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

Stony Point Center’s 9th annual Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit Summer Institute will take place from June 25 to August 10, 2018. We are currently accepting applications for the 2018 Summer Institute and rolling applications will continue to be accepted until all slots in the program are filled. Our Christian cohort for 2018 is currently full. We are still accepting applications from prospective Muslim and Jewish participants.

in the fields

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Stony Point Center’s Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit Summer Institute is a multifaith earthcare program for young adults between the ages of 19 and 29. The program integrates multifaith study in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian traditions with sustainable agriculture and intentional community living.

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We are 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. If you are a prospective Muslim or Jewish participant, check out these videos for some insights from previous years' students:

We offer a rich opportunity to form an intentional learning community and live in a supportive community with peers from different faiths and with similar interests. Together we will study and share our three faith 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. 

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 flgs@stonypointcenter.org with any questions. 

Our Approach

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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 each 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.

 

Living in Community

group 2016 session 1

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 6 bedrooms (with 2-4 beds in each room) that can be arranged to meet the needs of program participants. You and your peers will have ample time to share insights and perspectives as well as care of your common space.

Program Overview

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

Participants will become an intentional learning community that learns together from farming the land, reflecting on the daily experiences of farming and community living, and studying together on the issues that matter to each one personally and communally. The first two weeks of the Summer Institute will be devoted to orientation, community building, sharing the interests of inquiry, and developing a curriculum based on all that has been shared. Once the curriculum is developed, each participant will be asked to select the sessions that he/she/they is interested in preparing for and facilitating. The participants will prepare for their session(s) during the third week, and the learning/teaching sessions will begin the fourth week and continue through the end of the Institute.Throughout the program, students will have opportunities for one-to-one mentoring sessions for spiritual and vocational guidance. Members of the Community of Living Traditions will be available as resource persons. 

Working on Stony Point Center's one-acre farm is an integral experience in the Summer Institute. Participants are expected to join our farm crew in the fields for a minimum of two hours per day on three different weekday mornings. There are opportunities for interested participants to farm more than the minimum expectation. The farming component of Stony Point Center's Summer Institute is not designed to train individuals to become organic farmers, but to provide participants with the opportunity to introduce themselves to the land through agriculture and develop a relationship with the living beings they encounter there. Farming together also provides another opportunity for participants to converse with one another and process their experiences in the Institute.

 

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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. There will be opportunities to choose from a variety of available field trips to houses of worship and other relevant locations. 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. Applications will be accepted until all program slots are full. Only completed applications (including one letter of reference) will be considered.

 

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 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, 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. .

Testimonials

"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 2017

Photos from 2016

Photos from 2015

Photos from 2014