The World Fellowship Center is a retreat and conference center in Albany, New Hampshire, United States. It is open from late June to approximately Labor Day weekend, with a few workshops and other events taking place before or afterwards. Nestled at the southeastern edge of the White Mountain National Forest, east of Mount Chocorua off Route 16 in Albany, it currently comprises approximately 455 acres (184 ha), including two nature trails, a soccer field, and boating and swimming access to a large pond. It can host over 200 guests and features speakers, groups, organizations, and entertainers from around the world.
Although the World Fellowship of Faiths had existed as an organization since 1929, the idea for a summer retreat and conference center was brought to life by Charles Winston Weller, who had been a speechwriter for Theodore Roosevelt, and by Weller's wife Eugenia Winston Weller in 1940. That year, the Wellers' adult son died, after which Charles did a two-week long meditation on nearby Mount Whiteface, during which he had a vision to create a more permanent place for the World Fellowship of Faiths. Between 1940 and 1941, the Weller couple selected a 290-acre (120 ha) plot known as the Draper Estate, located in Albany, which was for sale for $3,000. After making a down payment of $500, Weller summoned his friend Lola Maverick Lloyd, an investor based in Chicago, to pay the remaining $2,500. In the first official year of operation, the summer of 1941, a total of 253 people were recorded in attendance. The initial slogan was "In a time of war, prepare for peace." The Wellers assumed the position of co-directors from 1941 until 1952.
In August of that year, retired theologian and pacifist Willard Uphaus and his wife Ola visited, and became directors the subsequent summer. Uphaus had previously been fired from Hastings College in Nebraska in 1930 for advocating radical viewpoints, and he remained committed to the cause of pacifism during World War Two. Beginning in 1953, Uphaus was scrutinized and maligned by William Loeb III, publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's only statewide newspaper. In 1954, with the Red Scare and McCarthyism in full swing, Uphaus was summoned by New Hampshire Attorney General Louis Wyman to surrender a list of all attendees of World Fellowship out of fear that World Fellowship may have had connections to the Communist Party, or was itself a Communist organization. Uphaus steadfastly refused to these demands, commencing a nearly five-year long legal battle that involved numerous subpoenas and appeals. In an attempt to negotiate what the Attorney General's demands were (since World Fellowship already had a publicly accessible guest list for tax purposes) Uphaus made a few futile attempts to meet with Wyman in person. The case eventually made its to way the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in June of 1959 in favor of the Attorney General. In December of that year Uphaus was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt of court. The sentence lasted from December 14, 1959, to December 13, 1960. The Uphaus couple resumed directorship in 1961, a position they retained until 1969.
In 1969, Katheryn "Kit" and her husband Christoph Schmauch became directors. Kit, a teacher, was from Columbus, Ohio, and Christoph, a Lutheran minister, was from East Germany, but had immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s. To date, they have had the longest tenure of directorship, during which they made numerous expansions, improvements and additions to the place. These have included the purchase of 135 acres (55 ha) and the construction of bunkhouse dormitories and other lodging facilities for seasonal workers, as well as a year-round Cape house for the directors. The Schmauchs instituted a working wage for employees (prior to that, all wages were based on tips left by guests), purchased laundry facilities, established a children's fellowship, constructed a basketball court and volleyball net, and blazed nature trails for hiking. The Schmauchs remained co-directors until 2000. In May of that year, Andrea Walsh and Andrew Davis, living with their infant daughter at the time in Keene, New Hampshire, took up the reins of directorship. During their tenure, they have labored to increase the presence and attendance of people of color as well as upgrade the lodging facilities to comply with fire safety regulations, and improve accessibility to alter-abled people. With regards to program changes, they have expanded the season to include weddings in June and September and have created more programs, venues, opportunities and workshops pertaining to the arts, body movement (such as yoga, paneurythymy, Capoeira Angola and Feldenkrais), and exercise (such as nature walks, hiking and/or biking in the nearby White Mountain National Forest).
On the World Fellowship main site there is Lloyd lodge, the primary lodging facility, which has a main kitchen, dining hall, a galley kitchen, guest rooms and bathrooms, screened porches and a veranda, a parlor, and a library. Also on this site there is a conference room (Schmauch house), a gazebo, picnic tables, garden beds, basketball and volleyball facilities, a chalet, two gender-specific dormitories, several campsites, a Cape house that is used to house the directors year-round as well as house guests in the summer, and a chicken coop. Located a quarter of a mile down the Drake Hill Road is a large house (Uphaus lodge), which is also used for lodging purposes and has garden beds adjacent. Nearly a mile away, close to the Route 16 entrance, there are two 19th century cottages and a soccer field. Adjacent to the parking lot there are hiking trails and access to swimming and boating in nearby Whitton Pond. The pond is largely undeveloped and free of motor boats, making it a prime location for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, berry-picking and bird-watching. For much of World Fellowship's existence there was a large 18th century farmhouse near the soccer field and cottages that was discontinued as a lodging facility in 2008 and demolished completely in 2010. Subsequently, off-site cabins were rented for accommodation losses; in future years, plans have been made to build more cabins and construct a bathhouse. Most rooms in each lodging facility are named after historical figures committed to social justice causes - some of whom were actual guests - such as Scott Nearing and Florence Luscomb. Drake Hill Road, the road on which World Fellowhsip is situated, forms an approximately 2.8-mile-long (4.5 km) tangent to Route 16 and provides access to the site from both the south (close to mile marker 69) and the north (close to mile marker 72). The World Fellowship welcoming sign on the southern (primary) entrance off Route 16 has been defaced and damaged (by graffiti, gunshots and Molotov cocktail) during the time that the World Fellowship Center has existed, reflecting the often strained tension World Fellowship has had with the nearby communities. During Uphaus's period of directorship, the sign included the words, "All Races Welcome", thereby attracting numerous attendees of color passing through in an overwhelmingly white region. In decades subsequent, particularly the 1960s and 1970s, World Fellowship was seen both externally and internally as a safe haven for radicals who expressed socialist, Marxist, and/or other leftist viewpoints - this stood in stark contrast to the rest of Carroll County, which was solidly conservative. In recent years, tensions have eased and interactions and relations between World Fellowship and the surrounding towns have been civil.
The current weekly program typically features guest lecturers weekday mornings and evenings, a cookout Thursday evening, a talent show Friday night, musical and/or dance venues Saturday night, and a luncheon featuring a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner every Sunday afternoon. Vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free options are available upon request. Over the years, a variety of activists, authors, scholars, organizers, artists, politicians, and story-tellers have attended. These have included Noam Chomsky, Aviva Chomsky (his daughter), Peter Marcuse (son of Herbert Marcuse), Scott and Helen Nearing, David Dellinger, Bernie Sanders (when he was mayor of Burlington, long before he gained national and international recognition), Mab Segrest, Lynne Stewart, Chuck Collins, Steve Schwerner (brother of slain civil rights activist Michael Schwerner), Steve Ellner, and several members of the Clamshell Alliance, an anti-nuclear organization that opposed the construction of the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant in the mid-1970s. Some notable musical performers have included David Rovics, the Adam Ezra group, Pamela Means, Tomas Rodriguez and numerous other folk (and other genre) musicians predominantly, though not exclusively, from the greater Boston and New York metropolitan regions. The current mission statement of the World Fellowship Center is "to promote peace and social justice through education and dialogue inspired by nature", often shortened to the motto "where social justice meets nature."