Powell House is the conference and retreat center of New York Yearly Meeting Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Located in rural Columbia County, our mission is to foster spiritual growth after the manner of Friends (Quaker) and to strengthen the application of Friends’ testimonies in the world. Website: powellhouse.org.
Elise K. Powell House has started the reopening process. The move from online conferences to meeting in person was marked by a Garden Club Day held on June 26. This one-day event was held outside with masking and distancing protocols in place.
The first in-person youth conference since closing in March 2020 was held August 13–15. The conference included the annual send-off ceremony for graduating high school seniors. Along with masking and distancing, it was held with limited capacity.
Sojourning has continued to be a source of spiritual renewal while a reopening strategy is slowly phased in. It is one of the few ways that visitors have been able to enjoy the grounds throughout the period of being closed due to the pandemic.
Virtual programming has been a strong point of connection across the Powell House community and beyond. “How Are the Children?,” an event held May 25, drew in a group of 30 people to talk about Quaker meetings and families during post-pandemic times.
Powell House recently launched its capital campaign with a goal to raise funds for renovations to Pitt Hall—one of the conference buildings—as well as for other projects on the horizon.
Elsie K. Powell House in Old Chatham, N.Y., has continued to provide programming in the form of virtual workshops and youth conferences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, weekend-long adult retreats have been held over Zoom, exploring a range of topics such as clerking and opening to the heart of worship. The extra time within a weekend-long event has allowed for deeper exploration of the topics at hand.
“Drive-Thru Dinners” have also been offered about once a month, allowing people to stop by and pick up a dinner prepared by chef Tony Barca. These events have allowed the staff to work together in a new way, nurture connections within the community, and make new connections with Old Chatham locals.
Online events have been a steady source of groundedness in a time when it is much needed. Youth attenders have expressed that while a virtual conference is much different from an in-person one, there is still a lot of joy and community that can be shared over Zoom. Weekly Saturday evening worship also provides groundedness and community for Friends.
Powell House is still able to host sojourners in the Anna Curtis Center and Pitt Hall, and is grateful for the energy they bring to the space during this time when the buildings and grounds are largely empty.
On March 12, Elsie K. Powell House was closed to any in-person visits due to COVID-19 precautions. Since then, it has re-oriented its programming toward providing pay-as-led, mainly two-hour virtual workshops on Saturdays. Thus far Powell House has offered over 25 workshops that have attracted approximately 250 individuals from all over the world. The youth program has also focused on virtual events for the past six months, as well as welcomed new youth directors: Sarah and Martin Glazer.
The management of the house’s closure has been well supported by the governance of the Powell House Committee. Staff have been paid throughout the closure. Most have returned to onsite work utilizing social distancing protocols. Additionally, plans for a capital campaign have gone forward, focusing on updating and renovating outdated electric, heating, and water systems, as well as creating endowment resources for future programming that is based on the strategic plan. The financial contributions of constituents and other supporters have been integral for enabling Powell House to survive throughout this pandemic.