View of Left Bank and Lake Susan with gazebo in the foreground.

Celebrating Renovations and Reopenings

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“If I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 

Isaac Newton

On Friday, June 7th, during the first square dance of the year, we will pause to celebrate the renovation and reopening of the Barn, Montreat’s longest serving facility for the conference center’s ministry of recreation. If you are there, you will see immediately some of the physical upgrades – to the surfaces and windows, to the sound system, to the bathrooms. You may notice another upgrade when you dance – the foundation has been strengthened. It is still the Barn, but it’s probably in the best shape of its long life.  

At the end of the day, however, projects like this are mostly about people. First, it is about the donors whose gifts have made the project possible. I want to offer special thanks, here in this space and again Friday night, for the lead support of Trish and Eddie Edwards and to a host of other contributors who gave so generously.  

I’m also thankful for those who have made the Barn a building worth renovating. Heath Whittle comes to mind. I never knew him, but for a generation of Montreaters, the name Heath Whittle remains synonymous with Montreat recreation. Each summer from 1949 through 1965, Coach Whittle drove up from Davidson College, where he served as a teacher and coach of athletics and physical education, to run the Clubs program here in Montreat. Each summer he would assemble a collegiate staff to serve as counselors and recreation leaders. Each summer he would bring his own brand of leadership, and even today his formative influence is felt on our programs and by many he knew and led.  

It was onto Coach Whittle’s shoulders that Larry Wilson and Glenn Bannerman climbed in the mid-1960s. From there they created, shaped, and advanced Montreat recreation in virtually every respect. Both men brought significant education and experience to their roles (as well as the gifts and talents of two large families). They worked together on some things, independently on others, grounding practical and pedagogical expertise in theological commitment. They launched new activities and improved others, making such a mark by the late 1970s that Montreaters may not notice major differences in the Montreat recreation of that era from Montreat recreation today. “Friday night at the Barn” (including the advent of the Stoney Creek Boys), the Montreat Campground, and the Fourth of July Parade are among the more obvious contributions, but the more significant legacy may be the thousands they taught, trained, and influenced – people who would lead activities across God’s church and beyond.  

Then there was Glenn’s own legacy of continuity, as he maintained his role as a caller and recreation leader at the Barn until his dying days. It is a tenure of leadership that may be unparalleled in our history as a conference center.  

The names above stand out in my memory, but countless others made key contributions to Clubs and recreation through the decades. More recent innovations have included dedicated staffing for environmental education, for music, and to better integrate children with special needs; and again, there are many other examples. Turns out, the practice of standing on shoulders has outlasted even Glenn.  

As we celebrate those who made the Barn’s renovation possible, I hope that each of you will also celebrate the prospect of future opportunities. Certainly, this future Barn will host traditional activities like square dances – Amen! – and host events and activities for God’s purposes that we have not yet imagined and many in between. In sum, I hope you will rejoice in the prospect that a renewed Barn will serve as a platform for memory AND ministry for generations to come. See you Friday night! 

Richard DuBose

Richard DuBose
President, Montreat Conference Center