Frequently Asked Questions about Craigville Retreat Center

7/23/2014

Q.  Doesn’t the Mass. Conference of the UCC own Craigville?
A.  No.  Almost all the buildings at Craigville, as well as the grounds and the beach, are owned by the Christian Camp Meeting Association.
 
Q.  What is the Christian Camp Meeting Association (CCMA)?
A.  CCMA is nonprofit organization  founded in 1871 to facilitate camp meetings of the Christian denomination (one of the four predecessor denominations of the UCC).  It has retained a distinct corporate identity ever since.  CCMA is a voluntary membership organization; many, but not all, members are people who own homes in the village of Craigville. 
 
Q.  If the CCMA started out running camp meetings, where did the village and retreat center come from?
A.  The CCMA bought 160 acres of woodlands on which people initially erected tents for camp meetings.  Over time, a permanent Tabernacle was built, and individual families built cottages on their tent sites. Larger buildings were built on the sites of communal cooking, dining and hotel tents.
 
Q.  What  is the connection between the Conference and the Retreat Center?
A.  In 1960, the CCMA invited the Conference to lease the public buildings at Craigville and develop a retreat center.  The Conference has done so ever since.
 
Q.  Does the Conference make any money by running Craigville Retreat Center?
A.  No.  Any surpluses from Craigville are used to cover other year’s losses, or put back into Craigville operations.  This has been the agreement with CCMA since 1995.
 
Q.  Does it cost the Conference money to run Craigville Retreat Center?
A.  Since 1995, not directly.  The Conference has a reserve fund to cover losses at Craigville, which is replenished by Craigville surpluses.  However,  the Conference invests significant staff and Board time in supporting and overseeing Retreat Center operations.
 
Q.  Does the Conference  own any property at all at Craigville?
A.  Yes, the Conference owns two buildings:  the house in which the Director lives, and the cottage known as Minnie’s Seaside Rest.
 
Q.  Why is the Finance Committee of the Board recommending that the Board end this lease relationship?
A.   The overarching reason is that the contribution of the Craigville Retreat Center to the mission of the Conference seems limited, so it is difficult to justify the resources which are put into it.  More specific reasons include:
  1. Interest among our churches in using Craigville has declined steadily for at least 20 years.  In 1995 there were 80 MACUCC-related retreats at Craigville; in 2013, there were 34.
  2. The vast majority of current Craigville usage (approximately 80 percent) is by groups and persons whose only relationship to the UCC is their use of Craigville.
  3. Over the past ten years, the Board of Directors has had to cut staff many times due to budget constraints.   In so doing, the Board has attempted to protect and preserve the core mission of the Conference:  to nurture local church vitality and covenant to make God’s love and justice real.  Going forward, it is crucial for the Board to maintain flexibility about staff assignments in order to continue to emphasize core ministries.
Q.  Couldn’t Craigville Retreat Center be more effectively used to carry out Conference mission?
A.  The Finance Committee has thought long and hard about this, and sought outside expertise to assist them.  During 2010, the Board of Directors and the CCMA jointly engaged Run River Consulting, nationally-known and highly-regarded specialists in nonprofit retreat and conference centers.
  1. Their in-depth study indicated that the retreat center could potentially provide more service in support of Conference mission – but that this would require significant organizational change, and the investment of additional resources, on the part of both organizations. 
  2. For the MACUCC, additional staffing would be required for one-on-one outreach to pastors, market research, data analysis, and program development and implementation.  And, it would be many years before anticipated additional retreat income might be expected to cover the cost of upgraded staffing.
Another reason that the Finance Committee doubts that it is realistic to expect the Craigville Retreat Center to be more used by Conference churches and programs is that it is expensive.  It is a continual challenge to keep rates low enough for our churches to afford, while paying staff adequately and meeting rent obligations to CCMA. 
 
Q.  Does the Annual Meeting need to vote in order to end the lease?
A.  No, the Board of Directors has the authority to do this. However, if the Board were to recommend selling the two Conference-owned buildings at Craigville, this would require Annual Meeting action.
 
Q.  If the Board of Directors votes to end the lease, what will happen to the staff at Craigville?
A.  Staff at Craigville would continue to be employed by the Conference through the end of the lease term on December 31, 2015, at which time severance compensation would be paid in accordance with Conference personnel policies.
 
Q.  If the Board of Directors votes to end the lease, will this mean the end of Craigville Retreat Center?
A.  Although there are no guarantees, your Finance Committee does not believe so, and certainly hopes not.  The leadership of the Christian Camp Meeting Association has consistently voiced their intention to explore other management options, in order to continue to operate a retreat center on the site.
 
Q.  Will my church still be able to use the Craigville Retreat Center if the lease is not renewed?
A.  It is the expectation of the Finance Committee that Craigville Retreat Center would continue to be available for use by MACUCC churches under new management.
 
Q.  What about MACUCC Confirmation Retreats?  Would they still take place at Craigville?
A.  Currently, Confirmation Retreats take place at several sites, with decisions about siting based on availability of space, cost, and accessibility to churches in various parts of the state.  Although siting of retreats is not a Board decision, the Finance Committee expects that Craigville will continue to be available  for Confirmation Retreats.


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