The Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors voted Saturday, Oct. 4, not to renew the Conference's lease to operate the Craigville Retreat Center, bringing to a close the 55-year arrangement between the Conference and the Cape Cod facility when the current lease runs out at the end of 2015.
“This has been a long discernment by Conference leadership," said Conference Minister and President Jim Antal. "It’s been several months since the recommendation was made, and Board representatives and I have met with and listened to concerned parties on numerous occasions both in Craigville and Framingham. There’s no doubt that Craigville is a special place to many, many people. However, this vote continues the board’s commitment to align our resources and energy with our mission.”
Conference Treasurer Rick Lawrence, who has been involved in the discussions surrounding Craigville for several years, said it has been a “difficult task” to weigh fiscal responsibility against something that has been so meaningful even to a few churches But, he said, he feels it is the right decision given the Conference's mission.
Board members said they did not want to continue spending staff time and resources on operating Craigville, because doing so is not central to the mission of the Conference, which is focused on nurturing vitality and covenant among local churches. Fewer than 10 percent of Conference churches use Craigville, and 80 percent of Craigville users are not related to the UCC. The Board's Finance Committee recommended not renewing the lease.
President James A. Lane of the Christian Camp Meeting Association, which owns most of the retreat center buildings, public space and beach, said the CCMA "regrets" the decision by the Conference Board but said the ministry which began there in 1871 will "continue to thrive in this unique place of grace by the sea."
"The Craigville Retreat Center will continue to serve the thousands of persons from faith communities, schools, colleges, and nonprofit organizations who gather here each year. CCMA's mission is to provide opportunities for spiritual growth, worship, service, learning, fellowship, retreat and rest and will continue to pursue this mission through the Craigville Retreat Center," Lane said in a statement. "Anticipating the Massachusetts Conference's decision, CCMA has been exploring several management options with religious bodies and nonprofit organizations who share the inclusive ecumenical vision of its founders."
Antal and Associate Conference Minister Dawn Hammond met with the Craigville staff in August, and planned to meet with them again shortly. The Conference's intention is to continue to employ the 25-member staff through the end of 2015, at which point severance compensation would be paid in accordance with Conference personnel policies.
During the lead up to the vote, a number of people expressed a desire for the Conference to sponsor more retreats at Craigville, to make its operation more central to the Conference mission. But a recent study by an outside consultant said such programming would only be successful with a significant investment in facility upgrades and Conference staff devoted to developing and promoting multi-day programming, an investment that the Board judged was not feasible in this era of the life of the Conference.
Board has been gathering input for upcoming Craigville vote
Sept. 17, 2014
Conference may not renew lease of Craigville Retreat Center
July 23, 2014
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