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Board gives solid support to Stony Point Vision Plan

Plan calls for nearly $10.7 million investment over 10 years

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Elise Bates Russell, architectural consultant with Run River Enterprises, speaks to the Presbyterian Mission Board inside Stony Point Center’s Meditation Space. (Photo by Rich Copley)

STONY POINT, New York — The Stony Point Center will get at least the initial portion of the cash infusion it needs to become the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s (PMA) laboratory for becoming a Matthew 25 church.

The PMA Board voted nearly unanimously late Friday afternoon to approve a three-step implementation plan, the first steps of a near-$10.7 million proposal to modernize the retreat and conference center along the Hudson River, an hour north of New York City and the urban ministry opportunities there, and help it fulfill a vision as a place where community is created, guests are transformed through educational opportunities, hospitality is provided and the church becomes its truest self.

“It feels like we have real partners on the board and the staff for trying to bring about a new day, a new vision,” said Rick Ufford-Chase, a former General Assembly moderator and for the past 11 years the co-director of Stony Point Center along with his wife, Kitty. “The 10-year plan doesn’t scare us. It’s going to be fun.”

“It’s the reward for those years of hard work, the possibilities that are before us and before the PMA being more integrated into the vital work of bringing about the beloved community,” Kitty Ufford-Chase said. “It will involve difficult questions and tough conversations, and we need a good place for that. We have been and we want to be that place.”

The first steps include an estimated $220,000 for new staff positions at Stony Point Center and $75,000 for a study to determine whether the $10.3 million in proposed capital improvements can be raised.

Three phases are proposed for the capital campaign. The first includes creation of a village green, lodge renovation and the installation of a commercial laundry and solar power.

Phase 2 includes designing Cairncroft, the proposed replacement for Evergreen Hall, where meals are served and meetings are held, as well as the completion of technical studies and additional landscaping.

In the final phase, expected to be completed within 10 years, Cairncroft will be constructed and Maple Lodge  renovated, if needed.

The co-director of Stony Point Center, Rick Ufford-Chase, helps lead a tour of the grounds. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Before voting, the board toured Stony Point Center’s grounds. The tour leaders were the co-directors and Elise Bates Russell, architectural consultant with Run River Enterprises, which wrote the project’s Vision Plan.

Rick Ufford-Chase pointed out completed work and work that’s still underway, including a $35,000 portable machine that manufactures metal roof panels — the final building was being re-roofed during Friday’s tour — and 40 Adirondack-style chairs constructed by volunteers from materials made from milk cartons and spread around the grounds in order to facilitate conversation.

Stony Point Center has 90 guest rooms and 180 beds. When the renovation is complete, each guest room will have a private bathroom. Most lodges currently have community bathrooms and showers.

Elise Bates Russell, architectural consultant with Run River Enterprises, answers questions during a tour of the grounds. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Bates Russell said the proposed village green will help guests build community. “I heard some of you out here (Thursday) night at 10 o’clock. There were some of you out here building community,” she said.

Lodge renovation will include attention to what she called “front-porch hospitality.” Renovated lodges will have more glass “so you can see what you’re going into,” she said.

Cairncroft is envisioned as a welcome center that could feature a sensory garden, a dining space that encourages fellowship and perhaps a showcase for art. It will also have modern meeting spaces.

The Meditation Space is one of the most recognized sights on the Stony Point Center property. (Photo by Rich Copley)

The Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III, director of Theology, Formation and Evangelism who’s been chairing the Stony Point Roundtable, told the board he’s most excited about “the opportunity to truly drill down into what it means to be a Matthew 25 church, helping congregations, dismantling racism and eradicating poverty.”

Tipping his cap to board member the Rev. Kevin Johnson, who led worship Friday morning, and the Rev. Denise Anderson, who followed worship with a conversation on racism and Matthew 25, Jones said that “what we experienced this morning, y’all — that was church. We can reclaim the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Part of reclaiming the gospel,” Jones said, “is breaking up the foundations that are built on evil, and the only way to do that is to meet, eat and go to a place that’s different from home. That’s a pilgrimage, being with people who understand Scripture in a different way. I believe this can be a place of leadership transformation across the church.”

“One thing I have learned is that the church has been about taking risks,” Jones said. “Going forward we need a space where we can take risks, trying things that may or may not work.” He said Stony Point Center could become the PMA’s Research and Development facility, “where we are exploring what it means to include all people at the table.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, speaks to the PMA board about the future of Stony Point Center. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“This is a gift we have in our hand,” said the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “It’s important for us to steward this and use it for the church at large.”

Stony Point Center “has the potential to be a place of transformation as we live into our vision,” Moffett said. “We need a space where we can help folks come into this kind of experience.”

Rick Ufford-Chase said Stony Point Center staff “can see ourselves in Diane’s vision.” Stony Point staff, he said, have “dedicated everything they have to turning this around. We couldn’t have done this without staff and volunteers.”

Kitty Ufford-Chase, at right, helps lead a tour of Stony Point Center. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“They have helped create what this place is now, a place that welcomes and provides space for people who don’t have it,” Kitty Ufford-Chase said, citing the Community of Living Traditions, an intentional community of Christians, Muslims and Jews who live and work with others on the property who share an aspiration for making the world a better place.

“We think Diane really gets that,” her husband said, “and we are really pleased to be part of that effort.”

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