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Promised Land Retreat Center in Harrisville welcomes all ages

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HARRISVILLE — When the Rev. Jane E. Wagner bought 3 acres of land on the edge of the Adirondacks in 2001, she wasn’t sure what it could be transformed into.

At the time, she knew she needed a place to relax on her days off from her busy life as pastor of the Philadelphia and Evans Mills United Methodist churches.

What began as a barn in the middle of the woods at 35 Whispering Winds Drive soon became a “promised land” for people in search of a respite from the stress of everyday life.

The main building originally was a barn that had been moved to the site from another location.

Old wooden beams, siding and flooring made up the unfinished basic structure when the Rev. Ms. Wagner bought the property.

“He moved all this here, but he didn’t finish anything,” she said about the previous owner of the property. “There were no bedrooms up here; they were just open lofts.”

The Rev. Ms. Wagner said there was no electricity or bathroom when she bought the place.

With the help of church members and the Promised Land Retreat Center’s assistant director, Leeann S. Bennett, the Rev. Ms. Wagner had the property cleaned up enough for her to start using it for youth group and women’s retreats.

In 2007, she was able to move into the building, after her hard work turned it into a more homey residence.

One year after moving in, the Rev. Ms. Wagner began using her property as a year-round, nonprofit retreat center not affiliated with a particular church or religion.

“In August of 2008, we received our incorporation papers from New York state,” she said. “I now serve the United Community Church of Carthage and they are supportive of it in every way, but this is independent from the church.”

The retreats can be for groups or individuals and can be for any length of time, from a few hours to weeks, the Rev. Ms. Wagner said.

They also can have whatever theme is desired. The Rev. Ms. Wagner said that while some people just want a quiet and peaceful place to escape for a week, others seek spiritual guidance.

“I’m a spiritual director, so if they want time with me, that’s another option,” she said.

“People come here to find a sense of peace. You don’t find one of these places anymore to be this secluded, quiet and without close neighbors.”

A labyrinth with a 29-foot diameter takes up a large circular patch of the property.

Used for prayer and spiritual growth, the labyrinth was put in so people could address spiritual needs while on the retreat, the Rev. Ms. Wagner said.

“Sometimes it’s a guided retreat where the group wants specific instructions or devotions or studies in a specific area,” Ms. Bennett said.

“Other times, they have their own group and theme and we just provide the place and meals for them.”

Ms. Bennett, who lives at the retreat center in order to help run it, is the owner of Leeann’s Therapeutic Massage, 305 State St., Carthage, and works full time.

Ms. Bennett offers massages at the retreat center.

Although fees are listed on the center’s pamphlets, the prices are only suggested donations.

“We would not let money be a reason for people to not come,” the Rev. Ms. Wagner said.

In the future, she said, she would like to add more land and build a bigger center.

“It’s been an amazing journey and we’re always excited where God may take us next,” she said.

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