Fred Taban

Lee Abbey

relax, learn and play together!

Read one family’s experiences from their visit in May 2015.

My family and I had the blessing of being with the Nadder Valley church group on its annual trip to Lee Abbey, a Christian retreat centre on the North Devon coast.

The weekend was described as ‘R, R and R’; that is ‘Renew, Refresh and Resource’, but could equally be Rest, Relaxation and Renewal. These weekends do not have a pre-set theme and are suitable for church groups and individuals alike. The Lee Abbey house is situated in acres of beautiful countryside. There are sheep and cattle on the rolling hills, woods of tree canopies and a coastal view which will take your breath away. It’s as if God has taken a great clod of earth in His mighty hand, thrown it down as if on a potter’s wheel and said “See what I can create out of nothing. Stand in awe!”….and I do, oh so happily! The welcome from members of the Lee Abbey Community is warm and caring. These people, many of them in their late teens and twenties, come to serve Jesus through serving visitors, before going on with other mission work back home, or before simply returning to their communities, taking a deeper understanding of God with them.

The superb speaker for the weekend was Rev David Rowe, the Warden of Lee Abbey. Since our visit in May, David and his wife have left Lee Abbey for a church in Winchester, after many years of faithful service. A new warden is to be appointed at a future date. But I digress: David is a man of great integrity, learning and passion. He both challenged and encouraged us as he spoke of Jesus as the Light, under the headings of Light and Liberty, Light and Dignity, Light and Beauty. David’s references are the Bible (naturally!), literature and his own experiences as a husband, father and pastor. He brings all his talks to life with his dramatic skills and his obvious passion for his Saviour.

Saturday afternoon brought the chance to take part in one or two of the fun activities planned, or just to have a nap, if one so desired! There is no pressure to do any organised activity at any point during one’s stay. But if you want to pack as much as you can into every hour of each day, you might have a go at archery or bird watching, or just go on an organised stroll. Or, if you’re really brave, you might take a flight on the zip wire. This is no tame park feature, this one is strung 150 metres high over a great ravine! My legs felt like jelly after just one trip, but the children wanted to do it again and again and again!

Meals were yummy, but even more enjoyable, to me, was looking across the dining hall and seeing Jesus in evidence everywhere: in conversations, both deep and frivolous; taking place at each table; amongst the Community members serving food to guests; and in the sight of the children happily helping to actually clear away their dinner plates! I felt the Holy Spirit all around us, enjoying fellowship with us. To add to all this, there was the vibrant worship; the fun but competitive quiz that took place on the Saturday evening (it certainly brought out some unexpected character traits in people, including me); the stunning landscape; the three imposing wooden crosses up on the hill; and the comforting nightly hot chocolate. No one wanted to go home at the end of the weekend!

If you are reading this and considering whether to go to Lee Abbey, let me encourage you. If you have doubts within your faith, go to Lee Abbey, where they may be laid to rest. If you have questions, go to Lee Abbey, where you will find answers. If you need your faith revived, go to Lee Abbey, where you can look at Christ anew. If you want to be closer to God, go to Lee Abbey, where the distance between heaven and earth seems very small. If you need to relax, go to Lee Abbey, where you don’t have to clean, cook, be a slave to your android device, or settle arguments about whose turn it is to choose which programme to watch on television. It’s a place to ‘be’ in a different way. If you feel you are an insignificant part of God’s creation, go to Lee Abbey, where you will find the truth is the exact opposite.