What is St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development?

St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development exists as a place where all are invited to respond to the invitation by God to “withdraw to a quiet place to pray” (Luke 5:16). Through quiet and simplicity, warm welcome and spiritual companionship, St. Mary’s Sewanee seeks to nurture the innate human capacity for relationship with God. Resting on 230 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, St. Mary’s Sewanee provides a sacred space to groups and individuals for a wide variety of opportunities for spiritual growth. Individuals may come to one of our retreats or workshops or for a period of personal retreat. Faith communities and not-for-profit organizations may bring their own programs while St. Mary’s Sewanee provides hospitality.

What types of programs do you offer?

Because “spiritual development” can be defined in various ways, our Program Director and Committee work toward creating a yearly program schedule that is diverse and interesting.

While honoring the Christian history and traditions that are the foundation of the Ayres Center for Spiritual Development, there is an assortment of other spiritual topics to choose from as well.

Offerings include one day workshops, weekend, five day and eight day retreats. Program topics are Centering Prayer, mindfulness practices, various arts, writing, meditation, and more.


What housing options are available?

Anna House is our newest building. It has 20 motel style-rooms, each with exterior doors opening onto a broad porch. Every room has two twin beds, a private bathroom, and air conditioning.

St. Mary’s Hall is a dormitory-style building with 31 rooms.  Most rooms have two twin beds; a few have double beds. There are communal bathrooms on each hallway. This building is not air conditioned but all rooms have fans and large windows.

The Woodland Hermitage offers a cozy place to rest for individuals who would like to stay in an intimate wooded location on campus. Located a short walking distance from St. Mary’s Hall, the Woodland Hermitage includes air conditioning, a private bath and shower, kitchenette, queen-size bed, and living area.

How do I make a reservation?

For individuals: Call, email, or use our online submission form. A $50 deposit is required before we can confirm your reservation.

For groups: Call, email, or use our online submission form. A Group Contract will be sent via email. The signed contract and deposit are due within 30 days of the contract’s issuance to confirm the reservation.

For partner group reservations: Call, email, or use our online submission form.  The signed contract and deposit are due within 30 days of the contract’s issuance to confirm the reservation. If the contract and deposit have not been been submitted within the 30 days, reservations are subject to be released to other groups. Partner Groups are responsible for their own program materials and handouts. Partner Groups handle their own room assignments unless St. Mary’s Sewanee’s staff is notified in advance. Final numbers are due 30 days from the reservation.

What does the program package price include?

The fee includes single room (unless otherwise noted), all meals, program fees, and program materials.

How do I get to St. Mary’s Sewanee?

Visit our Directions page to get links to Google maps as well as detailed driving directions from major cities in the area.

Do you have car charging stations on campus?

There are no car charging stations on the retreat center campus. However, there are charging stations close by:

University of the South Sewanee, 187 Alabama Avenue

Hannah Pickett Park, 16 Dixie Lee Avenue, Monteagle

Is your campus accessible for all persons?

Yes, St. Mary’s Sewanee’s public meeting spaces are handicap accessible. The bedrooms on the first floor of St. Mary’s Hall are all accessible, as is one room in the Anna House.


Can my group book space at St. Mary’s Sewanee?

Yes. Each year, many churches, nonprofits, and schools use our facilities to host their own retreats. We provide a comfortable space and healthy, nutritious meals, while you organize the program. We host church gatherings, women’s groups, men’s groups, youth groups, nonprofit boards, cross-country teams, faith communities, meditation groups, quilting clubs, 12-step programs, or any organization needing a tranquil venue for rest and renewal.

What meeting rooms are available for groups?

In St. Mary’s Hall, there is the Hearth Room, the Common Room, the Reading Room, a Chapel, and the Dining Room.

–The Hearth Room, which has a gas-log fireplace and has a bluff view, seats up to 30 in an auditorium-like format. This space is used often by Centering Prayer groups for seating of about 20 in a circle.

–The Common Room also has a bluff view; it seats up to 100 in an auditorium-like setting. It can also be used for smaller break-out gatherings.

–The Reading Room is an intimate space with comfortable arm chairs that seats 10.

–The Chapel, which is used for liturgical services, seats about 25.

–The Dining Room is reserved for meals, which are served buffet-style. It seats 50 comfortably at tables; additional people can be seated at tables in the adjacent Common Room, or during seasonal weather, on the nearby screen porch..

Adjacent to Anna House is the McRae Room which seats 35 in an auditorium-like format.

There is also an outdoor pavilion on the property, which is covered and overlooks the bluff; it seats about 12 people in this al fresco setting.

What meeting and audio/visual equipment are available?

St. Mary’s Sewanee has chairs and tables, easels, projector and screen, dry erase boards, podium, and a sound system with a microphone available for your use. Please ensure your computer’s compatibility with our equipment before arriving. Wifi is available throughout campus and in all meeting spaces. Cell phone service is spotty and unpredictable. We do not have any televisions on campus.

What is your cancellation policy?

We have different policies for individuals and groups. Please go to our Cancellation and Deposit Policies page for complete details.

Do you allow alcohol on campus?

Yes, responsible alcohol use is allowed for adults over the age of 21. We do not have alcohol available; bring your own.

Can I bring my children while I’m on retreat?

We encourage families to enjoy our campus. However, because of our location, small children must be strictly supervised at all times. We strongly recommend that adults visiting for a retreat find alternatives for child care.

Do you allow smoking?

St. Mary’s Sewanee is a smoke-free facility; smoking is only permitted outdoors in designated areas.

Is St. Mary’s Sewanee available to host our group during the holidays?

St. Mary’s Sewanee does not offer retreats or host partner groups during the weeks of Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

In addition, there are other holidays that the retreat center will be closed for groups including Memorial Day & Labor Day weekends.

Our staff works long hours during the year to provide spiritual experiences for sojourners who pass through.
The time the employees have for their own Rest, Renewal, and Reconnection is very important and vital to positive production throughout the year.
Although sometimes SMS can act as a hotel, we are more than that. St. Mary’s Sewanee is a spiritual development center, and the time off for our staff is critical to our overall mission.
Can I have a wedding at St. Mary’s Sewanee?

Right now, we are not hosting weddings.

Are there plans to expand the St. Mary’s Sewanee campus?

Yes, the next project will be a kitchen/dining room addition in St. Mary’s Hall. The work is currently planned to begin in the Spring of 2023.