By Craig Smith
Bishop Tom and Ann Ely will be moving from Rock Point to Newfane, Vermont on June 15 as a step towards their next chapter. A careful and thorough search process for our next Bishop will soon culminate at our Electing Convention set for May 18. Bishop Ely officially retires after the September 28 consecration, but a time of farewells and celebrations is upon us for the fruits of our work together.
One major accomplishment of Bishop Ely’s tenure is the Partnership Campaign’s success in helping to build a sustainable future for Rock Point.
While building that future is still very much a work in progress, the process is off to a very strong start with close to two million dollars raised for projects.
We have had lots of surprises, changes and additions since launching the campaign:
1. Surpassing the Partnership Campaign goal enabled us to replace the farmhouse.
2. What started out as a modest repair of some portions of our trails morphed into a great partnership and a separate successful Rock Point and Arms Forest Coalition with the Burlington Parks Foundation, Lake Champlain Land Trust and the City of Burlington to improve and re-route the trail system and provide guided public access to Rock Point. We are one-third of the way done with the trails project and will complete it in 2019 and 2020.
3. We purchased the solar tracker meadow we had been leasing and now have income to reinvest in energy savings projects that will benefit both the planet and us, as well as contributing some income to help us take care of Rock Point.
4. We have created a business plan for our camp and conference center to generate income to help pay for our stewardship of Rock Point. Please help us spread word about these wonderful places of hospitality and spiritual refreshment.
5. Many new programs have emerged from our vision. These include: - a Solar Pollinator Meadow and associated educational program; - a Wisdom School and Monthly Wisdom Practice Circles launched through Rock Point Intentional Community members; - a Volunteer Program that includes Trail Stewards, Rock Point Center hosts, and Pollinator docents; - New partnerships with Lake Champlain Land Trust in two conservation easements and with Burlington’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront to repair and re-route trails on the east side of the bike path.
6. While our work here has progressed, the Burlington City Council passed a resolution in June 2017 which stated a goal of linking and conserving open spaces in Burlington. This has evolved into a network called Burlington Wildways. We are natural partners with the wider community in our shared missions to conserve land, provide
guided public access and educate through enjoyment. Ecological assessment tools confirm that Rock Point is an ecological treasure, one to be protected, conserved and enjoyed!
The Solar Orchard is being renamed as The Bishop Thomas C. Ely Solar Orchard and the universal access trail (scheduled to be built later in 2019) will be dedicated to Bishop Tom and Ann Ely. The trail will run from the old Institute Building clearing to the Outdoor Chapel and Sunset Cliff and will remind us of a passion both for inclusion and accessibility for all God’s people, a way that leads deeper and deeper into God’s reconciling love.
We know what a key catalyst Bishop Ely has been in helping us care for this holy place and open it as a welcoming sanctuary for the refreshment of body and soul. We are grateful for his presence and leadership which has helped us channel our offerings and care and set us on a good course.