Rolling Ridge creates Center for Spirituality and Leadership
July 09, 2015
Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center has marked another milestone in its evolution from a camp to a retreat center with the formation of its Center for Spirituality and Leadership.
Rolling Ridge Executive Director Larry Peacock, who in July 2015 marked his 10th anniversary at Rolling Ridge, said the new center grew out of the work of the ecumenical Program Committee.
The committee, Peacock said, had planned mostly day programs. Rolling Ridge’s “Day Apart” retreats are the foundation for the offerings of the new
The Center for Spirituality and Leadership will allow for the expansion of some programs – such as the upcoming Summer Peace Conference – and the creation of other longer-term, even multi-year programming.
A brochure on the Center for Spirituality and Leadership describes it this way:
“Through the Center, lay persons, religious and business professionals and clergy will find resources, programs and experiences that explore new patterns for leadership, new styles of spirituality, new ways of being faith communities, and new strength to bring peace and hope to our hurting world.”
The goal, Peacock said, is “the shaping and encouraging of spiritual leadership – within the church and among people outside the church who are tired of checking their spirituality at the door.”
In brainstorming about the new Center with groups representing many faiths, Peacock said, they asked: “How can we be a gift for spirituality and leadership in New England?”
The Center works in partnership with the New England Conference’s Spiritual Formation Initiative. Catherine MacGovern, Associate Executive Director of the Preachers’ Aid Society of New England, is co-chair of the Initiative.
“Around 10 years ago, the Spiritual Formation Initiative formed to start emphasizing passionate spirituality in our churches,” McGovern said, and to offer resources to support that. That was about the same time Peacock came onboard tasked with shifting Rolling Ridge’s direction.
Asked to define passionate spirituality, McGovern said: “What I think it means is taking spirituality out of a book and putting it into our hearts so we live out what we believe.”
The thinking, she said, shouldn’t be “I should be praying more,” but getting to a place where you are saying “I want to be praying more,” McGovern said, where “it’s starting to click.”
Members of the Spiritual Formation Initiative, which include Peacock, began meeting at Rolling Ridge and discovered that Rolling Ridge “was ideal place” to host the programs they were offering. People should know, McGovern said, that they can get nourishment from Rolling Ridge, not just for their churches, but to deepen their own spirituality.
Gwen White, who was honored at the 2015 Annual Conference with the Preachers’ Aid Society’s Lifetime of Discipleship Award, donated the $500 award to Rolling Ridge.
“When I heard that they were going to be transforming Rolling Ridge into a Center for Spirituality and Leadership, I said that’s where I would like my gift to go,” White said.
“Gwen, probably 20 to 30 years ago, saw a lack of people trained to lead retreats,” Peacock said, and started programs to train trainers; she was doing “a lot of work that is the precursor of what we’re doing now at Rolling Ridge.”
“There are many, many people in our Conference who have been in a retreat with Gwen White, and it is an incredible experience; it was always wonderful,” McGovern said, adding that White was leading retreats into her 80s.
Her retreat leadership touched a lot of people, Peacock said, either because White was leading the retreat herself or had trained the leader/s.
“I have been all over the country giving retreats and I have seen how hungry lay people, especially, are concerning their own life situation and ways in which they could improve themselves and deepen their faith,” White said.
Those attending retreats “come open and willing to explore, and leave in a different place then when they came; that’s something of my own heart and experience,” she said.
Recalling a time when Methodists had to use Catholic retreat centers – the only ones available in many places – White said the creation of a Center for Spirituality and Leadership at Rolling Ridge “just pleases me so much.”
“The whole reason for the Spiritual Formation Initiative is to keep spiritual growth and formation at the forefront,” McGovern said. “(Rolling Ridge) having a center for this seems to be … perfect.”