About Five Oaks
What makes Five Oaks a sacred place?
Five Oaks is situated at the confluence of the Grand River and Whitemans Creek. According to Indigenous spirituality, where two waterways join is a sacred meeting place. We acknowledge that we are located on 116 acres of traditional Cayuga territory and honour this traditional land that has been part of the spiritual story of the Haudenosaunee people for generations. Five Oaks Programs and Retreats are mindful of their connection to this sacred land.
There are maps of the property at the Five Oaks office if you would like to explore the outdoor labyrinth or the hiking trails. Guests enjoy seeing many woodland creatures including deer, wild turkeys, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks & cranes. If you’re lucky, you may spot or hear a bald eagle.
Where did the name “Five Oaks” come from?
Five Oaks is owned by the United Church of Canada (UCC) and the “Five Oaks” name was chosen in reference to the five UCC central Conferences that the Centre originally served (Montreal and Ottawa, Bay of Quinte, Toronto, Hamilton, & London) before the church’s organizational restructuring. The name also honours the ancient oak trees located on the property that in Celtic tradition represents deep-rooted spirituality.
What are the early origins of this Centre?
In 1951 Bev Oaten had a dream of creating a lay leadership training centre in Southern Ontario. A pastor in the United Church of Canada, Oaten was inspired by the Iona community in Scotland. He was convinced that there was a need for lay persons to meet outside of the church to integrate work, worship, learning and witness. For several years, lay persons came to Five Oaks for a six-week program that included volunteer work, daily worship, and courses on Bible, social issues, personality, and Christian faith. While the Centre and its programs have changed over the last 60 years, there is still evidence of the original dream:
- Guests are invited to work by making and stripping the bed linens and clearing the table after eating.
- Guests are welcome to use the Prayer Room, which is always open.
- Guests participate in learning and growing opportunities whether they come for an event, to volunteer, or to enjoy the grounds.
For a more detailed account, go to the History Page.
Can I come for a tour?
Yes! Tours are generally available during office hours (Monday to Friday 9:00-4:30). It is difficult to accommodate tours on weekends as the accommodations are generally occupied by guests. Please inquire!
Tours need to be arranged in advance to ensure staff is on site and available to show you around.
How far in advance should I inquire to secure dates?
This depends on your flexibility on dates and the size of your group. Weekdays tend to have more availability. Weekends in late spring, summer and early fall can fill up quickly. There are annual events held at Five Oaks some weekends as well! We often rent to large group retreats of 30-100 guests, so many of our accommodations can be fully booked out for weekend dates. Please inquire far in advance if you are a large group or have very specific dates for your retreat.
How can I secure dates for a retreat?
Step 1 – Review the Five Oaks website Accommodations, Meeting Space, and Amenities and Services pages for details to help narrow down what you are interested in booking. Five Oaks has a variety of different buildings on the property with different accommodation levels and rates.
Step 2 – Connect with us through e-mail or phone to inquire about availability. Please be as specific as possible in your request.
Step 3 – Fill out the Five Oaks online Rental Inquiry Form to start the booking process.
Step 4 – Once your request is approved you will receive a Registration e-mail with a link to your booking. Follow this link to Register and make your Deposit.
Your booking is only confirmed, and a hold placed on the accommodations once you have Registered and the 30% non-refundable deposit is received.
An update on your group size 4-6 weeks prior to your booking helps Five Oaks plan for your event and is appreciated if numbers are being substantially lowered.
What is the payment process?
When registering for your event, guests will have the choice to pay the 30% non-refundable deposit through cash, cheque or credit card. Guests are required to provide their group’s final numbers two weeks prior to arrival, and their final bill will be sent based on that. Reductions in group numbers will not be accepted after this date. Final payment is to be made one week prior to your event.
What methods of payment can you accept?
Five Oaks can accept cash, cheque, Visa, Mastercard, or e-mail money transfer. Five Oaks appreciates payments made by cash or cheque whenever possible. When submitting payment, include the name of the event, registrant name, and stay dates so that we can correctly match the payment to your reservation.
- Make cheques out to Five Oaks Centre
- Mail cheques to 1 Bethel Road, Paris, ON. N3L 3E3, or drop them off on site during office hours.
E-mail Money Transfer
- Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
- If a Password is required, please use Guestoaks
Can I make a booking for a year from now or more?
We would be happy to book that far ahead; however we cannot guarantee the rental rates for beyond the current year. Please inquire.
Can Five Oaks offer a discount?
As a registered charitable organization, we do not charge tax on your booking!
If you are working within a tight budget and are affiliated with our one of our Vision Partners (Six Nations, the Muslim Community, or the United Church of Canada) please inquire with our office as we may be aware of an affiliated bursary to support your event.
For the most budget-friendly Accommodation options on-site, check out our Chalet or Summer Centre cabins with bunk-bed style quarters. Bring-your-own sleeping bag/towel/linens to save on the cost of linen bundles!
What is the Cancellation Policy of a rental?
Five Oaks asks that you check in with your guest numbers one month prior to you event. We then ask for you to give final guest numbers two weeks before your event and this will be the numbers you are responsible for on your invoice. Any large reduction in numbers should be discussed with our office as early as possible.
In the event of a cancellation:
- If we cannot resell the rooms, the entire 30% non-refundable deposit will be retained by Five Oaks to cover the lost revenue.
- If we can resell the rooms, your deposit can be carried over as a credit to a future booking, minus a $50 administration fee.
Are we required to provide our own Group Insurance?
Yes. All Groups are responsible for providing proof of insurance indicating a limit of liability of at least $1 million (For children’s groups a minimum of $2 million is required, preferably $5 million). Please obtain and send Five Oaks a certificate confirming your liability coverage naming Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre as “additional insured”.
If you require assistance obtaining insurance coverage, Robertson Hall Insurance is a trusted source of Five Oaks and can provide an economical option for your group.
If your group requires proof of insurance from Five Oaks for your organization, please request in advance to allow time for it to be processed. For your request, we require the following information:
- Date of event
- Full legal name of your organization
- Organization address
- Stay dates
- A brief description of what is happening
What is the Alcohol & Smoking Policy at Five Oaks?
If alcohol is going to be consumed by groups or guests, they must notify Five Oaks at the time of booking. Group leaders should remind guests that moderation is encouraged, and request that it is used in a responsible manner, meeting the following rules;
- By law, guests can consider their private bedroom or retreat house as their residence and consume alcohol there, conducting themselves in a manner respectful of others. The following lodging areas are considered private: Main Building Bedrooms, Retreat Houses, Chalet, Personal Camping Tents and Cabins.
- The law also allows Five Oaks to give permission for alcohol consumption with a liquor permit. These spaces include: Main Building Dining Room, Upper Room, New Hall, Summer Centre Dining Hall, Banquet Tents, Campfire areas and demarked outdoor areas. Groups will be required to provide a copy of the liquor permit as proof it was obtained.
- Smoking is only permitted in the designated outdoor smoking areas, demarked by the green butt disposal containers. There is one smoking area on the upper campus, and one on the lower campus. Smoking must meet Ontario Provincial Laws. Must be 20 metres from a playground or sports field. Must be 9 metres from any public entrance into any building.
- Alcohol/cannabis will not be used or permitted in public spaces if other groups or persons will be present that would be offended by such use. Such groups or persons would be those who abstain from alcohol/cannabis use on account of recovering from addiction and those who abstain on account of religious conviction or personal conscience.
The full Five Oaks policy on Alcohol and Smoking can be provided on request.
Do you have single/individual accommodations?
For groups requesting single rooms:
The majority of bedrooms in the Main Building have two single beds per room. For a higher rate, guest can have a room to themselves. There are 23 bedrooms available in the Main Building if all guests would like private accommodation. There are three individual full piece washrooms per wing.
The Retreat Houses have 3-4 bedrooms per house, with a mixture of shared rooms with double and single beds in each. The capacity of each house varies, between 7-10 people. The bathrooms are individual full piece washrooms.
For a couple or personal retreat:
The Hermitage, a smaller private retreat house is ideal for 1-2 guests as it is a small self-contained cottage.
When the Hermitage is unavailable, guests may be able to rent one of the larger Retreat Houses (meant for larger groups) at a reduced rate with the understanding that your booking will be placed in our reservation system as a temporary hold until one week prior to your stay. During that time, if a group wants to book the entire house at the full rate, we will contact you to let you know and discuss alternatives. NOTE: this rate is for a max occupancy of 2 people.
Guests can rent individual rooms in the Main Building when available, however the building will typically be shared with other groups and access to a kitchen for personal use is limited and based on availability. We do not currently have a café open at Five Oaks.
What about meals during my stay?
In the Main Building, the large kitchen is used by an independent on-site caterer called The Kitchen Catering Company. The Kitchen offers delicious, sustainable, and locally sourced food at an affordable rate. For pricing and more information, you can arrange your catering needs directly with The Kitchen at email@example.com.
Please be sure to include your Five Oaks Group Booking Name, Stay Dates, Meals Requested, and any Dietary Requirements. Please note:
- Catering is a separate business from Five Oaks and costs will include HST & 10% gratuity. Guests are directed to book directly with the caterer. The Five Oaks office does not book catering on your behalf.
- If the on-site caterer is unavailable for your dates, please inquire with our office about recommended outside caterers.
Preparing your own meals:
In the Main Building, the New Hall has a small apartment sized kitchen ideal for preparing refreshments, snacks, or simple meals for your event. It is not ideal for cooking full meals for large groups.
The Chalet and Retreat Houses all include a standard house sized kitchen, perfect for serving the capacity of the house.
The Summer Centre Dining Hall is generally booked by groups staying in the Summer Centre Cabins. It is the largest kitchen on site and can accommodate large group self-catering.
All kitchens on site have a stove, microwave, coffee maker, and fridge, and a basic set of cookware and serveware (pots, pans, plates, forks, knives, cups, dish towels, etc.). If you have a specific item request, it may be something to bring yourself (e.g. bread-maker, blender, etc.).
Our group would also like a meeting space, what is available?
Five Oaks has Meeting Spaces to accommodate groups of 10-100. Chairs, tables and tablecloths are available. Many of the meeting spaces have a TV for presentations. Larger groups in the warmer seasons can opt to rent a large outdoor tent to accommodate even larger groups.
Please refer to our Meeting Spaces page for photos and more information.
Can I book out one of your larger meeting spaces for just the day?
As a non-profit, we make our revenue by renting overnight accommodations, and it is crucial to have meeting spaces available for overnight rental groups. Therefore, Day Use Only rental requests can be placed in our reservation system as a flexible hold until one month prior to your stay. If a conflicting overnight inquiry does arise, we will contact you to discuss alternatives. Meeting Spaces are more often available for day use during weekdays.
Can we arrive early?
Standard check-in time is 3:00pm for overnight guests.
If you’ve booked a Meeting Space and would like to start your programming earlier, you may requests early access, which can be granted based on availability. There may be an additional room rental fee depending on your arrival time. If your Meeting Space is unavailable for early access, you may still arrive early and enjoy the outdoor property or do outdoor programming until your designated check-in time. In both of these situations, guests would still not be able to check in to their bedrooms until 3:00pm.
It is preferred if the group leader/organizing committee arrive prior to guests in order to direct guests upon arrival. Please inform hospitality staff of your:
- Organizer Arrival Time
- Guest Arrival Time
- Organizer Departure Time
- Guest Departure Time
If you will be arriving after 4:30pm, please note that the Five Oaks Office will be closed. Please make sure to let Hospitality staff know in advance so arrangements can be made to have a host meet you.
- If any of your guests are arriving late please give them your direct contact information and instructions on where to meet you on the property.
- Upon arrival, the group leader will be provided a host-phone number to reach a Five Oaks staff member or volunteer outside of office hours if required.
Can I request a late check out?
Standard check-out time is 11:00am.
Similar to the check in process, if you would like to extend your Meeting Space time past the check out time, this must be requested in advance, and is not guaranteed. We often have new groups arriving that afternoon and need time to clean the space. There may be an additional room rental fee for extended use of the Meeting Space, depending on the length of stay.
If late check out of your Meeting Space is granted, or if you are ending your program with a catered meal in our Dining Hall, guests are still required to vacate their bedrooms by 11:00am in order to prepare for the next group’s arrival. Sometimes this means loading your belongings into vehicles/bus prior to your final gathering or meal.
Will we be sharing the site with any other groups?
Five Oaks has more than 160 beds on site, so you will often be sharing the grounds with other guests here at Five Oaks. The Main Building can even be shared by more than one group. When we are scheduling multiple hosting groups, we do take into consideration whether groups will be a good fit. A youth group and a group wanting silence may not go well together, however if both groups are aware of each other prior to their booking, this helps ease the process.
Amenities such as the Main Building Dining Room, Grounds, Star Prayer Room and Bookstore are all common areas, enjoyed by all guests. Unless the Labyrinth or Gazebo are reserved, this space is a common area as well.
Quiet Hours at Five Oaks begin at 11:00pm for all guests.
Please respect each other’s Meeting Spaces by not crossing through them and by respecting noise levels. You may travel through the Main Building by using the lower level or outdoors.
Are your accommodations accessible?
The Main Building at Five Oaks is the only fully accessible building on site. B-Wing has an accessible exterior door operator, an accessible washroom with shower, and a lift to access the lower level Meeting Spaces and Dining Hall. There are two ramps on the lower level as well as an additional accessible washroom.
Recent measurements of our spaces note that they may not fit the new guidelines for barrier-free design. There is intention in the coming year to renovate our Main Building bedrooms, at which time we plan to make the necessary updates to make the space more accessible. Current measurement details:
- Width of accessible bathroom door: 28″
- Width of nearby bedroom door: 28″ (could be up to 30″ if the closet handle door inside the room were removed)
- Width of ramps into New Hall & Dining Hall: 36.5″ (34.5″ at its narrowest spot)
- There is one corner turn leaving the New Hall meeting space to head towards the Dining Hall which is 31.5″
The Chalet building has partial accessibility with the lower floor (walkout) having an exterior door operator, accessible washroom with shower, and bedroom door operator. Unfortunately, there is no lift to access the upper floor.
Can I bring along my pet?
Support animals are welcome at Five Oaks (noting that they should be kept on-leash in the building and always near their owner). Otherwise, we do not allow pets on site due to allergies and other aversions to animals.
What options are there for local transport?
Our facility does not have shuttles or access to a bus stop nearby. However, it is possible to arrange independent transport. Please see our Directions page for contact information to the transportation options in our area.
Preparation, Arrival & Stay
What do we need to do before arrival?
- Ensure you have registered, paid your deposit, submitted your final group numbers (including rooming sheets), and confirmed arrival and departure times.
- Confirm meal details directly with the caterer.
- Submit your Liability Insurance Certificate, naming Five Oaks Centre as “additional insured”, with the dates covering your length of stay.
- If your group will be using a meeting space at Five Oaks, our staff needs to know your room set-up and tech requirements at least one week in advance:
- Furniture – the number of stacking chairs and 6′ folding tables required (incl. the room configuration)
- Visual – most meeting spaces include a large screen TV with an HDMI cord to connect to your personal laptop for presentation purposes. We also have a projector available for rent with a screen, if required. Notify us if you need the projector, a flipchart or a whiteboard.
- Sound – The sound system has 2 speakers, a PA and 2 wired microphones. Advanced booking is required for set up and availability.
What items should I bring?
- Five Oaks does not provide toiletries besides hand soap. We ask you to bring toiletries that are not perfumed.
- Please bring a pair of separate indoor shoes during the rainy/snowy seasons. You may appreciate bringing some slippers with you!
- We do not allow pets on site due to allergies and other aversions to animals. Service animals are welcome!
- Please refrain from bringing nuts or nut products.
- If you have opted out of linens in the Chalet or you are staying in the Summer Centre Cabins please be sure to bring bedding (sheets, pillowcase, sleeping bag) and shower towel.
What do we need to do upon arriving?
- When you arrive to the parking lot and see the Main Building, come in the Office door located to the right of the main double doors. A staff person or an on-site host will be here to greet you. If you will be arriving outside of Office Hours (after 4:30pm) please be sure you have made prior arrangements with staff.
- Staff will review the fire safety policy and a map of the property with the group leader.
- During your stay, a staff person or volunteer host will be available, either on-site or on-call. Contact information for the on-call staff-person is listed on the white board in Main Building hallway, as well as in the package provided for you upon arrival. The package also contains other information about our facility, emergency procedures, and the expectations for guests on site.
- We ask that group leaders arrive prior to their guests to make sure there is a smooth arrival for everyone. We may require guests to enter from a certain door when there are multiple groups on site or arrival is outside of office hours.
- Please find linens folded at the end of your bed. Following the practice of Five Oaks, guests are asked to make their beds when they arrive and to strip them when they leave. If you need any assistance, please let the host/staff know.
- Extra blankets can be found in your closet if you are chilly and fans are available if you are warm.
What do we need to know while we are there?
- Five Oaks recycles. Please use the recycling bins located in all buildings.
- First Aid kits and sharps boxes can be found in every building. In the Main Building it is found in the hallway outside the Office.
- Our Health and Safety committee works to ensure that your stay will be healthy and safe. Five Oaks accepts no responsibility for personal injury, loss or damage to your property during your stay. No need has arisen to install locks with keys on bedroom doors. You can lock your personal bedroom door while inside.
- If you rearrange furniture during your stay, please return it to its place for the next group to use.
- If using a Kitchen at Five Oaks, please be sure to return all utensils and cookware to the proper kitchen where it was found. Do not enter or use any items in the Main Building Kitchen (they belong to a tenant, not Five Oaks).
- Please note that quiet hours at Five Oaks begin at 11:00pm. Please show respect towards others staying on-site and be conscious
that sound does travel throughout the Lower & Upper Campuses!
Is there WiFi?
WiFi is available in the Main Building and Retreat Houses. Reception is by satellite meaning reliability, speed and volume have limitations. We request that you monitor your use and avoid downloading large video files. The password will be provided with your guest check-in.
Amenities & Services
What kinds of things are offered at Five Oaks?
Five Oaks offers a variety of Programs annually – check them out!
Visit the Amenities and Services page for ideas for your group’s self-guided activities. A large playing field, trails, fire-pits for campfires, playground, and a pool! There is a Book Store on-site and an interfaith prayer space. Inquire for connection to spiritual direction.
Five Oaks has partnered with a group of local and on-site partners you can contact to add programming to enhance your stay! Yoga, Paddling the River, Guided Hikes, On-Site Catering, etc. Click the link to learn more!
Is there a swimming pool at Five Oaks?
The outdoor pool at Five Oaks is open from approximately early July to the end of August, weather dependent. The Five Oaks Pool has a shallow end of 3.6 feet and a deep end of 10 feet. The capacity of the pool area is 75 people. The pool has a water slide and a diving board for bathers to enjoy.
For more details on accessing the pool, see our Amenities and Services section of our website.
What is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a sacred pattern that is used as a walking meditation. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. Simply walk it with an open mind and an open heart. For a more detailed information sheet, come by the office.
Can I find spiritual support at Five Oaks?
If you are coming to Five Oaks for spiritual reflection, you can request the services of a Spiritual Director. With this person you may want to spend an hour walking the labyrinth or sitting on a bench to explore your spiritual longings or questions. To connect with someone who can provide spiritual companioning services at Five Oaks, visit our Community Partners page.
There is a bookstore at Five Oaks?
The Grand River Bookstore is a Five Oaks Partner, and has been on site since the 1990s. The bookstore is a wonderful treasure, so be sure to browse through the collection during your stay. The open hours are Monday to Friday 9am–5pm and Saturday 10am–2pm. You can also connect with them regarding your resource needs for your program.