As we approach the end of our fiscal year on April 30th, we are as usual doing our best to reach out and remind everyone to make their Montreat Fund gift in time. Making some of those calls this week got me thinking about Dorothy Allen, a longtime Montreater who passed away in January at the age of 99. Dorothy was an original donor to Montreat’s Patrons Fund in 1962, though she pointed out to me once that she was not an original Patron per se. Dorothy told me that she and her husband, Kirk, just couldn’t find the funds for tickets to that first Patrons dinner, but “we gave what we could and I helped set up the dining room for the occasion anyway.” I don’t think she ever missed another one.
Dorothy’s story reminds me that throughout Montreat’s history there have always been those whose leadership and generosity have given shape to this place and its mission and ministry. Fifty-nine years later the Patrons Fund has become the Montreat Fund, and some of those original donors are still proud to call themselves Patrons. From their loyalty, and from the generosity of those who join that legacy each year, Montreat remains the meaningful, restorative sacred space it is today thanks to each and every person who participates in the Montreat Fund.
Last April, the conference center experienced the single largest month of giving in the Montreat Fund’s history, propelling performance past $1 million dollars for the first time ever. Even as this year has been the conference center’s most difficult in a generation, that momentum has continued.
Why? Because, faced with the pandemic, our governing board directed us to stay open and online and active in service to the church. Because members made a commitment to support our staff so that we could be ready to return to normal ministry as soon as possible. And, perhaps most importantly, because Montreat donors responded in faith with their support, and continue to respond generously. Thanks be to God!
If you have not yet made a gift this year (since last April 30), or if you’ve never made a gift before, I encourage you to visit www.montreat.org/givenow. Whatever you may give, you can know that every dollar counts in support of what we do. Every gift is also a story, like Dorothy’s gift, that reflects a memory, a value, an act of faith in the ministry of this special place. Whether it be your first gift or your 59th, thank you for your consideration and for sharing your love of Montreat.
Last week’s account from Carol Steele in this space describing plans for the upcoming summer got a boost on Wednesday when Governor Roy Cooper laid out a timeline for lifting many pandemic restrictions in North Carolina. Noting the improving news in the state on various fronts and the fact that the vaccine is now readily available for those 16 and over, the governor believes that June 1 is a possible target date if current trends continue.
That was good news for those of us who have been planning and, as Carol says, waiting. It was in fact such good news that it left me wanting to manage some expectations for you as you contemplate a possible “normal” summer in Montreat. Yes, we hope it’s a normal summer as well, and yet, while we celebrate the good news as much as you do – maybe even more so – caution and care remain the watchwords as we contemplate the schedule for a return to full programing.
Yes, a full summer staff is on its way, and we are delighted that there will be much for them to do. Activities that were available last summer are of course expected to open. Our rangers and lifeguards will be ready to receive returning hikers and swimmers, and Ann Laird Jones reports that staff and volunteers of Sally Jones Pottery and the Currie Craft Center are actively planning on opening doors as they did in 2020, “safely, honestly, joyfully!” Clubs counselors will be leading children and youth in various activities around town once again, and returning conferences mean teams hard at work to engage our guests and conferees in Anderson Auditorium and elsewhere.
Still, things will be different. Masks, social distancing, and other safety precautions will remain prevalent, especially for groups under 16. Decisions on how to safely manage large public gatherings like square dances and parades have yet to be finalized. We’ll be sending you more details as the summer approaches.
In summary, the governor’s announcement yesterday was only good news for Montreat, for North Carolina, and for everyone hoping to be here in the cove in the coming months. Even as our staff and volunteers encounter the complexity of what lies ahead, one look back on the conversations we were having last April reminds us of just how far we have come together. It looks like we will in fact be together again, and together with you, soon enough.
Over the last two weeks, a task force appointed by our Board of Directors has hosted “listening sessions” with property owners and family members adjacent to the proposed site of the new lodge. Over two calls lasting more than five and a half hours, everyone attending both sessions agreed that all participants brought to the discussions a love of Montreat and a desire to discern what’s best for Montreat. While board members consistently affirmed that the current site remains the board’s preferred option for development, they listened intently and answered questions as they engaged in dialogue with neighbors. All agreed that issues around traffic, noise, and the protection of the environment were very important, and board members renewed their pledge to study these points seriously and invest in the design in ways that address neighbors’ concerns.
At the conclusion of both calls, neighbors remained opposed to the board’s desire to develop the site, and task force members were left to contemplate this input along with input collected from other Montreaters both locally and around the southeast. (The task force continues to read and review all email to the email@example.com inbox; More information about the lodge project can be found at montreat.org/new-montreat-lodge .)
At the close of the second listening session with neighbors, board member Ross Sloan noted that the time is coming for the task force and board members to agree on a schematic design proposal and submit it to the Town of Montreat for approval. This means that soon the conference center’s proposed lodge will enter a more public phase, an opportunity for everyone to see the plans in detail. Those plans will reflect, I believe, a good faith effort to incorporate the concerns of neighbors, and also will honor the board’s optimistic vision for the future of our mission and ministry. For the town, its citizens, and all those who love Montreat, the plan will reflect a shared desire to strengthen and advance our unique role as a gathering place for the transformation of God’s people.
More to come!
Montreat Conference Center