October in
This Month in Montreat Update from
Richard DuBose
Greetings! In the effort to keep you informed on the latest happenings at the conference center, I have three stories to share with you as the leaves begin to reveal their many colors this fall in Montreat. 

The first story is the program story. It begins with conferences, of course, as we continue to blend virtual, hybrid, and in-person gatherings as we are able. 

  • “Rethinking Evangelism” (planned in collaboration with the Presbyterian Mission Agency) will take place October 12-14. 
  • On October 18 we’ll host “Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: A Virtual Program with John Philip Newell.” 
  • Our Crossroads Antiracism Training event will take place as scheduled October 23-25. 
  • Our annual winter gathering of College students will adapt as well, as we offer campus ministry retreats with lodging discounts and retreat curriculum. 

Gatherings and activities for all of these events primarily will be virtual, with some limited on-campus participation. In sum, in spite of COVID-19 and all its effects, we continue to gather people in service to our mission. 

As we peek ahead to the summer of 2021, we are planning optimistically, even though we are privy to no secret information on the likely progress of COVID-19 – we possess no crystal ball. We have, however, discovered a great capacity this year among our staff and all of our critical volunteers to work a plan on faith and adapt as necessary. We are moving forward, therefore, with hopeful confidence that next June will be met with a return to normal programming. 

The second story is the financial story, held here on a rather complicated spreadsheet that our leadership team monitors with a daily reverence. Revenue this year has come from a variety of sources. We look back with gratitude on the number of churches who participated in our online summer programming. That program revenue, combined with strong gift revenue from individuals and churches and the loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, has helped immensely. We’ve also experienced some hospitality revenue resulting from guest Sabbath experiences at Assembly Inn, and our endowment’s performance in the market has held up well thus far. 

Meanwhile, we have reduced expenses substantially. Like most non-profits, personnel represents our largest annual budget expense, and so we have trimmed across the staff through salary reductions, and a hiring freeze. While these steps have been difficult and working conditions remain challenging for all of us, staff support and morale remain high. Along with the general canceling and postponement of programs and lower operational costs, these steps have helped us reduce our overall expenses year-to-date by around 60 percent. 

Despite these savings, we have had to cover additional cash needs from several sources in addition to the PPP loan we received in the spring. Those sources have included reserves built up from budget surpluses, as well as some significant gifts. (No permanently restricted endowment funds are affected.) 

The use of reserves and gifts for the purpose of covering operational needs is not something either our Board or staff takes lightly. We are currently working on a plan for a development effort to restore whatever reserves we may need during this period. If you love Montreat, count on hearing more from us about that. Meanwhile, as we move further into the current fiscal year and begin planning for the next one, we monitor the relief talks in Washington, D.C. as well as the ongoing guidance of government and medical authorities about meeting spaces, lodging, and workplace safety. The situation evolves by the day.

I’ll close with a good news story. This month we learned that the conference center is to receive a grant of $995,500 from the Lilly Endowment which will be used over the next five years to grow and expand the scope of our congregational vitality programming. As you may know, in recent years we have increasingly focused on developing new initiatives that promote congregational vitality (young adult ministry, stewardship). Part of Lilly’s “Thriving Congregations” initiative, this grant is the first the conference center has ever received from the Lilly Endowment. While the grant is restricted and doesn’t directly relieve the financial picture outlined above, we have labeled this as a sign of the good work already happening in Montreat and of the promise of more good work to come in service of the church. 

Were I asked to title this collection of stories today, I’d be tempted to choose “From the Rollercoaster…” Such is life for the conference center in these days of COVID. In truth, however, that title wouldn’t fit, because our overall perspective here remains upbeat. Amid our own challenges, and the even greater challenges that many others face, we look behind us and around us and recognize so many blessings, and evidence abounds that more good tidings are on the horizon. Thanks be to God!

More to come,

News Corner
Youth and Young Adult Rollout Week starts next week on Monday October 12! Stay tuned on our social media channels for 2021 information for Middle School Conference and Youth Conference and College Conference 2022.

Thanksgiving at Montreat is happening this year! Stay with us in Assembly Inn and have a meal with your family or grab and go with a prepackaged Thanksgiving meal from our kitchen. Reserve your room or meal quickly! There are a limited number of rooms and meals and reservations for the all-inclusive Thanksgiving package closes November 6.

College Conference 2021 has been postponed to 2022. There will be special Assembly Inn and Lodge rates for groups still wishing to have a retreat in Montreat this winter. Learn more during our Youth and Young Adult Rollout Week next week.

Healthy Congregations, scheduled to take place this month, has been postponed to April 2021.

The Montreat Store is open Tues.-Sat. 12:00pm-5:00pm. You can also call 828.669.5298 to place an order.
Come to the Mountains for Fall!
Sabbath Weekend Getaways
September 2-December 13

Our Sabbath Getaway is back! Come to Montreat for special sabbath rates in the historic Assembly Inn. This special &100/night rate includes lodging as Assembly Inn and meals (additional cost) in the Galax Dining Room. We will be operating at reduced capacity and providing guidelines for guests based on guidance and requirements from Buncombe County and the state.
Participate this Month
Online. Explore your own unique recipe for spiritual practices which sustain you in this four week online course with Columbia Theological Seminary.
Rethinking Evangelism | October 12-15
Online. Registration is open! This three-day virtual event will be designed for church leaders and congregational members to reconsider what effective evangelism might look like in their particular neighborhoods and communities. 
Online. Celebrated author and teacher, John Philip Newell, will give us a preview of his forthcoming book Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul. The presentation will be followed by a shared online meditation as well as the opportunity to submit questions and comments to the moderator of our livestream gathering, some of which John Philip will be able to respond to during the one-hour session.
In person and online options. This Crossroads antiracism training will specifically address the political challenges facing the church in light of how the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the acute structural inequities of the USA and their impact on communities of color, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Immigrant communities.
Looking to Winter and 2021
Please note some events have been cancelled or rescheduled. If you do not see your event listed, go to our full event calendar and find your event for more information.
Thanksgiving at Montreat | November 25-29, 2020

CTS Spiritual Formation | January 4-29, 2021

April 5-8 2021

Worship and Music| June 20-25 and June 27-July 2, 2021

Women's Connection 2021| August 13-15, 2021

Fall Craft Week 2021| September 26-October 1
Montreat Moment
Sunlight illuminating the prayer walk.
Ready for Amazon Prime Day?
You can make a difference while you shop Amazon Prime Day deals on October 13 & 14. Simply shop at this link or with AmazonSmile ON in the Amazon Shopping app. Be sure to select "Mountain Retreat Association" as your charity of choice.
Consider a Gift to Support
Montreat's Continuing Operations
While much has changed in our world over the last few months, what hasn’t changed is the generosity and partnership of those who love Montreat. As countless programs have been made virtual and hospitality revenues have diminished, we are still able to provide opportunities to encounter God thanks to gifts to the Montreat Fund. In our time of need, these provide vital support for wilderness, recreation, facilities, and other ministries. Thank you to all who continue to support Montreat - with time, money, prayers and more - during this time.
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