For months, pastors, musicians, speakers and revivalists have gone in and out. Some spend their days boating and walking the trails that blanket the 15-acre property. Some get away with their wives. Many go for the silence, seeking a quiet place to pray.
“You’re in the city, but it feels like you’re at the lake. It’s our mountain retreat,” said the Rev. Eddie West, the pastor of Christ Baptist, a church of about 100 people.
The church calls it the Reformation Retreat lodge, and it’s free for pastors and their wives.
“We ask for donations, but this isn’t about the money,” West said. “It’s about blessing others.”
The church bought the house for $400,000 a year and a half ago and has worked since then to turn it into a private sanctuary for pastors. They showed off the lodge to area ministers in an open house Wednesday.
The property butts up against North Augusta’s Northview Park off Five Notch Road. Though there have been offers to pave the gravel roads leading to the church and lodge, West said he has turned them all down.
“When people come here, we want them to feel like they’re getting away,” he said.
Reformation Retreat is an extension of the services the church already offers. Its sanctuary, just up the hill from the house, is used as a conference center. It was built more than 15 years ago with an apartment where speakers could stay instead of going to motels.
The house was built with a retreat center in mind, North Augusta builder Ken Newsome said.
“We were thinking way out of the box with this,” said Newsome, who donated the land the church is built on and sold the house, his former private residence, to the church for less than it was worth. It cost $600,000 to build about 10 years ago, and was recently appraised at $500,000, West said.
“We bought it for $400,000, but that’s because Ken said, ‘I’ll have to sell it to you for $500,000, but I’ll give you your first $100,000 donation,’ ” West said. “He was incredibly generous to us, and we were just so happy to be able to get it. It’s a drop-dead beautiful house.”
The lodge has been almost entirely furnished with donations. Even the Tiffany lamps and expensive tapestries that line the walls were gifts, said Nancy Gee, an interior designer and member of the church who works as the coordinator of Reformation Retreat.
“I had no budget at all,” she said. “We’d go down and buy car-loads of stuff from the Salvation Army. We couldn’t have done it without their help.”
In the year ahead, West said, the church plans to build the first of 25 cottage houses or townhomes, which will surround the lake, just below the lodge, and be used for conferences.
“We want each one to have a golf cart so they can zip up to the church for meetings,” West said.
Cottage will cost $50,000 to $60,000 each, and West said the plan is for individuals and supporters in the community to donate the money to build them.