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Buddhist Society Purchases Camp Mensch Mill Retreat and Conference Center
Written by By Bradley Schlegel Correspondent

          The Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia has purchased the Mensch Mill Retreat and Conference Center in Hereford.

          The new owner will maintain the property's current form and function, according to information provided by the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ, which completed its sale of the property Tuesday.

          The property, near the intersection of Conrad and Mensch Mill roads, hosted summer youth camps, workshops, and retreats for 84 years, according to PSEC officials.

          Terms of the deal were not disclosed.         

          Lee Ta, spokesperson for the non-profit organization, expressed a strong desire to not disturb the land and to honor the spiritual traditions that have preceded their purchase, according to a news release from the local UCC conference.

          Reached Tuesday afternoon, Ta described the 140-acre parcel as an ideal location for the Buddhist society to cultivate the teachings of its master, Venerable Master Chin Kung.

"Like the previous owner, we see this property as a holy place and perfect place to cultivate Buddhism," Ta said. "We consider it holy ground."

          The property will serve as the organizational headquarters for its 200 members, according to Ta. He said the Pure Land Learning Center, the center of the organization which serves members through North America, will be housed inside the Klein Center at 343 Conrad Road.

No new construction is planned, according to Ta.  "Our intent is to totally utilize the entire facility," he said.

          The new owner will also work with the PSEC to continue retreat and leadership training programming on the property in the near future, as well as seek to partner with other interested parties to create the next Multi-Faith Multicultural Center as a model city of peace and harmony, according to the release.

          Rev. Bill Worley, the PSEC's conference minister, called the deal good for his membership because it takes his organization out of debt while allowing them to maintain access to the facilities.

          According to Worley, both groups share the same values.  "They want to run the camp as we ran the camp," he said.

          In the news release, Worley states that the PSEC has "an exciting and extraordinary opportunity to continue our connection with what is for many in the PSEC, sacred ground, and to do so in partnership with new friends whose stewardship of the earth, quest for spiritual wellness, and respect for tradition, mirrors our own."

          Significant budget shortfalls and waning usage motivated representatives of the conferences 169 congregations to vote to sell the property in November of 2012, according to the release.

          A similar vote seven months later, with increased support, reaffirmed that decision, according to the information.

          The camp was closed in January of 2013, according to Rev. Sharon Morris, the associate conference minister for the PSEC.  "There's no activity there," Morris said in July. "We're trying to maintain the property as best we can."

          An unacceptable offer for Mensch Mill was rejected in May, 2013, according to a letter from Rob Stilwell, PSEC's treasurer, to its delegates and clergy, posted on the conference's website.

          In April, the Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia initially approached the PSEC about purchasing the facility, according to Ta.  "Originally, we were not looking for property with this this kind of capacity," said Ta, who visited once a week for several months during the negotiations. "But it happened that we just found it."

          The farm property, originally owned by the family of Adam L. Mensch, had been owned by the church since 1928, when it was purchased by Eastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Reformed Church for $6,000 for the development of a church leadership training center, according to the news release.  A purchase of the Jacob G. Rupp farm for $1 in 1947 expanded the property by 70 acres.

          The conference center opened the in 2004 on additional land purchased from Annabelle Kemp.






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