A Sense of Sanctuary: Behind the renovations of the Ash and Walnut Cabins at Lake Logan
Lake Logan Conference Center describes itself as a place that "serves Christ by welcoming all generations to experience restoration and reconciliation with God, one another, and creation." This restorative, relaxing mission is reflected all over as you walk around the property, nestled underneath the peaks of the Appalachians in Haywood County, North Carolina. From the sparkling blue lake to the tall rows of pines, Lake Logan truly fosters that sense of tranquility deeply rooted in their mission -- to provide the community with a place where they can come together and experience God's love.
However, upkeep of a large property doesn't come without its fair share of work. From booking retreats to up-keeping the grounds, the staff at Lake Logan have their hands full to take care of the property and provide a place where visitors can feel at home. However, since 2018, Lake Logan has been able to tackle one big project entirely thanks to the help of diocesan volunteers--renovating the lakeside cabins.
The four lakeside cabins, Ash, Walnut, Sunburst, and Maple, are nestled underneath the pines and sit right on the edge of Lake Logan's picturesque lake. It was Marcia Millar, a member of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Brevard, that first had the idea to adopt a cabin as a parish, and thus the project was born.
"The idea was germinated when about seven of us from our parish went to Lake Logan to saw dust ruffles for the beds," Millar said. "We took our own sewing machines and spent a day sewing dust ruffles, and it was during that day that I had the idea and thought, 'maybe we should adopt a cabin!' So about a year later we started talking about it a little more seriously and I talked to Lauri [the Lake Logan director] and she was interested and then I started talking with some people at my church who love Lake Logan as much as I do."
St Philip's, Brevard is an active and alive parish in the community, and were eager to begin the project. The church is blessed with a generous foundation, and Millar was confident she could organize efforts to raise the rest of the money for the renovation as well. She was right--an auction organized by the parish helped to bring the final renovation total to $60,000. With the budget in hand, volunteers from St. Philip's began the renovation on the Walnut cabin in the winter of 2018.
In order to renovate the cabin before it reopened to guests in the spring, the volunteers from St. Philip's had to have the cabin finished in only 3 months, between December of 2018 and February of 2019. Luckily, many volunteers jumped at the opportunity to participate and build a cabin that not only continued the story of Lake Logan, but also represented the community at St. Philip's.
"I had worked out a spreadsheet and a timeline on the computer so that I knew exactly to the hour when things had to be completed," said Bill Harger, a member of St. Philip's and the project manager for the Walnut renovation. "We were just lucky, the weather cooperated and the volunteers were amazing. It all just sort of fell together and it was a fun project, we're all very proud of it."
The renovation of Walnut Cabin truly set the tone for what it would take to renovate a cabin at Lake Logan. As Harger described, it was not just a decorating project, but rather required volunteers from St. Philip's to strip the cabin down to its bare bones. They stripped out the carpets, redid the wiring, installed new heaters, and constructed new ceilings. While Harger noted that they did rely on some local contractors to help get the work done, he was blown away by the eagerness to learn and assist from the volunteers from St. Philip's.
The final result is a cabin worthy of a visit. With walls hung with pieces from parish artists and cozy, colorful decorations, the cabin reflects not only the artistic and generous spirit of St. Philip's but also feels true to the mountain home of Lake Logan. Since it's finished renovation in 2019, the cabin has been one of the most popular with visitors to the Lake Logan property.
Inspired by the creativity and teamwork of St. Philip's, Trinity, Asheville decided to follow suit and adopt the Ash lakeside Cabin in 2019. Having built a few homes together, Trinity members Carlyn and David Pheil headed the project, with David acting as a general contractor and Carlyn acting as co-chair alongside fellow member Nancy Swann. With a plan to begin fundraising in 2019 with a Winter 2020 build, Swann and Pheil approached the vestry with the idea.
"We were granted $10,000 up front, but we still needed to raise about $50,000 to do it because we had certain things we wanted done a certain way and we knew they would cost," Carlyn said. "So we came up with a plan; we decided to sell raffle tickets for a really great getaway one could just drive to, we thought 'lets do something at Old Edwards Inn!' So we started selling tickets in February of 2020 but then three weeks later, bam, COVID hit!"
Faced with the new challenge of getting the project done during COVID, the team from Trinity had to be methodological in their planning. Luckily, volunteers from Trinity and beyond quickly stepped up to the plate to pitch in, and the team began the renovation in November of 2020 despite the outside challenges. However, despite the COVID restrictions and winter cold and different skill levels, David recalls being truly astounded by the dedication and diversity of the renovation team.
"We were really very fortunate, we had 4-5 trade type volunteers that could do things like painting and trim work," David said. "We had another guy that could do electrical stuff really well and we had one guy that came in and put in all the floors. Then we had a plumber, a guy that's in my bible study, he's not even an Episcopalian and doesn't go to church at Trinity but he wanted to help! It's just a lot of stories like that of everyone kind of coming together."
Thanks to the hard work of the Trinity team, the Ash Cabin was completed just in time to welcome guests in the spring of 2021. Similar to the Walnut Cabin, Ash Cabin is a beautiful blend of the Trinity and Lake Logan communities, from its light and airy color scheme to its artwork all created by local Trinity artists. In fact, right by the front door hangs a painting of a deer and her two fawns, aptly named "The Trinity."
For David and Carlyn, the completion of the project is truly a demonstration of what can be accomplished when people come together to create something beautiful. Additionally, the adoption of cabins is not only an opportunity for the parish community to come together, but multiple parishes to build special connections. Carlyn hopes that some of the groundwork laid by Trinity and St. Philip's will help other parishes feel inspired to take on these projects and build those connections.
"A lot of churches aren't the size of Trinity, but there are churches that can get together and develop a bit of a relationship in this project so I think that's a positive thing," Carlyn said. "We've got the storyboards already made to share with other parishes, so I think that will help!"
For Lauri Sojourner, Executive Director of Lake Logan Conference Center, the renovation of the cabins has been a blessing that continues to support the mission of Lake Logan. She is constantly amazed by the teamwork of the parishes who took on these projects, and is grateful for the sense of community and excitement about Lake Logan that they foster.
"I think there is great community that is built in churches when they take on projects like this," Sojourner said. "Those members who helped are able to come back and go, 'I did that,' and that means a little piece of Lake Logan belongs to them and a little piece of them belongs to Lake Logan. We are here to create community, community between people but also community between people and the land and people and God, and they're building community when they work on these projects."
Parishes who wish to take on a cabin renovation need look no further than Sojourner herself. Eager to connect and support other parishes in the diocese interested in the project, Sojourner is happy to work with parishes of all sizes to determine which cabin would be best for their community. For parishes that might not have the ability to renovate a whole cabin, Sojourner notes that there are plenty of cabins that need smaller changes, or is excited to help connect different parishes across the diocese to tackle larger projects as a team. With the precedent set by the Ash and Walnut cabins, future renovations will have a large network of support from parish volunteers and Lake Logan staff alike throughout the renovation, helping to guide them with creating a budget, forming a timeline, and more.
For Sojourner, the cabin renovations have been a huge blessing, not only in forming new connections with parishes in the diocese but also in the joy and peace that they bring to Lake Logan visitors.
"There's such a feeling of calm in both of those cabins when you go in," Sojourner said. "Anyone who stays in those cabins will know what I mean. That's something we want to provide people is restoration and renewal. We want that to continue when they walk inside the building as well, that they still feel the sense of sanctuary and I think St. Philip's and Trinity did an amazing job bringing that sanctuary to those two cabins."
Many of those who worked on the cabins echoed this sentiment, noting that providing a place of solace for visitors to experience the beauty of Lake Logan was the most important goal of them all. For Bill Harger, time spent at Lake Logan is a great joy of his life, and he is glad to have helped provide others with the same opportunity.
"For families to be able to come and sit in a beautiful place like that, to sit on the back porch in those rocking chairs and just enjoy this narrow space, that's a blessing," Harger said. "That's a blessing in itself."
Please consider joining us for the open house and blessing of the Ash Cabin on April 29, 2021 at 1PM. Find more information about the blessing online here.
Is your parish interested in renovating a cabin or collaborating with another parish on a renovation? Contact Lauri Sojourner to get started.