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.

Read More

The Gray Havens Interview

Dave and Licia Radford, known musically as The Gray Havens, are making the kind of music you don’t know you need until you hear it. There seems to be such need for story to infuse the artistic expression of the Church these days. The narrative arc imposed by the Gospel and subsumed throughout everything is far too easy to ignore when art becomes an industry. Into this many-pooled river of truth-telling sub-creation step Dave and Licia with this year’s stellar release, She Waits.

Read More

Burwell Gardens

 

On the west corner of Burwell Avenue and McMillan Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, sat a vacant lot. To the north, Sharp’s Ridge rose in a sudden spine of hardwoods and undergrowth, brokering the notions of neighborhood loyalty between Oakwood-Lincoln Park and Inskip. A block away, running southeast, Central Avenue hummed with a calico array of colorful shops and businesses where North Knoxville’s varied yet distinct cadre of denizens spent it days. Yet for all this, the one lot stayed vacant. It once appeared to have been bushwhacked with some regularity, either by the city or by neighbors who had tired of the mosquitoes, but nobody bought it until the city acquired it and put it up for auction.

It was then that Colton and Tiffany Kirby, Benjamin and Molly Conaway, and John Human bought it and started Burwell Gardens. The idea was to kill two birds with one stone—pardoning the expression—and address both the issue of vacant lots (historically a potential attraction for crime, drug use, or a massive kudzu incursion) and the problem of fresh food shortages in the area. As of now, Burwell Gardens is officially part of the non-profit Cultivate Wholeness and is in the midst of raising funds for things like water lines and gardening materials.

Colton was kind enough to sit down and tell us a bit about the nature of what the Burwell folks are doing, the larger implications of community-oriented urban gardening, and the needs of the neighborhood.

FH: What’s the process your team underwent to get the land and work with the City of Knoxville?

Colton Kirby: We bought the property on auction, it was surplus real estate owned by the city. Acquiring it was pretty straightforward. We got a later start with it than what we wanted since we were at the mercy of the city regarding the closing date. However, once we closed, it was fairly smooth sailing. Since it is privately owned property, we can basically do whatever we want on there and since there are several laws in place that encourage gardening and small-scale urban farming, we’ve not hit any major snags yet.

Read More

Thank You, Thank You!

We’re excited to give you another episode in our film series. This time, we’ve partnered with Robert Allen at The War Room to bring you a song by Glen Phillips, front man of Toad the Wet Sprocket and an excellent writer. We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Read More

Halloween and Tradition

For Halloween, we’re excited to present something a little new. We’ve made our first foray into audio publishing! We’re only partly calling it a podcast for now. We thought we’d dip our toe in the water and see how you felt about it. Editors Janna Barber and Adam Whipple sat down with musician, producer, and ceramic artist David Clifton, who has lived both in England and in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a discussion about Halloween and the value of tradition.

Read More