It’s official. We are moving to Richmond.
Last night, at the end of his livestreamed class on the Sufi Message, Pir Zia shared this news publicly for the first time. After a year of researching cities, scouting locations, planning and deliberating, we returned again and again to the idea of Richmond for the Inayati Order’s North American headquarters.
We looked at many cities—Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Louisville, Chicago and Austin. Along the way, we learned and decided that we’d rather be in a smaller, mid-sized city than a metropolis, that culture and diversity are important to us, as is cost-of-living. We also wanted to find a city with a sense of cultural emergence and possibility, on brink of becoming something greater. We believe Richmond is this city.
In the last two decades, Virginia Commonwealth University has invested generously in Richmond, leading to a cultural renaissance there. Millennials are flocking to the city for its low cost-of-living, quality-of-life, and good jobs. With so many creative people coming to work on their art and pursue their other enterprises, some are calling Richmond the “Brooklyn of Virginia.” On our last visit to the city, we found it easy to enter into the community and to begin to build relationships there. For all of these reasons, we find Richmond compelling and want to see what is possible for us there, as well as what we can contribute to its spiritual growth and development over time.
One down side is that it may be a bit difficult to get in and out of Richmond by plane. For direct flights, one would likely need to fly in and out of Washington, D.C., rather than Richmond International Airport. Nevertheless, we feel it is worth the extra effort, when necessary, as it will allow Pir Zia and his family, and the Inayati Order Astana, to live in a warm, hospitable place, with a reasonable cost-of-living. Housing and office space would be two-to-three times the price in Washington, D.C., or a comparable city.
Our plan is to move next summer, 2017, right after Season of the Rose summer school, currently scheduled for June 28–July 3 at the Abode. We hope you will join us for this event—to be part of what will hopefully be a great send-off for the Inayati Order Astana—and also that you will come visit us in Richmond, and perhaps even consider moving there!
Please note that the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon is still very much alive, and will continue to serve as a retreat center and community dedicated to the ideals and teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan. And while the Inayati Order will no longer manage the Abode or have offices there, we will continue to work closely with it, and to hold Inayati Order programs there.
In Richmond, we anticipate the need for roughly 2,500 square feet of office space (perhaps in a historic row home or another such converted building), with a library and archive, ideally with meeting space for up to 60 people. We imagine one or two regular classes each week, with significant livestreaming to allow people to join us internationally, and occasional weekend programs in a local venue. Outside of these, we hope to make our way out to you, more often. We are currently working on a strategic plan that will identify ways to enable Pir Zia and our other teachers to do more regional events in North America and worldwide.
As we learn more about our plans and the city of Richmond (called “RVA” by the locals), we will share them with you, so that we can all envision the possibilities together. We hope you will support this shift, and potentially move with us to our new home.
Jennifer Alia Wittman