A unique experience near the Atlanta area that is not that well known is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. Conyers is around 30 minutes southeast of Atlanta, making it a nice little day trip. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is a Benedictine monastery that is still an active community of monks; however, the monastery is not just for monks or practicing Christians and offers a variety of activities for visitors.
The Monastery is home to not only 40 monks, but a museum, bonsai garden, gift shop, retreat center, church services, and expansive grounds set in a peaceful natural setting. There is a short film that provides visitors with an overview of the monastery, and then you continue on into the museum. The museum tells you about the community of Benedictine monks at the Monastery, providing visitors with a learning experience about monastery orders in general, but particularly looking at the Benedictine order. At the Monastery of the Holy Spirit the monks tend to bonsai plants, which they also use as income. Monasteries and abbeys throughout the country often have a craft that they work on as a community. There is a wide range of bonsai plants to choose from, and, if plants do not interest you, the monks also bake a variety of goods that they sell in the gift shop. The gift shop offers a wide range of monastery products from across the country, as well as books, religious pieces, and other knick knacks. The Monastery offers activities for those who just want to learn more about a community or those who want to have a religious experience.
For visitors wanting a spiritual encounter the Monastery also offers a range of opportunities. There are services throughout the day for visitors. The Abbey Chapel is absolutely beautiful with it’s blue stain glass windows and the sound of monks chanting. If you have never been to a church service, you can just sit back to experience something new, or, if you are practicing, you can partake in the service. The Monastery has a retreat center that anyone can use either in a group setting or individually. Even if you only have a day, spending time at the Abbey Chapel, listening to the monks, and exploring the grounds can be an incredible encounter.
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit allows you to explore spirituality in a natural way or simply relax and take in fresh air as you roam about the grounds. The Monastery is part of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Center that involves several sites and parks throughout Georgia. The grounds have a picturesque lake surrounded by trees and filled with critters, including geese that will chase you if they see you have a snack. There is a trail that visitors can walk along, and, if you choose to partake, the stages of the cross are on the path. The entire time we walked around the grounds and looked out across the lake, there was silence. The only sound was the wind blowing and the birds chirping, creating a deep sense of peace.
We both enjoyed the Monastery of the Holy Spirit and the learning experience it provided. The Monastery is in a quiet, beautiful setting that is relaxing to explore and, if you choose to partake, a religious experience.
Side Note: Often the goods produced by monasteries are fantastic, and one of our personal favorites is Mystic Monks Coffee from a Carmelite monastery in Wyoming. Their coffee is absolutely delicious and we both highly recommend it if you love coffee.