Since 1897, summer conferences on Star Island have been a source of renewal and inspiration for people of all ages. Art, music, natural history, world affairs, and spirituality are common themes, and conference attendance is open to everyone. Many conferees, known affectionately as "Shoalers," return to Star Island year after year for spiritual renewal, personal growth, and the family of friends they find there. As a not-for-profit organization, Star Island Corporation’s room and board fees are structured to provide affordable individual and family retreat.
The island hosts approximately 40 conferences every summer. They range from a gathering of nearly 200 people for week-long stay to a weekend or mid-week workshop for 20. Each conference is self-administered with conference chairs arranging for speakers, workshops, childcare, and registration. Most are family-centered and have activities for all ages. All have a theme or program with guest speakers or workshop leaders.
A Typical Day at a Star Island Conference
On Star Island, your morning begins with the smell of fresh sea air and the sound of the gulls, or if you’re a sound sleeper, with the sweet “music” of the wake-up singers. If you’re a swimmer, you might want to join the Polar Bears for a morning dip at 7:00 a.m. It’s so refreshing; participants are awarded a special certificate at the end of the week! Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are served on the porch at the Oceanic Hotel long before 8:00 a.m. breakfast. The rocking chairs are an early beckon to quietly watch the day begin. A walk around the island might be your preference, or yoga — whatever feels right.
You might attend morning chapel services lead by the minister of the week and there also may be a separate service for youth. Usually by 9:00 programming for children and youth get underway so that parents have time to get them settled before the theme speaker begins for adults in Elliott, the large meeting room just off the porch or in one of the stone cottages. A stimulating hour with the theme speaker leads to morning workshops. Locations for the various offerings are posted in the hotel lobby so that you can figure out where to go.
The big bell on Oceanic’s porch rings at 12:30 bringing everyone to the dining room. The mid-day meal, besides giving us energy for the afternoon, is a chance to re-connect with family and friends and plan your afternoon. The afternoon activities may include more workshops or activities like softball games, tennis, basketball, art barn, swimming, island wandering, porch chats, or a good long nap.
Social time is at 5:00 and weather-permitting, is held outside so you can watch the sun continue its summer stretch across the ocean. Look west to the mainland, or east to the horizon — it’s all stunning in its simplicity and charm.
Dinner at 6:00 is often followed by optional activities like singing and bonfire, Sock-Hop, Musicale, Talent Show, and Pel Show. (“Pel” is short for “Pelican.” They’re the amazing folks who keep the island running, and help take care of our needs while we’re on island.) Maybe, though, you’re just as happy with a lime-rickey or ice cream cone from the snack bar and a rocker on the porch.
The day comes to a close with evening chapel services. Walking in silence up the path to the chapel carrying your lantern is really one of the most special, spiritual moments on Star. If you still have energy at 11 p.m. and beyond, there are late-night social gatherings for grown-ups and raucous games for the young at heart.
A conference week on Star Island has something for everyone, family time, time to be alone, time to build your artistic skills, time to reflect and recharge, and time to relax and have fun. Most of all, it is a chance to be a part of an extraordinary, warm and nurturing community.
Adapted from the Star Island Lifespan Religious Education Conference website: http://www.starreweek.com