Dear Center Family and Friends,
Jai Meher Baba! We send you love and gratitude. The great blessing we share, Meher Spiritual Center, continues to hold His promised Presence. It remains a place of rest and renewal, and it flourishes, in this complex and challenging world, with the care and devotion that each of you brings when you come to the Center, and with the support you provide through your donations, your time, and your sustaining involvement. In this 2016 (how can that be?!) Winter Newsletter, many voices have contributed---staff, volunteers, Board members---to share highlights of the past year, and a glimpse of the year to come.
First, though, a few voices from the past, because they are so rich and reminding. At the end of the first year after Elizabeth Patterson's passing, thirty-five years ago, Jane Haynes, who succeeded Elizabeth as President of the Center, wrote, in perhaps the Center's first official newsletter: "This past year has been marked by an outpouring of love and remembrance of Elizabeth Patterson, our founder. Her memory is a constant inspiration for all connected with the Center." And Jane then quoted a resolution adopted by the Board of Directors at that time, which included the following: "Since its inception, Elizabeth has been the instrument through which Meher Baba has guided the Meher Spiritual Center. Through every trial, she maintained the poise of true spirituality, the humor of simple humility, and the love of a pure heart. Our words can never fully express our appreciation of her great discipleship, or the profound privilege that we have had to learn from her example." And at the end of Jane's newsletter, she quoted Elizabeth directly: "Remember, it is Baba who does all here..."
Special Programs Last Year
All year: Wendy Connor, Bill LePage, Larry Karrasch and Tom Riley all gave afternoon talks when they were able to and in town, Bill and Wendy most frequently.
February: Tex Hightower, guest speaker for Baba's Birthday; an entertainment program the next night
March: Naosherwan Anzar, guest speaker
April: Shridhar Kelkar, guest speaker, Chairman of the Trust in India
May: “The Audubon Connection”, a play by Filis Frederick, directed by Louise Bower and Bryan West
From May to October, Bill LePage gave numerous evening talks in the Meeting Place.
June: Youth Sahavas
July: Vinod Khilnani, guest speaker
August: Community Picnic: remembering Kitty’s birthday
Charles Haynes and Christopher Wilson, guest speakers
September: Ted Judson, during his first visit in twenty years, gave multiple concerts
October: Nearby Community Day: Meher Abode was open in the morning, community lunch in the Refectory, meeting with the Board in the afternoon to hear "State of the Center" presentation, tea and sweets at the end.
November: Virginia Sadowsky, Irwin Luck, guest speakers; a concert by David Miotke, during his first visit in ten years.
December: A variety of holiday programs and with much participation!
Now we look forward to the Amartithi celebration in the Barn on January 31: silence, songs, prayers, readings, and an evening talk by Tom Riley in the Meeting Place. For Baba’s Birthday in February, there will be a performance of three short plays, February 25 and 26, written and directed by Joe DiSabatino, with a “cast of characters” from our nearby community.
Future Dates to Remember:
March 19 and 20: the annual gathering (20th year!) for Evening and Overnight Caretakers and Gatekeepers, the volunteer team that keeps the Center safe and attends to guests’ needs while day staff is not there.
June 28 to July 3: Youth Sahavas. Registration forms and staff applications will be sent out at the end of February. If you have not received one by mid-March and are interested in participating, call Jane Brown (843-272-8793).
From the Board of Directors
We are happy to be welcoming the addition of two new Board members: Daniel Stone and Adi Blum. And we will be missing the contributions of two Board members retiring this year: John Leiter and Annie Fahy Lawn.
From John Leiter, retiring from the Board after serving for seventeen years, fifteen as Presiding Officer:
I joined the Board in November,1998. In reflecting on my tenure on the Board, I am drawn to a photograph of Kitty Davy that I have on my desk and a video of Elizabeth Patterson being interviewed by Alan Cohen. The photo of Kitty brings back memories of her constant gentle humor and her unwavering commitment to her Beloved Baba. Elizabeth’s video was a teaching tool for me on how dedication and focus on Meher Baba is the most important quality for a Board member (because this is how she approached her service to Him). For those things I did well while serving on the Board, it was because I attempted to follow the example of how these two original Board members lived everyday of their lives in service to Baba. I also leave reflecting on the service that my good friend Marshall Hay gave during his tenure on the Board. I can still, to this day, hear him haranguing the Board that every decision and action concerning the Center must always be based on 100 percent focus on Meher Baba. I have to say how confident I am in the Board going into the future. They are so focused on pleasing the Beloved that, like Elizabeth and Kitty, they will do their best and leave the results to the real "Chairman" of the Board. I hope you will join me in my support of the Board and the work ahead of them.
From John Coffin, Presiding Officer of the Board of Directors:
Meher Baba said: “I build on sand or in the air, planning schemes, without at times a penny in my pocket, or without any definite arrangement for future maintenance, if started at all. And even when established, I break it up, or abandon it. Plans were laid for Meherabad, the school, ashram, hospital, the Nasik retreat --- all were well planned, but all were broken up and pulled down the instant the purpose was served, as I alone know.’” With this in mind as a warning about hubris, the Meher Center Board has been looking at the future of the Center through its Master Plan process, as well as examining the present and future organizational structure in order to better serve, preserve and protect Meher Baba’s Home in the West. We are facing many transitions in the coming years. To make our way through these transitions, we are thinking of the Center’s role and future purpose beyond the "500 acres"---as an organization that also serves to provide information about Meher Baba’s life and teachings to the public, has a more active presence in the local community, and like other non-profits, not only strives to meet the needs of those who are associated with the Center, but also to contribute to ‘the public good’. In Meher Baba’s words above, it is apparent that He only wants structures and organizations that are relevant to the circumstances and the purposes served, and even goes so far as to say that if they are no longer relevant they should be pulled down. While we achieve this relevance by maintaining Meher Baba’s physical center in 100 percent repair, other things are revealing themselves as ways that we can increase our reach and our capacity to help others in various ways. It is the idea of change management and bringing the Meher Spiritual Center, Inc. organization into the future that has been and will be occupying the Board in the months and years ahead. All of this remembering that as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, Baba’s Will is eternally done, with us or without us, and even in spite of us.
From Arsenio Rodriguez, Board member and Chair of the Board’s new Environmental Management Committee:
The Board has established an ad hoc Environmental Management Committee constituted by volunteer environmental experts from the Meher Baba family. This committee's task is to develop long-standing environmental management recommendations for the Center’s natural resources. Currently, a team of experts from Eastern Carolina University and the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of North Carolina has been working with our lake volunteers to assess the origin of the excess nutrients in Long Lake. The ECU team is focusing on the geological aspects of determining the source, and the team from IMSUNC on possible biological controls of the algal blooms. Concerning fire and forest management issues, the design for installation of a new water line and fire hydrants has been completed. Construction will start soon and will be finished this year thanks to the generous contributions of donors for this specific project. Further fuel-mitigation work has been completed, and will continue, focused on removing vegetation around structures throughout the Center and maintaining widened firebreaks.
From Wendy Connor, Board Member:
We are happy to report that the new ramp at Meher Abode for disabled access is now under construction. Great care is being taken in making the necessary changes to the foundation and to the original entrance to Baba’s House, as required by the project design. There will naturally be some disruption in the pristine atmosphere of Baba’s compound over the next few months. However, our plan is to keep the visiting days and times the same throughout this process, as much as possible.
From the Board's Support Committee, Chairman Buz Connor
In November 2015, the Center began an informational campaign focused on planned giving, which included sending out a new colorful brochure, to remind Baba’s followers to remember His Center in their wills. Also included in the mailing was a flyer outlining the many ways people can volunteer and donate in helping to maintain His Home in the West. Since the mailing, we’ve received many positive heartfelt responses, along with assurances that there are those who will include Meher Center in their estate planning. As you will see in the attached 2015 Financial Report, we have been able to use less endowment income to support operations, even with the expenses of recent large environmental projects. Your loving support has made this possible.
News from the Gateway
Meher Center Messages: This is a brief monthly email update about Center work and happenings, with quotes from accounts of Meher Baba’s visits to the Center in the 1950’s, and weekly postings of program information, upcoming events and special announcements. If you would like to begin receiving Meher Center Messages by email, just let the Gateway know.
Two month advance reservations: We switched from three months last July. The adjustment has gone smoothly, and is helping us to better serve the needs of guests and keep the Center, as Meher Baba asked, in 100 percent repair.
Activity has increased! In response to this growth, we have increased staff and volunteer coverage at the Gateway this year. There is now at least one scheduled tour every day, for new visitors and retreat guests, as well as for the more frequent folks who just “drop in” to see what the Center is about. Local groups are also interested in its history and purpose. More volunteer tour guides and Gateway receptionists have been trained, team meetings held, and manuals developed. This short report is from Preeti Hay, Gateway staff member, who manages daily tours, group tours, and the volunteers who do them: “All group tours this year (Audubon Society, Coastal Carolina University classes, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) received great reviews from guests as well as the tour guides. It is a very exciting endeavor for the Center to welcome these groups and prepare for them…such a good way for the Center to have a relationship with our immediate local community.”
New paper map: Keren Rice, also on Gateway staff, has created a new paper map which provides a simple enlarged visual guide to the main areas of the Center. It has become a valuable tool for helping guests navigate to and from their cabins, become familiar with where public buildings are, and then just fold it up into their pockets!
Service dogs: A recent policy has been established about service dogs at the Center that we want to make everyone aware of. We appreciate your understanding of and cooperation with this policy. If you have any questions, be sure to let us know.
Using ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Guidelines as a resource, the following is Meher Center policy relating to service dogs:
Meher Spiritual Center visitors requiring the assistance of a service dog are welcome to participate in every aspect of the Center with full use of the facilities. A service dog is a dog that is trained to do work or perform specific tasks for an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service dogs are working animals, not pets. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support are not considered service dogs, but are considered pets. The Center continues to have a policy of not allowing pets to be brought to the Center. The care of any service dog brought to the Center is the full responsibility of the visitor; the dog must be under the handler's control at all times, generally using a leash.
We ask that people making reservations to stay overnight, or coming to visit the Center with a service dog, inform the Gateway staff in advance so that appropriate cabin assignments or other accommodations can be made.
Long Lake: The large dewatering bags containing the algae material suctioned from the lagoon and Boat House area last May are gradually being removed and will be gone in the next few months. The yellow barrier in the lake, stretching across the water out beyond the Boat House, which has kept the suctioned area clear, will remain in place at least until spring. We hope it can be removed at that point so that use of the rowboat and gondola can resume.
Maintenance and grounds projects: 2015 project work included roof repair and replacement for Lakeview/Original Kitchen, Cove 1 & 2, Dilruba, Meeting Place, and Guest House; exterior painting of the Meeting Place; interior painting, refinishing and repair work in Laurel Oak 1 & 2; interior ceiling repairs and painting in the Refectory; painting of Twin Cabin exterior; suction dredging of the lagoon/Boat House area; extensive fuel-mitigation work around buildings and on expanded firebreaks; removal of large dead trees in the cabin area; rebuilding of eroded trails and roads; preparations for installation of the new water main; Gateway parking expanded and improved.
Cabin Crew: Their focus during the fall and winter months, when it still remains a bit quieter, is on intensive cleaning of all the buildings. During the rest of the year, it is on keeping up with rapid turnovers and dealing with other elements that impact their work---all the rain and humidity in the past months has been especially challenging. Some good news is that fourteen new mattresses were purchased and installed in 2015. Add to that the thirteen purchased in 2013, and it makes a total of twenty-seven new mattresses in the last three years. Yes!
Archive work: Recently it has included the creation of information albums for visitors, available now in Baba’s House, the Barn, Lagoon Cabin and the Guest House. Containing historic photos, stories and facts, these albums serve to enhance the visitor experience of these places where Baba spent so much time when He was at the Center. On another topic, many of you have asked about the caned chair Baba used in the Lagoon Cabin. It is still undergoing painstaking repairs, and the small green vinyl chair Baba also used in the Lagoon Cabin has taken its place. That magnificent caned chair is an example of the effort needed to preserve these special treasures Baba used at the Center, in the most careful way possible, so that what is here now will remain for generations to come.
The Passing of Friends
There are so many close ones who have passed away this year, near and far---too many to name and pay tribute to in ways they deserve. But one that we must mention, to be sure you know, is Adele Wolkin. Known to all of you no doubt, because of her devotion to Meher Baba and dedication to His work for more than seventy years, Adele passed away on December 21, 2015. She was ninety-seven. Her participation in the early development of the Center was significant, her decades of leadership in Meher Baba groups and centers around the country was tremendous, and her last years, living close to Meher Center, still modeling what it means to love and serve God, were a gift to all here.
In closing, we hope that each one of you might visit the Center again soon. Its beauty and tranquility await, the quiet and space are all around, and the love and embracing spirit of Meher Baba’s atmosphere make each moment here a precious gift, each visit a coming home. May this new year bring you and your families closer to Him.
In His love,
Ann Edelman, Secretary, Meher Center Board of Directors
Arsenio Rodriguez, Wendy Haynes Connor, Ann Edelman, Bruce Felknor, Meherwan Irani, Annie Hall, Jo Taylor, John Coffin, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Daniel Stone, and Adi Blum
Please visit our website www.mehercenter.org for information regarding
~ Meher Baba ~ History and Management of the Center ~ Visitor Information ~
~ Current Programs and Updates ~ and More ~
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome
Click below for the 2015 Financial Report, 2015 Financial Charts, 2016 Membership Form, or Monthly Automatic Donation Form, in PDF file format.
Also, there is a PDF copy of this newsletter.
2015 Financial Report
2015 Financial Charts
2016 Membership Form
Monthly Automatic Donation Form
Winter 2016 Newsletter