One of the annual customs in Montreat that I most enjoy occurs beyond the view of many. At the fall meeting of our Board of Directors, we host a lunch and acknowledge the work anniversaries of long-term employees. Such recognition is given for every five years each staff member has served as a part of our team.
Obviously, the five- and ten-year anniversaries outnumber the others, but mention and applause is particularly warm for the longest-serving staff members. A good many have served for more than a decade, including Jane Bannerman, manager of the Montreat Store, who has surpassed forty consecutive years of staff service in Montreat. Simply put, Jane came to Montreat as a summer staffer in 1983 and stayed, serving in a variety of roles. (Coincidentally, I served on that same summer staff, giving me enough context to consider Jane’s longevity not only worthy of deep appreciation but also downright astonishing.)
We don’t have a corresponding annual event for summer staff members, however, and so today I acknowledge Ann Laird Jones, who this year celebrates her 30th summer in Montreat as a member of our team. Ann’s mother, Marilyn, began the program which bears the name of her daughter and Ann’s sister, Sally, in 1974. Ann joined Marilyn on staff and then succeeded her, over the years turning a family labor of love into a vital part of the conference center’s ministry.
Ann’s leadership has been felt elsewhere in the valley, including morning worship and our weekly summer AMT lecture series, and in her overall dedication to the arts in our community. It’s her role as the architect of Sally Jones Pottery, however, that draws the most notice and where she’s drawn so many into a relationship with clay and with Montreat. Longtime colleague Nancy Hyde says, “I’ve known Ann for 30 years from my first Worship & Music Conference when I discovered the pottery studio! Ann and the studio have been my safe place. From the moment you walk in the door and climb the stairs Ann is there to greet you like a long-lost friend. I have watched her treat students with great respect and encouragement and help them create their perfect ‘masterpiece’!”
Adds Lewis Galloway, a Sally Jones volunteer: “It’s a privilege to watch Ann welcome everyone who comes into the studio with enthusiasm and joy. She has a gift for teaching and encouraging both beginners and experienced potters. Ann helps all of us see the connection between theology and art and the spiritual dimension of the creative process.”
Indeed, it is a gift, this knack for welcoming and serving novices and experts and everyone in between, exemplary of the hospitality that we strive to provide. Like Jane and other long-serving staffers, Ann helps to build the social capital that plays such a role in binding this community together. You can support Ann and Sally Jones Pottery directly even if clay under your fingernails is not your thing. Just drop by the Currie Craft Center on July 4th and participate in the annual silent auction being held there from 2:00pm – 5:00pm. Even if you’re not bidding, don’t forget to thank Ann for all that she does and has done for this very special place.
The activities and offerings next week are too numerous to mention here, but I do want to call your attention to another gathering, in my experience the first of its kind in Montreat. On Wednesday, July 5th, from 5:00pm – 6:30pm, you’re invited to come and tour the site of what is to be Montreat’s first accessible trail. You’ll hear organizers’ plans for an exciting new hard surface trail perfect for wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers. They’ll be looking for you just inside the Gate and passing out free Pelican SnoCones to the first 75 visitors! Parking will be available in both the Gate Lot and Memorial Garden Lot. And who knows – perhaps in thirty years we will look back in appreciation on this labor of love as well!
President, Montreat Conference Center