Leaders of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the denomination’s Stony Point Center in New York have reached agreement on a plan to move the conference center to financial sustainability by the end of 2017 ― including the development of milestones to measure progress toward the goal.
The agreement resulted from two months of intensive collaboration ― after a contentious Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting in February ― between PMA Executive Director Linda Valentine, Deputy Executive Director for Mission Roger Dermody and Stony Point co-directors Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase.
Approved by the PMA Board today (April 24), the agreement:
- Affirms Stony Point’s mission as consistent with the proposed “interreligious stance” (available on pc-biz) that will be considered by the upcoming 221st General Assembly this June in Detroit;
- Expresses appreciation to those who worked out the plan
- Directs them to establish milestones toward Stony Point’s financial sustainability over the next three years. “If the milestones are not met for two consecutive periods, staff will begin winding down the operation of Stony Point Center.”
- Dissolves “with deep gratitude” two groups that have worked on the Stony Point situation in recent years ― the Transition Task Team and the Evaluation Committee ― effective Aug. 15.
“We have been hard at work since early February to take on the process of reconciliation and to come back with a plan about how to move forward,” Rick Ufford-Chase told the PMA Finance Committee. “We’re doing well. The dynamics are positive though the picture is challenging.”
The first step in the process was determining if Stony Point’s mission ― “… modeling the love of Jesus, welcomes people of all faiths and nations to discern, discover, learn and lead. Together, bold dreamers experience the movement of God’s Spirit to create pathways to peace, nonviolence and justice” ―aligns with the mission emphases of PMA.
The approved agreement declares that “Stony Point Center, through its various ministries, including the (multifaith, residential) Community of Living Traditions, strives to nurture the multifaith movement for justice, peace and nonviolence and to strengthen the PC(USA) to offer a distinctive witness in that movement.”
With interfaith relations lodged in PMA’s Theology, Worship and Education (TWE) ministries, Stony Point Center is structurally moving there from Evangelism and Church Growth ministries. “It’s been a real joy for Stony Point Center to come under Theology and Worship,” said TWE Director Chip Hardwick. “As interfaith ministry has become more prominent it has made more sense to bring SPC under our interfaith office.”
The bottom line, of course, is whether Stony Point Center can achieve financial viability. In addition to the milestones that must be met in order for the center to go forward, the Ufford-Chases have been in talks with officials of the Synod of the Northeast. The synod has invited Stony Point to submit a two-year, $40,000 grant proposal to fund a staff position in marketing and fundraising.
“Unless we can get our mid-week occupancy up, there’s no way we can make this work ― that’s the nut we have to crack,” Rick Ufford-Chase said, noting that the current non-weekend “heads in beds” count is 22 percent.
“We have to increase that by at least 30 percent each year over the next three to five years,” he added. “Half my time right now is spent on that and it’s the reason why our first hire has to be a sales and marketing and funds development person.”
Kitty Ufford-Chase noted that marketing/development and program efforts “are all intertwined because its our program that makes people want to come to Stony Point.”
Valentine praised the agreement. “We’ve been muddled over the years and this plan is good,” she said, “because it brings clarity and helps us make an informed decision.”