Inspiring Creativity: Timelessly Telling our Story through Words, Art, and Music

As Rolling Ridge celebrates 75 years of ministry in 2023, we continue a monthly series on the second Tuesday of the month to share our history.  Art and spirituality have long found a home at the Ridge with creatives telling their story through words, music, and paint.  May our legacy of creative union inspire you to create in celebration of our 75th and to share your work with our community on Sunday, September 24th.

As Rolling Ridge celebrates 75 years in 2023, our offices are filled with many files, multiple boxes, and even a few books that tell our story in words and pictures.  While the amount of information can be overwhelming, one thing shines clearly: Rolling Ridge has been transforming lives for 75 years.
In the earliest documents, the transforming vision of the Ridge was broadly cast in the 1948 "Venture in Faith" brochure:  "Rolling Ridge was consecrated as an institution for the development and training of Christian Leadership.  Its natural setting and beautiful woodland paths lend themselves, in reality to 'A closer walk with God.'  Someone has said that the property is characterized by "An epitome of the handwork of God and the artistry of man."  It must be seen and experienced to be appreciated.
Highlighting the mission in a similar 1948 vernacular, Rolling Ridge is "becoming an instrument of God in the transforming of human lives.  The Rolling Ridge facilities are dedicated to the great task of regeneration."
For 75 years, Rolling Ridge has been about the task of spiritually transforming and regenerating lives, as God and persons, heaven and Earth, come together in creative union.  And for 75 years, we've been telling this story in words, in music, in art.

One of the first written testimonies about the Ridge comes as a poem from W. Albert Lotz, the first full-time Executive Director at Rolling Ridge (1951-1957).  (Click here for his full poem.)  In his poem Lotz describes the sights and sounds of the Ridge, from the "crumbling, crunching" of the driveway to the sharing of "a life which calls for a kind of daring."  He ends with a description that continues to capture the ageless Ridge experience decades later:
For these together have earnestly prayed
These have heard the evening cry
Of the duck as he melts his wings in the sky
Have seen the heavens blanket of rose
Laid o'er the lake at the good days close
Have looked with wonder at ageless trees
Have listened, heart - stopped, to the eager breeze
Have fallen asleep with weary sigh
Hushed by the crickets lullaby
Have questioned their worth - as they walked o'er the sod
But know for the moment they walk with God.

The Ridge experience of meeting God in nature was formally put to music in 1960 by Rev. Donald Williams, whose daughter dedicated the piano in Tyson Meeting Room in his honor.  (Click here for the full hymn.)   To the tune of "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" (aka Hyfrodol), the Rolling Ridge Hymn highlights how creation and spirituality find a home here as the first verse proclaims:  
For this place of quiet beauty,
Lofty hall and towering tree,
Sheltered ways and shining waters,
Give we thanks, O Lord, to thee.
Gather in thy holy presence,
Drawn apart from daily care,
Here renew our minds and spirits
In these hours of work and prayer.


Other songs reflecting the Rolling Ridge experience came in 1978 as Rev. Forrest Clark composed a 30th year Anniversary Hymn, and in 1983 when Rev. Jim Todd, Rolling Ridge Director from 1976-1987, asked Rev. Gil Taverner to write lyrics for a new hymn for the 35th anniversary of the Ridge.  (Click here for Clark's hymn and Taverner's hymn.)  Setting the tune to "O Worship the King," Taverner, who had been involved with Rolling Ridge since 1953, continues the theme of spiritual transformation and regeneration at the Ridge: 
We gather, O God, to find sacred space,
to seek out your will in this lovely place.
The voices of beauty, of truth and of peace,
are heard here among us, new life to release.


This testimony of spiritually transformation and regeneration was not limited to Rolling Ridge staff and clergy.   Rachel Moodie was a student at Chandler School when she wrote an essay about her time at the Ridge during the summer of 1959. (Click here to read her essay.)  According to F. Nelson Bridgham, Treasurer of the Rolling Ridge Commission, "This is the type of unsolicited testimony that makes the work worthwhile."  Rachel writes of her "God experience" at Point of Pines:
Down the long, sloping green and a short distance through the woods, a lake rested at the base of the mountains.  There, among the trees, was the alfresco chapel where absolute silence was maintained at all times.  An imposing cross stood silhouetted against the radiant sunrises and sunsets.  It is difficult to explain the feeling I experienced as I sat under the trees looking at the cross, with all the really important things that God created before me.  I felt small and insignificant, yet in some way close to something infinite and omnipresent.    One night, instead of vespers, we had a midnight candlelight service.  One by one we lit a candle and walked back to the courtyard for a worship service.  Then one by one again, we put out the candles, and the light which now was inside each of us penetrated the ebony gloom of midnight.
Although testimony through word and music have been part of the long history of the Ridge, in recent years, art has become another means to tell our story.  "Singing in the staircase," a long tradition at the Ridge, has now become "art in the staircase" as the natural beauty of this spiritual place now fills the center of the main house as captured by artists over the years.  Our new SoulCare with Artists group continues to live into the importance of art and spirituality, beauty and nature, which have been a part of the Ridge from the beginning.  

The historic vision of the Ridge as "an epitome of handwork of God and the artistry of man [or people, as we would now reframe it]" will be celebrated in our plans for our 75th anniversary as we plan an Art and Music Festival for Sunday, September 24th.  Save the date!  More information will be forthcoming.  
Bottom line: It has been decades since a new song has captured the spirit of the Ridge. At our 75th, we hope to introduce a new song!  Feeling inspired?  We invite you to get your creative on and submit lyrics, a poem, a song that captures what Rolling Ridge means to you.  Email your submission to our office, and we will reveal the selected compositions on September 24th.
On that same note, Rolling Ridge is also looking for new art inspired by the Ridge for the 75th celebration.  If you have an art piece to display in our Lakeside Gallery Dining Room (also known as the Theresa Beveridge Dining Room), please let us know.  We want to fill the house with art that echoes of spiritual transformation and regeneration, art as the celebrated union of God and people, inspired by the Ridge.
Rolling Ridge has a history of inspiring the creative spirit.  We know that stories of spiritual transformation and regeneration are not always easily captured.  Art in all its forms as word, music, and image is often the medium to express the deepest insights of God, Spirit, Love, Beauty.  We invite you to share your gifts of creativity and art.  And if you have a story to share, please send it along as well.

As Craig Garland, Rolling Ridge Director from 1994-2002, said at the 50th anniversary in 1998: 
For so many, Rolling Ridge is a spiritual home, 
a place of natural beauty that reminds us of God our Creator:
Perhaps it is in the way the wind blows across the grass in the field;
the quiet in the woods, 
the geese on the lake at sundown,
the deer rising up out of the fog in moonlight.
For all people of all ages, Rolling Ridge is a center of learning,
a place where we all can discover, in community,
the persons God intends us to become,
where we can increase in wisdom and knowledge
and learn to live productive lives of service.
For many, the magic of Rolling Ridge is the quiet corners of the mansion and grounds:
the sturdiness of the building,
the snap and crackle of the fireplace,
the quiet conversations, 
the gentle laughter.
Rolling Ridge serves hundreds of people each year --
United Methodists and people of other faiths
who come to be nourished and re-created by this place
and the people who work and volunteer here.

In 2023, the legacy of re-creation continues at the Ridge as we celebrate 75 years. We hope that you will get your creative on and share your story, your art, your transformation with us.


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 ...