History

History

Stony Point Center sits on land historically occupied by the Ramapough, an indigenous people of the Hudson Valley, who were part of the Munsee Delaware (Lenape Nation). Historical evidence suggests that this location was a meeting and trading place near the territory of different tribes. The narrows of the Hudson River at Stony Point made this a suitable crossing point for trade. The Ramapough are still very much a presence in Rockland County today, and recently opened the Sweetwater Cultural Center a few blocks away from the Stony Point Center campus.  

In 1885, the property was owned by the family of a Presbyterian Pastor – Rev. John Gilmor. His daughters lived in the house their entire lives. In 1949, they willed the property to the National Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church 

Re-named Stony Point Center, the campus has seen five distinct generations since its founding. In the 1950s, it served as an international center for gatherings of protestant church leaders who were pioneers in developing new, ecumenical agreements that healed old divisions between the traditional protestant denominations.  

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Stony Point Center was home to a remarkable experiment of cooperation called the Missionary Orientation Center. This collaboration offered extended training and orientation for outgoing mission workers from seven different denominations. During this time, Stony Point Center was formative in the movement to rethink Christian missions and critique methods too tightly tied to western colonialization of countries across the global south. In many ways, this critique foreshadowed the “decolonization” language that is more common in social justice movements today.  

The Center was closed for a brief hiatus. It re-opened in the mid-1970s as an International Conference Center for Justice and Peace. This was a twenty-year-long era and it was remembered by many for its “Global Village” events. Families from around the world gathered to share their distinctive cultures at Stony Point Center. It was also a time in which the justice commitments of Stony Point Center shaped the agenda of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PC(USA)).  

By the mid-1990s, Stony Point Center had lost its connection to the broader church because the PC(USA) had moved its offices from New York City to Louisville, KY. Reorganized once again, this time, the Center was considered as the “go-to” retreat center for racially and culturally diverse communities of faith from the New York metro area. Many weekends the campus of the Center was full to capacity with participants from various church organizations. It was (and remains) common to hear English, Spanish, Korean and other languages all being spoken at different tables during the same meal in the dining room.  

In 2008, Stony Point Center restructured once more for the fifth generation under the guidance of Co-Directors Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase. Their vision was to create a multifaith “Community of Living Traditions” to ground the campus’s spiritual life, press against boundaries of religious division and confront a culture of Christian dominance and white supremacy. With renewed financial support from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the staff addressed decades of neglect of the physical campus. Guests were assured safety and comfort with new roofs, new windows and modern and efficient heating and cooling systems. They also spearheaded building the Art Space. Their belief was art is a creative channel for faith and social action to flow through. Perhaps more importantly, Stony Point Center became known as a spiritual home, organizing hub and incubator for the broader movement of peace, justice and protecting the environment.  

The Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020 brought a sudden end to the momentum building at Stony Point Center. The size of the staff was dramatically reduced as well as the size of its hospitality services. Beginning in early 2021, Stony Point Center will continue to host small groups of 20 or fewer participants. It will focus on strengthening community-based organization partnerships and congregations to prepare for the next generation.