Annual Report of the Wellington Study Group, March 2017
In my annual report last year, I concluded by asking the question –
“Can we simplify how the group works so we have less demands on the separate activities and more time and energy for the exploration?”
Since then the separate activities of the Study Group seem to have made us busier than ever – but in a different sort of way. During the previous year there was a feeling of treading water waiting for something to happen. This past year has seen a confluence of several events coming together which has produced an exciting feeling of entering a new chapter.
The dominant event which we have all had to adjust to has of course been the sale of Strathean. Some time ago we had identified that we may have to relinquish this property so we could focus our energy, and funds, on Hobson Crescent. Our overriding wish was that Strathean should continue as a retreat centre to nurture the unique atmosphere generated by its last 50 years as a place of refuge and contemplation. Last year we were approached by someone wanting to buy it with this purpose in mind. Negotiations over the past year have brought us to a point where we now have an informal agreement and legal contracts are being prepared for signing.
At the same time a group of members, ably guided by Chris and Loo, have considered the way ahead for the Study Group. They have produced some exciting new ideas which we hope will open the doors to a wider range of explorers in a way which we have not managed to do for some time.
Coincidentally, for the first time in seven years, we have had sufficient enquiries to start a new class of “Chick Peas” who are learning the Turning. It is exciting to have a new group being guided into this form of moving meditation under Kieron’s watchful eye.
And in amongst all this we have seen more of our friends from the School of Philosophy and been able to share a desire for the two groups to work more closely together.
So as you can see it is not just world politics which seems to be moving into a new era.
Strathean has continued to provide an environment for a wide range of groups to gather together and focus on their interest while somewhat removed from everyday life. Our hirers are an eclectic mix of groups, many of whom have been coming for years. They provide an essential income approaching $50,000 to help pay for the expenses of maintaining the buildings and property.
We are indebted to Yvonne and John Norfolk for managing the property, caring for the buildings and providing a hospitable welcome to all who come through the gates. On the practical side we managed to procure another loan from the Lotteries Grants board for $38,000 which enabled us to upgrade our mouldy old bathrooms into sparkling new facilities which are also so much easier to clean. The long wet spring and summer has put big demands on Yvonne and John to keep up with the mowing but left the property looking fresh and green throughout the January/ February season.
The prospective sale of Strathean marks a milestone for the Norfolks who have spent about 20 years managing the property. We are truly indebted to them for their care and love of the place. It shows through in the response we have had from many of the hirers. Like ourselves they will be relieved to hear the potential new owners intend to continue to run it as a retreat centre. The standard set by the Norfolks will be a very hard act to follow.
Hobson Cres has continued to be a home base for us all. The rent of the upstairs flat and the hiring out of the downstairs rooms has provided a stable income of about $50,000. We use two outside contractors, Julie who cleans the downstairs once a week and Jasmin who tends to the garden and lawns. The rest of the management is all done by our members. Frances and Glennis have managed the house, keep an eye on supplies and reported any maintenance issues to the committee. Laurie Lawler has taken over the vital task of liaising with the hirers and managing the booking calendar, with a little help from Leigh in the background. Any new hirers must be aware of our hire agreement and be introduced to the house, a task ably done by Lucette, drawing on her lawyer skills when necessary. Our tenants of the upstairs flat provide an important source of income and Jim is their point of contact for any issues may arise. Managing our precious library resource including buying new stock and computerising the catalogue has been done by Priscilla, Ron and Behroz. Last but certainly not least Ron ensures the rubbish bins are emptied, a role which has taxed even his patience at times.
So thank you all for your continuing efforts that result in Hobson Crescent being a clean, tidy and safe environment for us all. Your contributions are really appreciated by the rest of us.
As you can see the committee has had a busy year with some important projects to manage. These include resolving the complex and detailed issues regarding the Strathean sale negotiations. They have also obtained a grant from the Lotteries Grants Board and managed the contract to have the Strathean bathrooms upgraded. All this in addition to the regular management and maintenance of the two properties and the cash flow involved in that.
Gillian and Joy have shared the load of secretary which has been so important as we keep an accurate record of the formative decisions that have been made. Yvonne has reported back on Strathean regularly and ensured the committee has always been aware of any expenditure required to keep the wheels turning. Michael has provided valuable legal advice and guidance during the negotiations to sell Strathean. David managed the bookings for some time as well as the banking and lawn mowing. He has now resigned from the committee but his contributions are very much appreciated. Ron and Jim I have already mentioned above. Finally I would like to acknowledge our Treasurer, John Masters, who has provided wise financial advice and carefully managed our substantial income and expenditure during what has been a challenging year. Thank you John.
It seems timely at this point to quote His Holiness from the Record of 1975/76
In the Universe there will never be a time when everything will be going smoothly. In the nature of things there will always be some agitation, for the creation itself is the product of agitation.
He goes on to say it is not up to us to stop the agitation. Our role is to find an equilibrium within it. This past year has certainly provided plenty of agitation to challenge that equilibrium. I am very pleased to say that when presented with the arguments for and against selling Strathean there was not one dissenting voice amongst members. I can assure you that this sense of unity has made our job of negotiating the sale so much easier. It felt as if we were doing the right thing for the whole group so our grateful thanks to all those who took the trouble to respond.
Within the committee we have had to debate a number of major issues involving significant amounts of money. Again everyone has had a chance to listen to others and comment before we collectively decide on the best direction. I must commend the committee for their contributions and cooperation during these debates. It has made the role of chairman so much easier.
The year ahead will continue to present us with challenges. Provided the sale of Strathean goes through we will then be able to realign our energies with the management of Hobson Crescent and other activities which nurture the group. With the focus on opening doors to new members, a resurgence of the turning and ongoing liaison with the School of Philosophy we have an exciting path ahead.
I look forward to travelling it with you all.
Larry Purchas, Chairman