Yaupon Place: A Call To Action
BY SALLY NAYLOR JOHNSTON (MA‘79, EdD’94)
Yaupon Place is a timely new educational venture at Union Presbyterian Seminary that will become the seminary’s outdoor classroom and learning-lab. The center seeks to cultivate a thriving neighborhood story rooted in geography and place, bringing people together across racial, socio-economic and political divides.
Your financial support is needed to ensure Yaupon Place becomes a reality now and continues in the future.
Union’s board of trustees has approved 19-acres of land on Union’s Westwood Tract be stewarded by Yaupon Place. The center’s mission is to provide organic and programmatic spaces for the Northside Richmond community to re-create three basic relationships —with self, neighbor, and nature — through creative story-sharing and wellness programs. It grows from the conviction that together we can heal relationships and re-create our public life through the power of the stories and places we share. The times call for such healing and re-creative work.
Yaupon Place will equip seminarians for ministry in the public square. It is the newest of four centers supporting the seminary’s new degree program: Master of Arts in Public Theology (M.A.P.T.). The other three centers are The Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, The Syngman Rhee Global Mission Center for Christian Education, and The Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation. Together, the four centers provide opportunities for community-engaged theological education around the issues of public policy, ecological health, economic justice, gender issues, inter-religious dialogue, and issues of race and reconciliation. Yaupon Place will help the seminary generate conversations and relationships within its Northside neighborhood through ecological and community storytelling initiatives.
Since 2018, Shalom Farms has been located on 6-acres of the property now being reimagined as Yaupon Place. Through sustainable agriculture and hands-on volunteer experiences, Shalom Farms works with low-income communities to ensure access to healthy food and the support to lead healthy lives. The Yaupon Place acreage also includes a labyrinth and walking track used and loved by Northside neighbors.
As a Presbyterian School of Christian Education (PSCE) alum, I celebrate how Yaupon Place’s emphasis on re-creation of neighborhoods through story-sharing, farming, and recreation harkens back to the way PSCE (now federated with Union) once engaged in the public square through Lingle Hall. Dr. Glenn Bannerman’s recreational ministry drew in children and youth and touched families from both sides of Chamberlayne Avenue. With Glenn, we learned how to teach and how to learn in ways that give joy and healing transformation. Puppetry, dance, camping, art, roller-skating with kids …and hanging out with them… taught us how to awaken community spirit and invigorate faith.
A recent graduate of Union, Emily Nyce (MDiv’20) has been shepherding the vision for this program over the past two years. Complementing her theological education at Union, Emily’s years at Eastern Mennonite University and her recent certification from The Hearth in community storytelling have especially equipped her for directing Yaupon Place.
You can easily make an online donation to Yaupon Place by clicking on this GiveCampus link. Consider making a multi-year pledge. Or send a check made payable to Union Presbyterian Seminary and indicate on the check the gift is designated “for Yaupon Place.” Mail to Evelyn Terry, Union Presbyterian Seminary, 3401 Brook Road, Richmond, VA 23227.
Thank you in advance for your financial support and prayers for the success of Yaupon Place.