An Illustrated Lee Abbey Story – written and illustrated by Sarah Scyner, Publicity and Media coordinator.
Our Lee Abbey story begins with Roger De Pemberton, who would soon become one of the co-founders of Lee Abbey. With God, he laid out the foundations for Lee Abbey to flourish. In 1930 he began a magazine known as ‘the pathfinder’, to encourage younger readers to explore faith. Due to the increase in readers over the next five years, they began leading holiday house parties to bring people of all ages and from all walks of life together. Each retreat ended with a service and many would give their lives to God. That’s when De Pemberton realised the impact of a Christian led holiday.
The war had not been kind to the Lee Abbey house. In 1924 two companies tried to run Lee Abbey as a luxury golfing hotel which subsequently became bankrupt in 1939. The house then became home to an evacuated Boy’s School.
For Roger, the war halted both the magazine and the house parties, and he began serving in a church, where he met Leslie Sutton. Together they began exploring the possibilities of finding a centre for their house parties. They were reminded of the Lee Abbey building and, with the support of the Headmaster, hired out the building during the August holidays. The headmaster became fond of these men of God and helped them to purchase Lee Abbey after the war. Through many acts of God, including a legacy of £6,000 which provided the mortgage down payment, De Pemberton and Sutton purchased Lee Abbey and it became a part of the Pathfinder Trust.
1945 was filled with renovations and hard work in an effort to get Lee Abbey ready to welcome guests. During this period, many people came to help and consequently a community was created. By 1946 they had a community of 60 adults. Even from the beginning, those from all nations and walks of life came to this community. This international community helped to heal many wounds made by the war; countries who were fighting only a year ago were now living and working together.
Lee Abbey Youth Camps, founded in 1948, are a place of discipleship and evangelism. The Field (18-25) starts off the summer, with the purpose to explore God’s great love, meet new people, be creative and find simplicity and joy. Followed by the Youth Camp (13-18), a place with opportunities to explore the Christian faith in new and creative ways, while worshipping and spending time together. Both camps create a unique sense of community and a safe place to explore faith together. The Covid19 pandemic halted our camps this last year, but we pray that they are still able to minister and meet with each other in new ways.
In 2003, the dairy farm was transformed into the Beacon Activity Centre. With the vision that through relationships, activities and learning, young people will discover who they are and begin to grow in confidence and find their own potential in the world. Their hope is that all who visit will begin to see God and discover more about His love and desire for them to live life to its fullness. The Beacon is currently exploring new ways to connect with schools and young people while they are unable to visit, due to Covid19.
Lee Abbey Devon, situated on the spectacular North Devon coast, is home to a Christian Community, with the hope that you will encounter Jesus Christ and that lives, relationships, communities, and our environment are transformed by the life of God. In March 2020, the Covid19 pandemic has cause major disruption to many places including ourselves. We now have a smaller community of 45. We are continuing the vital work of prayer and practicing patience, as we grow together in faith and encounter God in the hope of reopening.