CINCINNATI – The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board voted April 26 to provide at least a year’s funding to Stony Point Center for capital improvements – and voiced its support of Stony Point as being an important ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The board’s Stony Point Sustainability Task Force had asked the board to approve spending $3 million over three years for deferred maintenance and capital improvements at Stony Point, a facility of more than 30 acres about an hour outside New York City.
That money, however, would have had to come from Presbyterian Mission Agency reserves – either capital reserves or unrestricted operating reserves – and some board members seemed hesitant to take so much from reserves at a time when the funds might be needed for other purposes.
So board member Marci Glass, a pastor from Idaho, suggested the idea of funding the project year-by-year.
The motion was amended to say that $650,000 in funding would be provided for the first year, and the board’s Resource Allocation and Stewardship Committee would consider the rest of the funding and the rest ($1 million each in 2019 and 2020; and $350,000 in 2021), in subsequent years. Molly Baskin, who chairs the task force, said the money is needed for everything from roof repairs to bathroom renovations.
The board also voted to hold one of its meetings at Stony Point by spring 2020 and to invite partners from other PC(USA) agencies to do so as well.
As task force members spoke of their exposure to the work being done at Stony Point – including the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith intentional community of 22 Christians, Jews and Muslims, and a focus on peacemaking and inclusion – board members began to speak of Stony Point as a place that could serve as sort of an incubator lab for denominational commitments.
Kathy Maurer, a board member from Michigan who served on the task force, said, “I had never heard of Stony Point” before starting this work – but she described how a Muslim woman she met there helped her expand her sense of what Christians can learn about their own faith by considering the practices and teachings of Islam.
Chip Low, a board member from New York state, said he’d taken middle school students to Stony Point to learn about food and farm justice issues.
And Shannan Vance-Ocampo, who also served on the task force, said her mid council work has been shaped by her connections with Stony Point – including, for example, acknowledgements of historic indigenous people’s connection with the land.
Ken Godshall, chair of the board, pointed out that several years ago, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s relationship with Stony Point was strained.
The report (P.004 Stony Point Conference Center) states that “Stony Point Center has been the subject of some consternation and controversy for several years” – expected to be revenue-producing, but losing money most years and requiring funding from the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s diminishing unrestricted reserves to keep it running.
The board decided in 2014 not to separately incorporate Stony Point, and to set a series of financial benchmarks Stony Point was expected to make for 2014 through 2017.
Since then, finances have improved, and occupancy at the center has increased. In 2014, the Stony Point management team hired the Harrell Hospitality Group as a consultant, which recommended a series of changes in everything from operations to marketing to the software used to manage bookings. The average occupancy rate now is at about 45 percent, up from 22 percent several years ago, and with a goal of reaching an average occupancy rate of 63 percent in the next three years.
Godshall described those improvements as “quite an accomplishment.”