By BRUCE SMITH
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) - Life at Mepkin Abbey follows the simple pattern of prayer, work and contemplation that Trappist monks have observed for a thousand years. But in recent months there have been some changes at the South Carolina monastery not far from Charleston.
A new retreat center and chapel have been dedicated. And the first phase of Mepkin's columbarium, where ashes are inurned, has been completed.
The minimalist retreat center has 16 rooms for those who want to experience the contemplative life. There are few adornments at the center. It's constructed of only steel, glass, concrete and wood. Abbot Stan Gumula calls it a place where people can listen to their hearts and God.
A columbarium where ashes are inurned helps the abbey's 15 monks augment the income they make from raising mushrooms.