Abode Village View, Summer Appeal Edition
Letter from Incoming Board Chair – Gabriel Steadman
Dear Friends of the Abode,
Less than three years ago the Abode was on the verge of collapse. After 40 years of existence as both a spiritual and physical home to people, belief and practice, the Abode I cherish and hold in my heart was fast approaching becoming little more than a halcyon memory.
I am pleased to report that the Abode is no longer on the verge of collapse. However, as pleased as I am to report there is no imminent threat to the Abode’s survival it would be disingenuous to pretend that all is well. Simply put The Abode needs your financial help. It cannot survive on programs and residents alone. Nor should it.
The Abode’s success rests upon those who have the privilege of living there and who contribute to its mission by their presence; the programs the Abode offers which encompass everything from Message classes and other Inayati Order and Sufi teachings and teachings from other traditions we hold sacred, to unrelated and unaffiliated but still kindred groups who rent our facilities; and from donations.
If the buildings are full of residents there is no room for programs, and even then the fees it would require each person to pay would put the privilege of living at the Abode out of reach of many. If the Abode puts the emphasis on programs, then the quality of life for residents, as well as the number who can be accommodated, is less than it could or should be. I cannot imagine the Abode as a success without a vibrant residential community or without putting on programs. After 42 years of watching the ebb and flow of this dynamic, and the tension between the two, it is abundantly clear that the missing element is donations. This is an area the Abode has, for a variety of reasons, always been anywhere from lackluster to reticent about. That must change if the Abode is going to survive. We cannot continue as we have been.
Since serving on the Abode Steering Committee, and then transitioning to the Board of Trustees with the blessings of the Inayati Order, I have learned a great deal. One of the things I have learned, which must be stated, is that over the years people have given to the Abode, some a substantial amount, and that these gifts have not always been acknowledged, accounted for, or used for their intended purpose. This has had a detrimental effect, causing those who do donate to give less, or stop altogether. Additionally, there are many who live, have lived, visit, worship, and attend programs who give nothing at all. While I can only ask that people give as generously as they can, I can promise that as Abode Board Chair there will be transparency and accountability for that which is given. I hold both my sacred duty and my fiduciary duty to the Abode, and all of you who make up our Abode Community, in equal esteem.
I know many of you are concerned about the Abode’s future and view with sorrow the leaving of Pir Zia and family, and with them the Inayati Order. At the same time there is excitement for and about their new home in Richmond and the possibilities for spreading the Inayati message further and wider than can be accomplished here at the Abode. I am also sorry to see them go, but also excited for the Abode as it transitions from one incarnation to another. I know this sacred space has been entrusted to us for a higher purpose and after over 40 years on the former Mt. Lebanon South Family Shaker Village, we have created our own village, with enduring principles and beliefs that continue to attract seekers of all faiths. It is a great honor for me to be part of this enterprise and humbling to be the new chair. It has been a long journey since first arriving at the Abode on a snowy February in 1982. During the intervening years I have witnessed the Abode go through many transitions, met many people, watched lovers become united to their beloved, and to The Beloved, children grow to have children of their own, and dear friends and fellow Abodians pass on into the next life.
Pir Vilayat’s vision of a community continues to endure, and like the land upon which it sits, has been entrusted to us for a higher purpose. I will do my best to be a good steward and guardian for the Abode and maintain that which has been entrusted to all of us. The Abode is much more than a place to live, or take a class, or attend a program or retreat, or a walk in the woods. It is a place where we live, learn, work, and worship; a place where we are born, grow, and die; a place where we find ourselves and get lost in the ecstasy of union. It is a special place and one worth keeping. I will do what I can to keep the lights burning, the doors open, and provide food for those who are hungry. We have all benefited from the Abode by taking spiritual, emotional and physical nourishment from that which it has to offer. Now it is time to give back.
What I need to do this is your partnership, and all I ask is your help. Please, do more than consider becoming an Abode Ambassador, actually become one. Please, do more than consider donating to the Abode’s annual appeal, actually donate. Many hands make for light work, and the Abode needs many hands.
In love and service,
Letter from our Executive Director – Al Bellenchia
Dear Friends of the Abode:
As I was preparing this note, I was reflecting on how our campus provides a welcoming sanctuary to such a beautifully diverse multitude of people, and what a blessing it is to serve them all:
- Individuals and groups who participate in an ever-growing variety of programs and events;
- Sufis and seekers who come here for spiritual connection and education;
- Retreatants, who desire to connect with their inner light;
- Visitors, who dine with us, commune with nature in our fields and forest, visit our farm or hike our Mountain;
- Volunteers, who give service to the Abode and its guests in forms both physical and spiritual;
- Residents who chose to live (and often work) here and contribute a diversity of capabilities, viewpoints and strengths that make our days here richer, and
- Staff, without whom we cannot serve well all of the above.
As you have seen, today we kicked off our annual Summer Appeal. Your support is needed to help the Abode continue to provide a home for this community that each of you are a meaningful part of. Our goal is to raise $100,000 before the Appeal ends on September 30.
From the vantage of my 1st anniversary of joining the Abode as Executive Director, the past year has been one of progress through a continuing transition with progress made on many needs, including:
- More frequent and consistent communications with our community via our weekly and month Village View newsletters, Town Hall meetings and other forums.
- New hires to hold and manage critical areas, such as Guest Services, Ecology, Kitchen and Mountain Camp.
- A new logo and orientation as an “Eco-Sufi Village.”
- A new Mission Statement that embraces our spiritual heritage and looks confidently to a future open to possibilities.
- New programs and services designed to call more people to the Abode more often, and provide a path to operating sustainability.
Through your support, much has been accomplished. Thank you.
The challenges that we face, however, continue to be considerable. As we continue our journey as a self-sustaining, independent operation, we need to:
- Bring in more and more diverse programs, to offset the loss of Inayati Order programs that will be conducted here following their move to Richmond.
- Create a vibrant retreat capability that fully addresses the opportunities to grow that function in a region where many retreat centers are thriving.
- More effectively utilize the structures and facilities on campus to provide better services to all who come to the Abode, and
- Make us known to more people who seek what the Abode offers.
In July, we secured a low-cost credit facility that will allow us to begin addressing many of the items noted above, and we look forward to sharing with you updates on specific initiatives during the course of the Appeal.
How you can help: We need you to invest with us to make this capital work as intended. Your donations to our Summer Appeal will help fund operating needs as we build new programs and services to replace what has left or what is in transition. This will allow us to put the credit facility to work in areas that will be investments in our future:
- More accessible buildings,
- More community space,
- A Welcome and Heritage Center,
- A center for Sufi studies and retreat, and
- A campus as beautiful, vibrant and welcoming as its people.
Please give to our Summer Appeal today.
With love and in gratitude,
Abode Weekly Village View
Monday August 7
– 8:00pm Storytelling, music, and song of “My Heart’s Song” with Amin David Dawdy – Quddus (Meditation Hall)
Tuesday August 8
– 6:00pm Community Dinner – Razzaq (Rezak) Dining Room
Wednesday August 9
– 7:00pm Healing Class and Circle with Regina Jemila Walther and Nizam Ash – Abode Library
Thursday August 10
– 6:00pm Community Dinner – Razzaq (Rezak) Dining Room
– 7:00pm Message Class – Quddus (Meditation Hall)
Sunday August 13
– 11:00am Universal Worship with Nur Gale – Quddus (Meditation Hall)
– 12:30pm Sunday Brunch – Razzaq (Rezak) Dining Room