served in the Stony Point Center dining room, and halal zabiha meat will be on the menu throughout the Summer Institute. Dining schedules can flex to accommodate iftar and suhur meals; work schedules will take the needs of fasting people into consideration. While the Institute offers transportation to community Eid prayers for whoever chooses to remain on campus for the holiday, there will be a short recess to allow students to join their families for Eid. The Summer Institute program continues for ten days or so after the Eid recess, so consider inviting your families to visit you for Eid festival on our beautiful campus here!


“I feel it is a very good experience for people that are into interfaith dialogue and religion. It enriches your knowledge about other religions… but it does so much more for your own. If you are a person of faith and if you actually believe, I feel this experience makes you understand and deepen your own faith more than ever… because you are exposed to the differences and similarities… and you realize that there are more similarities, and it will make you appreciate your faith more.” Sarah K. Ahmed, Muslim Student, Baghdad, Iraq.

“It is so important and has been so transformative to me… and I can only imagine for my colleagues as well… that by participating you are making a strong statement of values that healthy communities are communities that are diverse and that respect their diversity culturally, ecologically, socially, ideologically, ethnically, spiritually, and personally.” Noam Sienna, Jewish Student, Toronto, Canada

“I have been in academic mode for the last two years… studying and learning about inter-religious stuff… but it is very different when you are living inter-religious stuff… and I think this has been one of those affirming experiences. I had a craving to be on the ground, living what I want to do, and being here just reaffirmed that this is what I want to do… that this… connecting with people from other faith traditions, using the arts… living and working with people from different traditions is what really I thrive off of… having had this lived experience… I have learned in a way I just can’t from books.” Elyse Brazel, Christian Student, Alberta, CA

We have come together from all over the world to learn together. Everyone that was here was a teacher, and there is a strong bond that I know we will take with us in the years to come. Being in the garden is a great analogy for what the process is all about. Were preparing the soil, planting the seeds for justice, for understanding. We hope to grow, blossom into peaceful communities, and a more just world. Ben Snipes, McCormick Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.