The Living, Breathing Spirit of Montreat

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Written by Montreat Conference Center’s 2023 Marketing Assistant, Molly Fore

Six months ago, I had never heard of Montreat, North Carolina, let alone Montreat Conference Center. It wasn’t until the head of my department in college forwarded an email to me about a summer staff position that I heard of such a place. Upon reading the email, I was shocked to find out that Montreat was not a town in my humid, yet comfortable home state of Georgia, but rather is a small community nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. I felt stuck by the stagnancy and familiarity of home and happened to be in desperate need of professional job experience, so I took a leap of faith and applied. 

In the days leading up to my departure from home and my arrival in a foreign and unknown land, I found myself to be avoidant. I waited until mere hours before I left for my ten week long journey to pack. (Not a good idea.) I am a creature of habit and the only thing I knew about Montreat was from a Google image search. When I arrived, I quickly discovered that Montreat was not what I was expecting.  I was met by warm smiles and unfamiliar terms. I didn’t know what ‘rock hopping’ is or that ‘B Dub’ doesn’t stand for Buffalo Wild Wings. I didn’t know that Montreat is a living, breathing spirit inside of each and every person that steps foot past the stony gate. I didn’t know that Montreat is a tradition to be passed down through generations.  

In my three years of college so far, I learned that I didn’t want to be a starving artist. I chose to study graphic design, photography, and marketing simply because I didn’t want to go down the path of unemployment. In school I was going through the motions of what it means to be a designer, an artist. I came here with the vague idea that I possessed some semblance of artistic talent. Upon my arrival, I realized I have much to learn. Learning is a beautiful thing and being humbled by your own inability, I found, is not something to shy away from, but to wholly embrace. My job as Marketing Assistant has given me the opportunity to learn under both creative and professional mentors. The critiques I receive are priceless lessons that I can take in to become a better artist, designer, and marketer. My skills that I have obtained and honed in my weeks here have given me not only experience in my desired career field, but a reignited passion for what was once a thoughtless decision on my major application papers. As a photographer, it brings me joy to see the smiling faces of families when they realize that their moments in Montreat have been immortalized by our very own Nikon D5500. To see my skills be used in a way that brings joy and reflects on people’s fond memories of this community gives me a sense of purpose in the work that I do.  

In my time here in Montreat, I’ve met and interviewed many new faces. I recently met with another Summer Staffer that works in The Montreat Store named Kylee Lary. It didn’t take long to realize we had similar perspectives as Northern-rooted Midwesterners, (as I had grown up in Illinois and she had traveled to Montreat from her home in Michigan). We talked about how the welcoming nature and smiling faces are so unlike the cold, stoic nature of people from the places we called home and how the lush, green mountains are a stark contrast from our usual suburban neighborhoods. Kylee seemed so comfortable and familiar with Montreat that it shocked me to find out this was also her first Summer here.  Although I had a list of questions I had intended to ask her, I drifted off for a moment to ask why she would travel so far for Montreat. She answered, “I wanted to get away from home and experience something new. I had come here before for a college conference, and I realized something about Montreat was different.” Kylee is right, Montreat is different. From the Norman Rockwell-esque Fourth of July celebrations and the quaint big circle mountain dances in the dimly lit barn; there’s nothing quite like this strange place.  

The mission statement of the Conference Center states, “We gather people to experience God’s transforming power and inspire love for the world.” In my time working here I’ve felt the transforming nature of this community. If you have not experienced the silent whisperings of the creek or the booming chorus inside Anderson; then I would say come take a moment, step back, and experience the simplicity and joy that God has blessed us with. I’ve felt the outpour of love and devotion as I have photographed worship, I’ve seen the way Clubs counselors protect and care for the children, and I’ve seen the endeavors of all staff here who serve the same purpose: to guarantee that all who step foot in Montreat feel the love and compassion of God and his children. Being a Summer Staffer has taught me the meaning of living in joy. I didn’t expect to be happy to wake up at 7:30 am Monday through Friday to go work, but here I am. Being in Montreat has made me feel small, in the best and most important way. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than my small town in Georgia and life is so much more vibrant when you live in joy and for the joy of others. My job has introduced me to people from all corners of Montreat and I realized why people stay. They stay because they love it, they love the people, and they love the people they become through the power of this place. I am a skeptic, a pessimist, and most definitely an introvert; so for those of you who are like me, take the leap of faith. Even a person like me found a place for myself here, so again I say take a chance, I promise you won’t regret it.  

Molly Fore
Marketing Assistant, Summer 2023