MONCKS CORNER — The roads to Mepkin Abbey are prolonged and slight by a hunger forests of Berkeley County, and pocked with gnarly potholes.
But a impulse one turns into a Abbey, a severe going is smoothed. Perhaps it’s a embracing shaft of live oaks, an allee of moss-cloaked pacific giants behest a friendly welcome. Or maybe it’s a dedicated hush that envelops Mepkin’s stretched immature space and gardens unaware a Cooper River.
Whatever a reason, a clarity that one has entered dedicated belligerent is palpable.
Mepkin is a place of quiet, strange beauty and pacific contemplation, and not only for monks. Rather than being sequestered or restrictive, a Abbey is a acquire shelter for laypeople.
“Visitors mostly contend that as shortly as they come by a gate, they can feel their blood vigour drop,” says Father Guerric Heckel, one of a 14 Roman Catholic monks who now make adult Mepkin’s Trappist community.
Hospitality a running principle
Established in 1949, a nunnery is centered on 3,200 acres of what once was Mepkin Plantation, owned in a 18th century by loyalist Henry Laurens and later, from 1936 to 1949, by Time Magazine publisher Henry Luce and his wife, author Clare Boothe Luce.
The Luces consecrated remarkable landscape designer Loutrell Briggs to renovate a drift into Mepkin Gardens. They bequeathed a skill to a Trappists of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, who in spin founded an appendage friar village here in Moncks Corner.
As partial a worldwide Cistercian Order, a monks of Mepkin reside by a Rule of Saint Benedict, watching overpower for many of a day and vital a contemplative life of “ceaseless ask and pity a sufferings of a benefaction time until a Lord returns” (a gauge from Romans 8: 18-23).
In further to prayer, silence, pondering Scripture reading and earthy work (Mepkin’s fungus plantation produces between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds of oyster and shiitake mushrooms a week), liberality is a executive principle of a order.
Mepkin’s gates are open daily to visitors, many of whom come simply to suffer a poetic camellias and wander a grounds, while others peruse a singular collection of a Clare Boothe Luce Library.
‘Our watchful list stays full’
For those seeking a deeper experience, Mepkin offers several shelter opportunities, a partial of a abbey’s method that has stretched significantly given Mepkin’s St. Francis Retreat Center non-stop in Aug 2013.
Featuring a clean, elementary pattern by W.G. Clark and Associates, a shelter core offers 16 guest bedrooms and a discussion building isolated around a Father Francis Kline Memorial Chapel, named in respect of a abbey’s dear former abbot. Natural materials of timber and glass, mill and steel simulate Mepkin’s groundedness and fasten to morality and sustainability, and a cultured “draws a middle suggestion to hold a invisible,” as Abbot Stan Gumula voiced during a center’s dedication.
These gentle accommodations concede adult to 12 guest to stay for a weekend or a weeklong private shelter (the 4 additional bedrooms are indifferent for visiting priests or other special guests).
“We horde some 700 shelter guest any year, and a watchful list stays utterly full,” records Father Guerric, Mepkin’s shelter core director. An online reservation complement on a abbey’s website streamlines a registration process. The cost is a “pay what we will” concession request.
Mepkin retreatants are acquire to observe a Liturgy of a Hours with a monks, fasten in ceremony and ask during all 7 daily services in a Abbey Church, commencement with Lauds during 3:20 a.m. and finale with Compline during 7:35 p.m. Or not.
Guests can observe despotic overpower if they wish, or not. Simple vegetarian dishes are eaten in overpower in a Refectory, and tea and coffee are always accessible in a discussion center. And all else is giveaway operation — no expectations or obligations. Nor does one have to be religious, Christian or Catholic to be a Mepkin guest.
“Many people come since they’re not feeling spiritually nourished, and they’re seeking to try and lower their middle life,” says Father Guerric. “The some-more unfortunate a universe gets, a some-more places like this are needed.” For those interested, guest can ask a 30-minute event of private devout direction.
A monastery, not a museum
Mepkin is what Guerric calls “transformational space,” a protected place to rest, simulate and grow.
“A place in that to listen to a still tiny voice within their hearts,” adds Abbot Stan, where people can “experience a acquire of God and leave renewed and refreshed.”
But Mepkin also hopes that fewer will “leave,” so to speak. The small, and aging, series of monks during Mepkin is a concern, as are a disappearing numbers of group and women entering eremite goal globally. A absolutely strong friar village during Mepkin would series closer to 25 men, instead of a stream 14.
To residence this, a refuge will deliver a Mepkin Affiliate module this summer, expanding on a existent Monastic Guest module (different from shelter guests, Monastic Guests spend one to 3 months vital within a friar community).
“We trust a best approach to acquire new members is for any one of us to give ourselves wholeheartedly to a friar life to that we are called and to that we have dedicated a lives,” says Abbot Stan. “We also constantly are meditative of new ways in that we can share a treasures we have with others.”
The new associate module enables those deliberation eremite vows a event to live and investigate within a friar village for one year, a time of immersive thoughtfulness while deliberation a lifelong commitment.
Whether a guest stay for a day, a weekend, a month or a year, this nunnery on a steep beside a Cooper River offers a refuge of condolence and renewal.
And a blessings go both ways. As shelter director, Father Guerric embraces a bequest of Father Francis Kline, whose insight, Guerric says, “was that a friar church has something to offer laypeople, and clamp versa.”
“We need to emanate a discourse between a nunnery and a universe beyond,” he adds, “Otherwise, we’re only vital in a museum.”