Dear Friends of Stony Point Center,
We have appreciated your well wishes, thoughts and prayers for Stony Point Center (SPC)to rebound during the COVID pandemic. We wanted to see each and every one of you again!
Our faith and hope led us to action over the summer. We supported our two farmers working to grow vegetables on Tuesday mornings. On Thursday afternoons, we operated a weekly farmstand to share the bounty of our harvest and Donna’s delicious homemade baked goods with our neighbors. Together and with contractors, we took on campus beautification projects and completed major renovations for the Gilmor Sloane House. We also began designs on a new website to reflect our hopeful new future.
Despite our positive outlook, COVID continued to rise throughout the summer with soaring numbers into the fall. We have not been able to re-open in the way we envisioned with small groups and well thought out COVID safety measures in place. As with other retreat and conference centers, indeed, the entire hospitality and travel industry, we struggled to bring in revenue. Stony Point Center is owned by the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). The PMA has suffered a substantial financial setback because of how hard the COVID pandemic hit our conference and retreat center. The PMA, our leadership and staff are heartbroken that further operational cuts will ensue. Although some unknowns remain, the next steps are clear to share.
This November, we will winterize all of our lodges and reduce our hospitality to a much smaller retreat operation. Only the Gilmor Sloane House and the Allison House will be open to small groups beginning January 2021. Sadly, this is an end to a season of large groups and gatherings. Stony Point Center will transition into a time of prayerful discernment by the PMA. The hope is with reduced expenses, the PMA will be able be to build a new future for the Center in a Post COVID era. Here are the most important implications of our new reality:
- All of us who remained as the staff will be laid off. This includes our co-directors, Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase. As was the case with our colleagues who lost their positions in June, we will receive standard separation packages from the PMA.
- The volunteer relationships with members of the Community of Living Traditions (CLT) has ended. We supported them through a process to form their own 501(c)3, nonprofit organization. They will continue to work for justice, full-inclusion, care for the earth and we hope they will thrive and be successful in their newly created structure.
- The CLT members have the option to live on the campus until March 2021.
- The PMA will conduct a search for a retreat manager who will live on campus and host a smaller guest program starting in January 2021.
- All of the main lodges and Evergreen, our main meeting spaces, dining room and staff offices, will be closed for the foreseeable future.
- The Gilmor Sloane and Allison House will be open January 2021 to guest groups of 20 or less under the new leadership of the PMA and new retreat manager.
- The open spaces, the Labyrinth, Art Space and Meditation Space, that help to define Stony Point Center, will be open January 2021 for guests to use.
Although we see this as an end of a season for our staff, we also know it is the beginning of discernment for the PMA. God’s plan will surely reveal itself in a new season. There is scripture that seems to resonate this period of time for us.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NRSV) I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14, NRSV)
We are proud of what we have accomplished at Stony Point Center. With God’s unwavering grace and guidance, we created a welcoming space of radical hospitality for guests of all backgrounds and religions. We imagined a multifaith community and brought it into fruition. We transformed the campus; we renovated buildings long neglected. We broke down walls of mistrust and built up relationships of confidence across lines of religious division. We nurtured the broader social justice movement and served as an open space for the unimaginable and good take shape. We enjoyed precious moments and memories with you, our guests. It was fascinating to watch how you became a part of our beloved community! We are grateful that you will be able to once again stay in Allison House, Gilmor Sloane and use our open spaces to do your important work – repair the world!
This transition and change are immensely hard on each one of us. We ask that you continue to hold us in your thoughts and prayers, as we will do the same for you and your organizations during this time of COVID. This too will pass; it is just a season.
We encourage you to have faith and hope for what Stony Point Center can become in a post COVID era. We ask that you watch what unfolds in the weeks and months to come by checking your inbox for Stony Point Center emails, engaging with Stony Point Center social media and looking out for the launch of the new website.
We do and will miss all of you! Be well, stay safe and may God bless you!
Sincerely and fondly,
The Stony Point Center staff