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|Motto||Sharing Christ Through Relationships|
|Location||Lynton, North Devon|
|English All Languages|
|Staff||Devon ~100; London ~40|
Lee Abbey is a nationwide ecumenical Christian organisation (with a Church of England foundation) which has a vision of "sharing Christ through relationships". Its original and largest site is Lee Abbey Devon, a conference, retreat and holiday centre located on a 280-acre (1.1 km2) estate near Lynton, North Devon. In the decades since its founding in 1945, the ministry expanded to include youth camps on the Devon site, the International Students' Club in the centre of London, three household communities in Bristol, Birmingham and Blackburn, and the Beacon Youth & Outdoor Activity Centre on the North Devon estate.
The Lee Abbey movement's vision is to share Christ through relationships. Each part of the movement (London, Devon etc.) lives out this aim in its own way and adds its own specific aims to the overall vision.
- In 1945, following the William Temple report, "Towards the Conversion of England", Lee Abbey Devon was purchased by Roger de Pemberton and Leslie Sutton and set up as a centre for renewal and evangelism. It offered holiday houseparties and training courses - a core ministry that continues to this day.
- From 1948, annual summer camps for people aged from 13 to 25 ran on the Devon estate.
- In 1964, pioneers went out from Devon to found the Lee Abbey International Students' Club in central London, a "home from home" for international students studying in the capital.
- Household communities were set up in Aston, Birmingham in 1988, Knowle West, Bristol in 1992 and Blackburn in 1995. The Aston and Knowle West households continue to thrive; Blackburn closed after 10 years of ministry in 2005.
- 2004 marked the opening of the Beacon Youth and Outdoor Activity Centre located on the Devon estate.
Members of the movement
Lee Abbey Devon
A conference, retreat and holiday centre in a 280-acre (1.1 km2) coastal estate near Lynton, North Devon, serving around 9,000 guests per year. It is run by an international community of around 90 people of all ages and 20 nationalities. The community live and work together, offering hospitality, rest, activity and teaching to guests of many backgrounds. Guests can book as individuals, families or groups. The Lee Abbey Devon vision is to build community, be God's welcome and renew and serve the church. The annual conference programme includes church weekends, creative breaks, Bible teaching, themed weeks, silent retreats, family holidays and seasonal weeks at Christmas and Easter.
Camps run for those aged from 13 to 25 every summer at the camp field on the Devon estate. There is a two-week camp for 16 to 25s and two one-week camps for 13 to 18s. The camp season usually runs from late July for four weeks and celebrated its 60th year in 2008.
International Students' Club, London
Set up in 1964 as a "home from home" for international students studying in the capital, Lee Abbey London is run by a Christian community of approximately 40 volunteers from around the world and houses around 150 international students. The community members are all Christians but the residents may be of all faiths and none.
Small communities based in households in Aston in Birmingham and Knowle West in Bristol aim to share their faith through getting alongside people in deprived areas of British cities. The members of these communities live out their faith and the Lee Abbey vision on a local scale, involving themselves in local community action projects with those around them.
Beacon Youth & Outdoor Activity Centre
Opened in 2004, the centre is a purpose-built outdoor centre for schools, youth groups and corporate groups of up to 40 people. It is designed to take advantage of the spectacular coastal estate in which it is located by offering climbing, orienteering, archery, crate stack, tree abseiling, nature walks and other adventure pursuits, alongside a full programme which can include Christian input when requested. The aim is to be a place where young people can learn to stretch themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.
Past community members and friends
Crucial to the work of the Lee Abbey movement is its network of 3,000 supporters around the world. Some have spent some time volunteering on one of the communities; others have been as guests and decided to commit to praying for and supporting the work. Those enrolled as Lee Abbey Friends receive a thrice-yearly 20-age Rapport magazine with "Prayer Partners" inserts that helps them to pray specifically for the movement's current needs.
Living in community
Lee Abbey is not a monastic or traditional religious order, and its community members are male and female, of all ages, many countries and a variety of Christian backgrounds. A significant proportion, but not a majority, are single and in their 20s.
Members of the Lee Abbey communities are volunteers who receive their board, lodging and an allowance. In return they serve on one of the teams that make the centres run. The working teams at Lee Abbey Devon and London are:
- Kitchen (Devon and London)
- House (Devon and London)
- Office and administration (Devon and London)
- Maintenance (Devon and London)
- Estate (Devon only)
- Pastoral (Devon only)
- Conference (Devon only)
- Youth and children (Devon only)
- Youth and Beacon (Devon only)
In addition to their team responsibilities, community members also take full part in morning prayers, community worship and other activities. Those in Devon serve meals and tea and coffee to guests, take part in the guests' programme and every two to three months take turns to lead that programme. Those in London take part in activities organised for and with the resident students.
Many community members from all parts of the Lee Abbey movement describe the experience as life-changing, learning new skills or growing in confidence as they are given responsibilities in team leading, entertainment or working with children. Some discover gifts that enable them to go on to become leaders in the church or elsewhere.