10. April 2012 22:44
You may not expect to find a tourism attraction at at Catholic monastery, much less one in suburban Georgia. But in Conyers, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit has become a must-see location for groups touring the area.
A group of Trappist monks from Kentucky established this monastery decades ago, living in a barn and doing farm work in the nearby fields. Over the years, the monastery grew to include a church, workshops and more comfortable living quarters. Several years ago, the monks decided to embrace tourism as a means of creating some revenue and giving the public a look into their interesting lifestyle.
Today, the monks have created a first-rate visitor experience. The old barn in which they once lived has been transformed into the Monastic Heritage Center, with a great museum-style exhibit that details a day in the life of a monk. Visitors can see an example of the brothers' early sleeping quarters, some of the clothes that they wear, and the different trades that they ave learned to help make the monastery as self-sustaining as possible. The exhibits also outline the monks' daily schedule, from their first prayer service at 4:15 a.m. through their community meals and nighttime rituals.
After an introduction in the museum, group members have a number of options. They can visit the monastery's abbey — a sparsely decorated church by Catholic standards — and even join in a mass or prayer service if one is in session. They can also tour the gardens, where some of the brothers have honed their skills as master bonsai sculptors, or visit the on-site bookstore. A cafe adjacent to the bookstore sells deli sandwiches and other snacks, and gives diners an opportunity to have a peaceful, reflective meal.
It's funny to think about tourism and monastic life working well together. But at the monastery of the Holy Spirit, the brothers seem to have struck the perfect balance.
Monastic Heritage Center
A display of historic monks' habits.
The abbey's colorful, geomtric stained-glass windows.