Trappist monastery experimenting with ways to stay relevant

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Mepkin Abbey is a Trappist community in South Carolina, founded in 1949. It currently has 13 monks, with an average age of 77. The monks are concerned about their aging population and their ability to attract new postulants. The Trappist tradition does not usually include an outreach element, unlike some other monastic traditions. However, Mepkin is trying a new affiliate program, allowing people of any faith to join the monastery for a month or a year. They are even advertising the program. “There’s tons of young people who are interested in spirituality,” Father Joe Tedesco said. “Maybe they’re not ready or able in this culture to make a lifetime commitment. But they’re interested in prayer, and they’re interested in finding ways to connect with their center.”

Where it once had a wide range of agricultural products, such as eggs and timber, the abbey now produces only mushrooms, a crop that does not involve much heavy labor that would be a burden on the older monks. Mepkin also offers hospitality; a retreat center is nestled in the 3,132 acre property. The property is studded with trees, and borders the Cooper River. “In everything we do here, we try to respect the land, the ecology and the environment,” Father Stan Gumula, abbot of Mepkin, said. “The main architecture is the trees. All the buildings have been built around the trees.”

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Professor Christopher Seitz
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Professor Christopher Seitz

I thought the NYT article was pretty good. You must click the link above. It gives a much fuller picture.

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Professor Christopher Seitz
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Professor Christopher Seitz

I know Mepkin well having spent good retreat time there on several occasions. If I may, I doubt they would call their approach trying to be "relevant." They have a challenge with aging monks, but they have always been plugged into their local community (rural, african american), and are naturally eco attuned. I will miss their eggs which are a staple on the menu.

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Member

Well, you know, Brother Christopher, if they're successful and vocations come, or a new model works, you may have more opportunities for those eggs, even though these days you're not traveling that direction.

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Fred+Loving
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Fred+Loving

If you want the Thomas Merton style contemplative, Trappist is the way to go. My wife and I are regulars at Berryville, Va.

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