You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga. In fact, the resident monks welcome everyone, regardless of religion. What surprised me most when we visited the Monastery was that the monastic life principles or prayer, work, silence, solitude and community, are something we all need. If you’ve never thought about visiting a Monastery before, here’s why you should.
In addition to need for monastic principles in everyday life, the Trappist monks that call the Monastery home surprised me. They are really just regular guys. Men who even though they’ve traded in lives as a tech professional on Wall Street or a school teacher on Main Street, are still pretty in-touch with the world outside their home.
Where is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit Monastery is the home of about 35 Trappist monks of all ages that live, work and pray together. The monastery is located about 40 minutes east of Atlanta and adjacent to the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. A PATH walking/biking trail from the Heritage Area goes past the monastery in Conyers, Ga. In addition to trails, the property has a museum, cafe and gift shop.
Hiking/Biking at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
The Rockdale River Trail is a scenic hiking and biking trail that starts at the monastery entrance and goes through the Georgia monastery woodlands and across a 500-foot bridge over the South River. This is one portion of the larger Arabia Mountain Heritage Area.
The full PATH trail is from the Mall at Stonecrest out to Panola Mountain State Park and beyond. It’s a scenic network with 33 miles of ride/hike trails that go past rock outcroppings, wildflower fields, streams and trees. And more segments are in the works.
Good to note is that the Arabia Mountain PATH system is not built on a rail bed so it follows the hilly terrain. We biked only the Panola Mountain trail and it was a bit much in places for my then 10-year-old. He just got off his bike and walked it up the hills. However, for those looking for a more challenging experience than the Silver Comet or Stone Mountain Trails, this is it.
The Conyers Monastery is a fantastic destination for a family bike ride, but here’s what else you’ll find.
What Does a Monk Do at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit?
The Monastic Life Heritage Center opened in 2011 and is the center of the visitor experience. A museum gives a history of the Trappist monks, as well as history of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit itself. It also gives a glimpse at the everyday lifestyle of the monks.
The main museum is located in the barn that was the first living quarters for the Trappist monks when they arrived in Conyers from Kentucky. A 20-minute video at the beginning is interesting, but may be a bit much for kids.
However, the rest of the museum is kid friendly and interactive with touch screens and flip boards.
Learn how monks built the Abbey Church by hand and what tools they used to do it. One exhibit talks about uniforms. Surgeons wear scrubs, police wear uniforms, athletes wear jerseys, monks were habits. I love how they relate the habit to other uniforms more familiar to children.
I especially enjoyed how the exhibits relate our lives to those of the monks, making you realize even those some people seem so different, we’re really all the same.
My favorite section was on the making of stained glass. Monks at the Conyers Ga. Monastery make all the stained glass on site, they create a drawing first, it’s kind of like paint by numbers.
The Abbey Cafe at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
After visiting the museum, enjoy a picnic on the gorgeous lawn, there’s plenty of room to spread out or even throw the football. Bring your food, or purchase sandwiches and drinks from the Abbey Café. Save a little room for some monk made fudge! In season pick chestnuts from the trees in front of the Abbey Church. The Cafe is delicious and worth a visit just for lunch.
The Abbey Church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Daily mass is held at the Holy Spirit Abbey Church, but even if you aren’t up for a service, take a peak inside the gorgeous hand-built chapel. Monks poured the concrete pillars by hand and crafted all the stained glass. Walk out the back of the church and go by a bamboo forest that helps feed the pandas at Zoo Atlanta.
Shopping at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit Gift Shop
Save a little time to do some shopping at the Abbey gift shop – Holy Spirit Monastery gifts. Placate the kids with some fudge if needed. The monks make and sell the fudge, biscotti and fruitcake to support the Monastery. My kids loved the fudge. I enjoyed the biscotti with tea.
The store offers unique items, many sustainably produced in developing countries. For Christians, they have an amazing selection of nativity scenes. Gardeners will enjoy the garden center and the amazing display of bonsai trees. The store has everything you need to start your own bonsai garden or purchase a bonsai by the Monastery. They do offer a shipping option if you can’t make it to the Monastery to pick some up.
Events at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
In addition to the Monastic Heritage Center, the Monastery offers special events throughout the year. Past programs have included a health fair, a trail run, and a holiday program featuring the Atlanta Boy’s Choir.
What: Monastic Heritage Center
Where: Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers, GA 30094
Cost: Free (Suggested donation of $5 for the museum)
Photos: To view more photos of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, view our virtual tour or visit Field Trips with Sue on Facebook