A Castle On a Hill: an Interview with Jacob Stock

For several years now, Jacob and Melissa Stock have been running a delightful, slightly otherworldly retreat center in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. The architectural centerpiece of this place is the Stocks’ house, which is a castle. No, really. They also have a love for the Oxford Inklings, creative community in general, and for the Church at large. Jacob was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions. We’re excited to introduce you to the work of Castle Ministries.

Foundling House: It’s obvious that, somewhere along the way, you discovered this need to get away from the busy-ness of daily life for a season. What’s the story behind that?

Jacob Stock: My wife and I discussed TV when we first got married and decided to watch one show a week. We eventually gave up on even that, because of content really. So after a year with no TV and maybe four to six movies, we just experienced such a relief and peace from not being inundated by the world. It was through this—and maybe a trip to Canada—that we stumbled into an experience that we wanted to try to encourage, even if for a week or a weekend. It is hard to step away from what I now call the “noise”—noise being all things that grab for our attention and rush at us.

FH: At the heart of Castle Ministries, it should be noted: there is a castle. Tell us about this place.

JS: It is really a house with stone siding and a tower. The hope was to have an icon or marketing tool, but also to mimic more of a monastery with simple beauty. It would just be harder to convince folks to go away to the monastery with all the connotations that involves. We have simply used the building to express a desire to be different, to come away from the normal.  And kids love it, so I do gain campers as a result of its slick market appeal. We are not a very high end venue, so it is humble and all that we do is geared to be accessible to most demographic and economic levels. Beauty and Goodness are high values we place on space and quite a lost art in my opinion. Art and Architecture had such an effect on past generations of the church, and this is in some way a connection can be made to that old tradition.

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The Other Endgame

First things first: spoiler alert. This is going to get messy, because I got messy.

I got the last good seat at the 9:30 showing of Avengers: Endgame—the only seat left from which I wouldn’t have to crane my neck at an obtuse angle. I shuffled in to the row, which was mostly empty at that point, except for the dating couple next to my seat. I apologized before plopping down beside the lady, which made the moment more awkward than it would have been anyway. A little while later, a large man and his young son scooted past us and sat next to me. These were to be my companions for the journey. We had come for entertainment, yes, but also for closure. After twenty-one films of waiting for post-credits questions, we demanded answers.

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What is Meant by the Land

When an old woman says it, the plot of black earth
    where love has unfurled
like the fiery feathers of the celosia, busting wet like
        the pepper-bells,
spilling light like the husks that hold the yellow pearls.
She has cupped it in her hands like a baby, she has fed
        all her babies on it;
they eat of its unfading colors and are unfading in their
        turn.

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My First Mother’s Day

I remember when my best friend told me her mother didn’t want her kids to observe Mother’s Day. This was a family at my childhood church and, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why a woman so like my own mother disapproved of a day whose purpose was to thank and honor her. My friend said that her mother thought children should honor their mothers every day, not just on a day exploited to sell cards and flowers. I couldn’t disagree with this. But I also couldn’t see a problem with also having a special day to show my own mom honor and gratitude for how wonderful she was.

Since my daughter’s recent birth (a month and a half ago), I see this from a new perspective. Not that I’m ready to cancel Mother’s Day celebrations, but I’m also not so confident in my new role as mom that I’m eager to have a day celebrating my motherhood.

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