As Rolling Ridge celebrates 75 years of ministry in 2023, we continue a monthly series on the second week of the month to share our history. After our 75th anniversary program on Sunday, September 24th, we are featuring an edited version of the vision for our next 75 years, presented by our Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Jay. We look forward by looking back as we prepare for our future by building on the foundations of the past and blessings of the present.

A ministry of HEARTH & HOME

By Rev. Dr. Lawrence Jay, Rolling Ridge Executive Director

Isn’t it good to be together today as an extended Rolling Ridge family?  Whether you've been part of our Rolling Ridge family for 75 years or just 5 minutes, I hope that every experience with us is a warm embracive welcome.

Rolling Ridge has been a sacred place and spiritual home for many people for many years and my hope is that we will continue to be a sacred place and spiritual home for many more years to come.

Since 1948, I believe that Rolling Ridge is HOME for one reason: Hospitality is Our Main Event.  H-O-M-E = Hospitality, Our Main Event.  Our hospitality has, is, and will continue to be a warm, welcoming, inclusive embrace for everyone

Today, we celebrate 75 years of our ministry HOME as an extended family.  We are grateful for the diamonds that have sparkled – highlighted today. But we are especially grateful for the thousands who have shared love and light over the decades to create this space of hospitality and HOME.  For those who are not with us, let us pause to say thanks.

When founded back in 1948, the Rolling Ridge Mission was stated as: “Becoming an instrument of God in the transforming of human lives.”  For 75 years, Rolling Ridge has been “transforming lives.”  The question you may ask is: How do we do that?

Let me ask you a few questions:   

Raise your hand if you’ve connected with someone at the Ridge who inspired you, encouraged you, listened to, cared for you?

Raise your hand if you’ve connected with nature at the Ridge, if you experienced profound wordless beauty when walking in the woods, sitting by the lake, sitting silently and listening to the birds, breathing in the rest and the fresh air as you slow down?

Raise your hand if you’ve connected with God at the Ridge, if you’ve had a mystical encounter here, if you’ve felt your heart strangely warmed, if you were inspired to make a difference in the world?

I believe that lives are transformed when we connect. Connecting all people, God, and creation is how transformation begins.  We’ve been doing this for 75 years, and we intend to do it for another 75 years or more!  This is Rolling Ridge: Connecting all people, God, and creation through a ministry of HOME, with Hospitality, Our Main Event.

Back in 2020, our ministry of HOME was challenged when we closed our doors because of Covid.

Though a difficult time, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for it challenged us to rethink what our ministry and mission are all about.  With our in-person hospitality shut down, we quickly pivoted our programming to an online platform, with our program director, John Kiemele, leading our first online retreat just a week after the shut down.  The physical doors of the Ridge closed but the virtual doors of the Ridge began to open.

We quickly learned that HOME can be created on Zoom as we virtually embraced Hospitality as Our Main Event online through deep listening and spiritual companionship in the Christian contemplative tradition.  Online, people were experiencing welcome, making connections, with lives being transformed.  A new Rolling Ridge family was forming.  A new way of doing ministry was beginning.  Because of the pandemic, Rolling Ridge expanded from being a sacred physical place to also being a sacred virtual space. Our ministry was on the move and expanding.

Along with discovering the Ridge as both a physical place and a virtual space, another lesson emerged from the pandemic.  With the doors of the building closed and our entire ministry now online, we discovered that people were longing for community.  

It’s easy for retreat ministry to be “one and done,” a “spiritual product”.  People come for an event, a retreat.  They have a wonderful experience, then “See ya!”  With the pandemic, we recognized the importance of retreat ministry as a “process”, not just “product” as we embrace the opportunity to walk with people, to companion people, to journey as a community together.  Online retreats and workshops soon gave birth to online monthly SoulCare groups, book studies, Advent and Lent Prayer Journeys, a year-long women series, a year-long dream series, online spiritual direction and peer supervision.  These virtual online ministries of spiritual companioning, “being with” another on the journey have become integral to the Ridge as a new way of ministry.  

Because of the pandemic, Rolling Ridge expanded to being both sacred physical place and a sacred virtual space and offering spiritual ministry as both a “product” and a “process,” transforming lives by creating a community of people journeying together and spiritually connecting.

As I reflect on the online blessings of our emerging Rolling Ridge community, I think of Bernie in Minnesota, who discovered us during the pandemic and who is an active part of our monthly online SoulCare groups.  He will probably never step foot on this sacred physical place yet he is connected through the sacred virtual space.  His life has been so blessed by our online ministry that he is joining our Arches Society as he includes Rolling Ridge in his estate plans.

I also think of Eileen in Rhode Island, who also discovered us during the pandemic, who is an active part of our online Rohr ministries, and who after 3 years finally stepped onsite for an in-person retreat on St. Claire of Assisi and the contemplative practice of gazing.  She met people in-person she had online seen online for years (including me!), and while walking the grounds, she had a profound God encounter with a tree that spiritually moved her to tears.  For Eileen, the Ridge was first a sacred virtual space and is now also a sacred physical place.

If it wasn’t for our new ministry online and onsite, product and process, Bernie and Eileen would not be part of the growing Rolling Ridge community.

Online and onsite, product and process, the Ridge is making a difference as “an instrument of God in the transforming of human lives” as we create a spiritual HOME, welcoming people, with Hospitality Our Main Event.

As the Ridge emerges from the pandemic and looks to the next 75 years, our vision is expanding. From a physical place to also a virtual space, from a spiritual product to also a spiritual process, we are beginning to now envision Rolling Ridge as a retreat ministry and also a retreat movement.

As a retreat movement, we hope to bring Rolling Ridge to places and spaces beyond our 38 acres by Lake Cochichewick, to bring our ministries to people who are unable to be here onsite, to break through the barriers of privilege, to go to communities where hope, healing, justice, and transformation are needed all with our continued commitment of connecting all people, God, and creation, creating family, HOME with Hospitality, Our Main Event.

And the ministry we seek to bring, the ministry that we seek to expand as a movement: We are calling it a ministry of HEARTH & HOME.  We seek to continue the legacy of Rolling Ridge as we transform lives by teaching people to HEAR their HEART, through ART and EARTH (HEARTH), with Hospitality Our Main Event (HOME).  HEARTH and HOME, get it?

Our vision: Transforming lives by teaching people to HEAR their HEART, through ART and EARTH (HEARTH), with Hospitality Our Main Event (HOME).

Undergirded by an embracive welcome of hospitality, our ministry has a three-prong focus.

We learn to HEAR our HEART through a ministry of listening, deep listening, reflected in Gateways to God and our missional spiritual direction ministries, under the umbrella of what we call the Listening Collective. Missional spiritual direction teaches people to listen for the deeper movements of God in every conversation so to be a companion, a soul friend, on the journey. It’s learning to listen in the neighborhood, being present to the Spirit, listening differently, listening deeper. To HEAR with your HEART is the first aspect of a ministry of HEARTH.

The second aspect of HEARTH is ART as we recognize the divine intersection of art and spirituality, not just for professionals, but for everyone who is inspired to create and anyone who experiences God in the beauty of art in all its forms.  This ministry of art and spirituality is reflected in the new Rolling Ridge Artist Collaborative, our monthly SoulCare with Artists group, and our annual Artist Week.

While the Ridge is filled with art in the Lakeside Gallery Dining Room and Mico Kaufman sculptures throughout the property, we envision creatives bringing their art to underserved communities, teaching about art and spirituality, and using art to create conversation and bridge the gap with the emerging “spiritual but not religious” community.

The third aspect of HEARTH is EARTH as we connect all people, God, and creation through eco-spirituality and environmental education. This focus on Earth-spirituality has been a passion I’ve had since I began at the Ridge back in 2017 when I launched our monthly Worship with the Woods which continues.  Our Pray and Paddle Ministry has been growing over the past 2 years, along with our partnerships with Tinkergarten, Nature Play with Kay, and Nature’s Pace which have created environmental education opportunities for children, youth, and adults.  

The Giving Garden continues to provide fresh organic produce to local food pantries. With food scraps from our kitchen going into our compost and the compost fertilizing the soil of the Giving Garden, and the Garden providing fresh produce for our kitchen, the Ridge is living into a healthy model of food production.  With Todd Warfield joining our team as our new Naturalist Consultant, he will bring an indigenous perspective on how to live in communion with all creation, as he becomes the point person for all the Earth Center ministries at Rolling Ridge.

These are our Rolling Ridge ministries of HEARTH.  As a retreat movement, we see the Ridge bringing this ministry of HEARTH & HOME = deep listening and Art and Earth spirituality to new spaces and places, connecting all people, God, and creation, through an emerging network.

Imagine your experience connecting at the Ridge with others, with God, with creation.  Imagine that experience of spiritual transformation taking place in your neighborhood, your church, your school, your community center, your family.

Rolling Ridge is bringing our onsite ministry online. We now want to bring our ministry to your neighborhood, to underserved communities, to places where love is needed.  We see Rolling Ridge as a hub of HEARTH & HOME ministry training, resourcing, and networking spiritual leaders in deep listening and Art and Earth spirituality -- a movement of connecting and transforming.

Imagine a trained Rolling Ridge spiritual director leading a day retreat on spiritual health, gathering people in SoulCare conversations over coffee and pastries in a church basement in Worcester or Springfield.  Imagine a Rolling Ridge artist leading after school art classes with children and using art as therapy for youth at a community center in Lawrence or Brockton.  Imagine a Rolling Ridge environmental educator planting an urban garden with youth and teaching about Earth care while harvesting organic produce in Mattapan or Dorchester.  Imagine a declining church reaching out to Rolling Ridge and in partnership, we send people who have been transformed and trained in our HEARTH & HOME ministry to connect and bring new vision to this community and new life to this neighborhood.

Imagine Rolling Ridge as a retreat movement, with our 38 acres in North Andover serving as the hub, the mothership, the source of resourcing and training, encouragement, and support, where it all began.

That is our vision for the next 75 years – an ever growing, ever “glowing” ministry of HEARTH & HOME, as we teach people to HEAR their HEART through ART and EARTH with Hospitality, Our Main Event Onsite and online, we see the Ridge community as a mission on the move, bringing our ministry of deep listening and art and Earth spirituality to new neighborhoods, warming hearts, transforming lives.

If you are interested in getting involved, we are looking for people to serve on a Vision team.  Email us if you are interested.   We are also looking people to support us financially with a monthly gift  or to be the next Tyson, Beveridge, or Moses as a large patron donor of the arts to make this vision a reality.

75 years from now, none of us will be here.  My hope is that those who gather in 2098 will remember us in 2023 with fondness as we today fondly remember the Rolling Ridge Commission and vision that birth this ministry space: “Becoming an instrument of God in the transforming of human lives.”

A “big red book” won’t capture the dream, but a digital website will.  And so to those who happen across this virtual platform in 25, 50, 75 years, my hope is that the Ridge is rolling in a HEARTH and HOME ministry that cannot be contained -- rolling at the Ridge, rolling around the world.  Amen.

660 Great Pond Road
North Andover, MA  01845



Lawrence Jay

As the Executive Director of Rolling Ridge, Lawrence works in partnership with the staff to ensure that the guest experience at the Ridge is top quality.  He also partners with retreat leaders to provide excellent programming at the Ridge, and is ...