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Stony Point Center 7th Annual Summer Institute 2016

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

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May 31-July 3, Session 1
July 10-August 7, Session 2
Students may attend one session only or both, but are encouraged to come for both. You may leave or stay on campus during the break, where there will be celebrations and free time.

Spread the word with our flyer.

The Stony Point Center 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 offer a rich opportunity to live in a supportive community with peers from different faiths and with similar interests. Together we will study and share the three Abrahamic traditions, what they teach about social activism, nonviolence and justice, and apply them to personal and social transformation as we strengthen our relationship to the earth.

This year the Institute will include the Muslim observance of Ramadan* and the Jewish observance of Shavuot.** Institute students will have the opportunity both to learn and to share in these experiences, while having the opportunity to practice and share their traditions as well.

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Our 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. Moreover, science has demonstrated that biodiversity and interdependence are crucial to the survival of life on this planet. These two truths offer complementary insights into the Community of Living Traditions’ approach to working for justice and peace at Stony Point Center.

We believe that the religious traditions of the world have interrelated lessons to teach us all about welcoming “the other” and caring for the earth. 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.

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Living in Community

Throughout the residential Summer Institute, students will be active participants in the life 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. Our 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.

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The Summer Institute is multi-dimensional. The students will:

  • engage in multifaith study and dialogue

  • grow in their relationship to the land and to each other through farming

  • live together in community

  • study nonviolent approaches to justice and peace

Throughout the program, students will have opportunities for one-to-one mentoring sessions for spiritual and vocational guidance.

Session 1: May 31 to July 3 (Eid Al-Fitr)

The session begins with 6 days of orientation before Ramadan starts on Monday June 6. The following three weeks students will participate in morning workshops (Monday through Thursday) and afternoon “Wisdom from the Faith Traditions” sessions (Tuesday through Thursday). Each week we will examine different social justice issues (Immigration, Indigenous Rights, and Racial Justice) during the morning workshops. These workshops are designed to deepen students’ social awareness of these issues and equip students with practical skills in activism and community organizing to enable them to become more effective advocates on the issues. In the fourth week, students will engage with the topic of religious conflict and peacebuilding during the morning workshop and present to the group about what they have been learning and reflecting on during the afternoon sessions.

Each week a different founding member of the Community of Living Traditions will lead the week’s “Wisdom from the Faith Traditions” sessions, allowing students to explore nonviolence in the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions from a gifted teacher and practitioner of each faith.

In order to accommodate those who are fasting during Ramadan, students will be required to participate in farming activities on Friday mornings only. However, students are welcome to work on the farm in the mornings before workshop sessions throughout each week.


There will be two sessions, with a break during Eid beginning July 3rd. The second session will begin July 10th. Students may attend one session only or both, but are encouraged to come for both. You may leave or stay on campus during the break, where there will be celebrations and free time.

Session 2: July 10 to August 7

The principal theme of Session 2 is eco-justice. Students will spend mornings working on SPC’s farm (Monday through Thursday) and afternoons participating in “Wisdom from the Faith Traditions” sessions (Tuesday through Thursday). Each week’s wisdom sessions will be led by accomplished teachers from either the Muslim, Jewish, or Christian traditions. Discussions in the wisdom sessions will focus on how each faith tradition engages social justice issues specifically related to food justice, climate change, and earthcare. Additionally, students will have opportunities to visit partner organizations working for eco-justice in our local and regional context.


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.


Observant Muslim students will find Stony Point Center a comfortable location for Ramadan, as well as a stimulating one. Spaces are available for salah throughout the day, including our 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.  The Institute offers transportation to community Eid prayers , there will be time allowed for students to join their families for Eid, you are also welcome to  consider inviting your families to visit you for Eid festival on our beautiful campus here!


The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is celebrated June 11 to June 13, 2016, a weekend including Shabbat. Shavuot is one of three Jewish harvest festivals that commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is observed as days off from work and celebrated 7 weeks after Passover. We will learn about the holiday and study the biblical sections associated with it. We will also have the option to attend synagogue services and eat traditional foods.

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. Travel scholarships may be available once a student is accepted. Room, meals, Institute transportation, and laundry are covered. At the end of the program 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. Deadline February 15. Applicants will be notified with two weeks of the deadline. Only completed applications (including one letter of reference) will be considered.

Spread the word with our flyer.

Summer Institute Leadership Team

Joyce Bressler, our Jewish elder and multifaith resident of the Community of Living Traditions 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. She is passionate about food justice and sharing her experiences with the next generation.

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.

Will Summers has been Stony Point Center’s farmer since March 2013. His agricultural journey began in Australia where he was a “WWOOFer” (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for 2 months volunteering on farms and discovering the rhythms of agrarian life. Will apprenticed at Green Gate Farms and World Hunger Relief, Inc. in his home state of Texas where he gained experience growing vegetables, raising livestock, working with community-supported agriculture programs, and urban gardening. These experiences led him to south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley where he co-developed a “farm-at-school” program, growing vegetables for a school district’s cafeteria lunches and facilitating educational experiences for students from kindergarten through high school.  He also worked as a farmer and educator at Hilltop Hanover Farm & Education Center in Westchester County after he and his partner, Sarah, moved to New York from Texas in 2011. In 2014, Will completed Eastern University’s Masters of Arts in Urban Studies program where he focused on community development and food justice.

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


Gardening is fun, rewarding and its hard work. It has made me appreciate the food I eat by looking at the amount of work that goes into growing it. I love how it has metaphors that connect to real life. Weeding, planting, resting the soil, needing rain, needing protection from extreme temperatures, they all connect with my life. It also connects me spiritually and helps me remember the stories of the people of the book. I don’t think I will ever leave gardening.
Azmeh Amer, Muslim student, Richmond, VA

“….it brings all different sorts of humans together and asks them to go deep with each other, and to not just go deep with each other but to develop a broader community consciousness that’s not necessarily based on shared values or geographic proximity. Exposure to the sort of knowledge we learned … helped immensely …. So the strongest feature in one word would be COMMUNITY.” Paige Ransbury, Christian student, Asheville, NC

“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

Photos from 2015

Photos from 2014