Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit: A Multifaith Peace, Justice and Earthcare Program for Young Adults, ages 19-29
Stony Point Center’s “Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit” Summer Institute is a free annual program that gives young adults the opportunity to practice living and working together in peace across their religious differences, in what Dr. King describes as a world house. In 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opened what would be one of his last public writings with the following words:
“Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together. This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu - a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”
Source: King Jr,, M.L., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967).
With this premise in the background, we invite you to explore this opportunity. If you are a Jewish, Muslim, or Christian person between the ages of 19-29.
... please consider applying to the Summer Institute: APPLY HERE
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The Summer Institute is a project of the Community of Living Traditions, an intentional residential community located at the Stony Point Center. Please inquire at email@example.com with any questions.
Our Approach: Three Foundational Pillars
The Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit Summer Institute experience consists of three foundational pillars: intentional community living; farming, land, & faith; and intentional learning community to grow the spirit.
Intentional Community Living
Intentional Community Living is one of the three pillars of the Summer Institute because we believe in offering the opportunity to explore in an intentional and self-concious way what it means to live with others in the world. We will help participants define their "kavanah" (a Jewish term for "setting your intention") in relation to each other and the building of their community. We will also support participants in exploring community guidelines, accountability, how structural power and privilege dynamics show up, and ways to handle conflict in this multifaith and multicultural context. We recognize that participants' self-awareness, open-mindedness, and willingness to take constructive feedback can be challenging, but we believe the richness of the experience and the personal growth that is possible are well worth it.
Participants in the Summer Institute live together in the Allison House, which is about a 10 minute walk from Stony Point Center’s main campus. Allison house is a 6-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom residence with multiple common spaces including a beautiful sunroom, screened in porch, large backyard, and kitchen. There are 2-4 beds in each bedroom which can be arranged to meet the needs of program participants.
Sharing space and living in close proximity with one another is simultaneously rewarding and challenging. Participants are expected to work together to keep the house clean. House meetings are held regularly to facilitate communication in order to keep community life running smoothly and create a space for accountability to group-developed guidelines.
Participants are encouraged to share religious and spiritual practices with one another. Weekly Shabbat dinners and services have been a common practice among program participants over the years. Attending prayer and worship services at local houses of worship can also be arranged. In addition to the many formal learning opportunities of the program, participants are invited into the life of the Community of Living Traditions, the multifaith community of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in residence at Stony Point Center. This life can include study of sacred religious texts, lively discussion forums, game nights, bonfires, and opportunities to hear from guest speakers sharing their experience of faith practice or working for social change in their particular context. Opportunities for outings such as boating, hiking, or trips into New York City are possible, and there is also ample free time for personal rest and recreation.
Farming, Land, and Faith
Stony Point Center’s two full-time farmers, as well as other members of our farm team are responsible for growing food for our Dining Room. Delicious, homegrown produce is a tasty part of the hospitality we offer to the thousands of guests who visit and eat at Stony Point Conference and Retreat Center annually. We have about one acre of land in cultivation on Stony Point Center’s campus and more than twice that at an off-site location in a nearby town. We grow food using organic and sustainable practices and strive to have food from our farm available at meals throughout the entire year.
Working together on the farm is an integral experience of the Summer Institute, but the farming component of this program is not designed to train individuals to become organic farmers. Farm work is an opportunity and invitation for each participant to deepen their relationship with the land, the life it supports, and the produce it provides. Working collaboratively on the farm also provides space for participants to reflect on their learning experiences and process those experiences with their peers. Participants are expected to work together alongside Stony Point Center’s farmers for a portion of each morning on Mondays through Thursdays throughout the program. Weeding, harvesting, and preserving foods are common tasks throughout the summer. The weather can be hot, and the work can be challenging, but we make an effort to ensure that everyone finds a way to contribute to our collective farming based on their personal abilities.
Participants will also have the opportunity to meet and learn from other farmers and farming communities whose faith and religious practices are central to their work. We make an effort to plan field trips to at least three regional farms founded by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian farmers, respectively. Additionally, we make time and space for encountering the land and water around us through hiking and boating outings in nearby Harriman State Park.
As our farmers and multifaith community have deepened our relationship to this land over the years, we have realized that being in relationship with people from the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, whose ancestors originally inhabited this land in what is now called New York and New Jersey, is of primary importance. We invite indigenous people to share conversation and ceremony with us so we can encounter and learn about the spiritual traditions of native peoples on this land.
Intentional Learning Community to Grow the Spirit
The earth is shuddering beneath us because of the failure of humanity--so far--to find a solution to Dr. King's World House problem. Not only have we not managed to live together in peace, but have made substantial progress in tearing the whole house down.
Spiritual growth is not only possible but necessary for human and planetary welfare. Our religious traditions transmit priceless resources bequeathed by our ancestors, as well as ongoing spiritual tasks that help us grow and give us the basis from which we act in the world. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, though separated by political history and theology, represent different strands of a larger common work. Collaborating on that work could make an important contriubution to the solution of the World House problem. Collaborating on that work, for the sake of the planet, grows more room for the spirit to act in each of us.
Our particular collaboration on that work, the Intentional Learning Community to Grow the Spirit that we will create together over the summer, offers you continuing conversation with experienced leaders from our three different religions, the company of your peers, interaction with members of the Community of Living Traditions, and our neighborhood houses of worship. We hope to open questions of interest to us, and questions of interest to you, in both unireligious and multi-religious contexts. We look forward to encouraging--in you and in ourselves--the habit of empathy, the habit of self-awareness, the habit of openness, and the habit of exploration.
We hope that contributing to and learning from the conversations will strengthen your heart and soul and help to open a deeply satisfying path forward for you into the world.
Applications will be accepted until all program positions are filled. Only completed applications, including one letter of reference, will be considered. Please address questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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. 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.
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, 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.
Unzu Lee was born in a refugee camp on the Cheju island in the South Sea off the Korean peninsula. She immigrated to Brazil at age 14 and then immigrated again to the U.S. at age 17. She considers herself a 1.5 generation Asian American of Korean descent. A fifth generation Christian, Unzu comes from a family that takes seriously one's personal faith praxis in daily living. Ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1995, her ministry through the national offices of PCUSA has involved women's advocacy and leadership development, with a particular attention to the intersection of race and gender. First and foremost, Unzu considers herself a practitioner of popular education for personal and social transformation. She is the author of Coming Home: Asian American Women Doing Theology and co-author of Singing the Lord's Song in a New Land: Korean American Practices of Faith. She sees the world through an intersectional lens, and therefore, her interests are many; but among them, she is presently most focused on promoting peace in the Korean peninsula and promoting justice for sexual minorities in the faith sector. She joined the Community of Living Traditions on November 29, 2016.
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 young adults.
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, he completed Eastern University’s Masters of Arts in Urban Studies program where he focused on community development and food justice. Will and Sarah are Christian and they joined the Community of Living Traditions together in May of 2015.
Amirah AbuLughod first came to Stony Point Center as a Summer Institute participant in June 2013, returned as a farm apprentice and member of the Community of Living traditions in March of 2015 and was hired on as one of Stony Point Center’s Food Grower and Educators in April of 2018. Both sides of Amirah’s family have a rich history of farming tradition; a long line of dairy, beef, and crop farmers near the Mississippi in Wisconsin and orange growers beside the Mediterranean in Palestine. Even with this family background, the real seed of love for working with the earth sprouted when she was a little kid working in the backyard garden with her mom. That seed continues to grow and flourish as Amirah’s Muslim faith informs her farming experience at Stony Point Center. Amirah graduated with a degree in Environmental Geography and is a Master Gardener volunteer in her home state of Wisconsin.
"I learned how to clean eggs, how to plant seeds and transfer seedlings. I built weeding skills and vegetable cleaning skills....Farming wasn't really appealing to me before the SI, but working in the garden was a form of meditation...Being close to the earth and working with others increased my appreciation for ecological cycles. It was really fun to see foods in Evergreen that we had harvested." Liat Melnick, Jewish participant, Baltimore, MD.
"I participated in the action for Syria....It made me feel that Stony Point Center is a family where everyone supports each other and everyone works for a common goal....I discussed other activism events that I did not attend with students that did and we had interesting conversations about the importance of standing together for justice." Kholoud Al-Ajamma, Muslim participant, Bethlehem, Palestine
"This was my first experience living in community and it was remarkably positive. I learned that when I trust people, their presence can be deeply restorative, that having a lot of people to help out made life much more simple, and that being truly devoted to one another in spite of differences is a rich and rewarding practice." Joss Yarbrough, Christian particpant, Nashville, TN
Photos from Previous Summer Institutes