Living Enrichment Center, often referred to as LEC, was a New Thought megachurch and retreat center. Originally founded in the Scholls, Oregon farm house of senior minister Mary Manin Morrissey in the mid-1970s, in 1992 the church moved to a 94,500 square foot (8,800 m²) building on a forested area of 95 acres (384,000 m²) in Wilsonville, Oregon. Over the course of its existence, the congregation grew from less than a dozen to an estimated 4,000 making it the biggest New Thought church in the state. Living Enrichment Center also maintained an in-house bookstore, retreat center, cafe, kindergarten and elementary school, and an outreach television ministry.
Living Enrichment Center closed in 2004 as a result of a $10.7 million financial scandal. Mary Manin Morrissey's husband Edward Morrissey pled guilty to money laundering and using church money for the personal expenses of himself and his wife. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He was released in early 2007. Living Enrichment Center transitioned into New Thought Ministries of Oregon.
"The dream called Living Enrichment Center began in 1974 when I graduated from divinity school in Arizona," Mary Manin Morrissey wrote in A Miracle in Motion: The Green Balloon Story. "I declined offers from five churches to return to my home in Oregon, intent on starting a congregation. Our tiny church, which we called The Truth Center, began in the living room of a small farm in rural Oregon. For five years, neither the farm, nor the ministry flourished. On many Sundays, my former husband and I, also a minister, conducted services only for each other. Even my closest friends kindly told me I was only 'playing' at being a minister.
Mary Morrissey writes that in 1979, she and her husband took the family and their ministry on the road, offering workshops on building self-esteem in churches around the country. "This was a true adventure in faith, what some might call blind faith", Morrissey wrote. "With only $300 in our pockets, we set out with four children, two cats, and window washing equipment, piling into a travel trailer that we hooked to a multicolored Checker cab. We painted the cab to fit the theme of our workshop, which we called 'Rainbow Connection.'
After a year on the road, Morrissey wrote that she felt she received guidance to start a ministry in Beaverton, Oregon. "I don't know why it is that each of us receives our messages from the Presence a little differently," Morrissey wrote. "Some people get an image, some hear a voice, some people feel guidance. What matters is that each of us get in touch with how we perceive the Presence of God. I hear it in a Voice, and over the years I've come to know that Voice, a very calm, quiet, and penetrating resonance. The Voice had said, 'Travel around the country,' and when we were back in Oregon, the Voice said, 'Start a ministry in Beaverton.'
Morrissey and her family returned home and began the church in the Beaverton Oddfellows Hall. Morrissey writes that Dycia Samuels, a church management consultant, advised that they name the church to reflect what they aimed to do. "We recognized that our goal was to assist one another in enriching our lives. We became Living Enrichment Center.
On April 24, 2000, The Oregonian published an article about the Campo Azul, one of Oregon's most heavily fined migrant camps, which had become embroiled in a property battle within the Boggs family of Scholls, Oregon, after the death of family matriarch Lorraine Boggs. Pulaski wrote, "Back in the 1970s, Lorraine Boggs looked at the cluster of blue shacks on her 133 acres and saw what could be: A spiritual retreat for the Living Enrichment Center, guided by her son and daughter-in-law.
"In November of 1992, Living Enrichment Center (LEC) acquired the Calahan Center," LEC representatives wrote, "the former rehabilitation center for injured Oregon State workers. In doing so, LEC undertook a massive real estate and ministry development project that would result in LEC having to design and become no less than a prototype for the 21st Century Church. In order to be successful, LEC has had to simultaneously develop the real estate, stabilize the local ministry, and develop a national presence for LEC and the Senior Minister."
The former Calahan Center, headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon, consisted of a three-level building on a 93 acre lot. The lot also included 13 cabins, with over 70 rooms, which were used for spiritual retreats conducted via LEC's sister organization, Namaste Retreat Center. Living Enrichment Center became famous in the local community, and in some cases in the national and international spiritual community, for its extensive 95 acre (384,000 m²) grounds. There are 40 acres (162,000 m²) on the east side of Grahams Ferry Road, and 55 acres (223,000 m²) on the west side. The upkeep of the entire plot was assigned to only one gardener, who incorporated into the landscape many plant and tree species, both native and non-native, such as Japanese Maple trees and exotic plants such as 10 foot (3 m) high bamboo near the authentic Thai Buddha. In this capacity the head gardener was aided for a brief time by an assistant.
In an internal document titled "Living Enrichment Center: The 21st Century Church", LEC management wrote:
"The local church has been through a process of reorganizing its ministry program and recruiting and adding quality staff to enable LEC to grow to become the 'Crystal Cathedral' of New Thought. With staff in place, we have begun marketing efforts to enroll an additional 200 members by the end of 1997. LEC has begun giving the Sunday message on T.V. in Portland, advertising, and developing new ministry outreach programs to grow the local congregation. Over the last 2 years, LEC's congregation has stabilized and developed a core group of committed members who are among the most generous givers in New Thought. The object in the next 18 months is to increase this group of core congregants."
"Started in 1994, Namaste Retreat and Conference Center has the potential of becoming the Northwest's destination of choice for governmental, educational, and spiritual retreats and seminars. In two years, revenues have grown from $0 to $1.5 million annually, with Namaste reporting an operating surplus in 1996. Government and corporate retreats, in addition to providing revenue, expose retreat participants to the Church and our teachings, and thus become a vehicle for growth. Namaste is also becoming the meeting place of choice within New Thought. The Association for Global New Thought (a New Thought marketing organization) will assist LEC in sponsoring many more national spiritual retreats in 1998 (currently 15 are booked), expanding awareness of LEC and its programs and products."
Namaste Retreat Center shared grounds and facilities with Living Enrichment Center. The retreat center took its name from the sanskrit word namaste, in tribute to the eastern spiritual philosophy that was embraced by many staff members, retreat participants, and members of the congregation. From 1994 until 2004, Namaste Retreat Center was one of the most popular retreat centers in the state of Oregon. In its literature, Namaste Retreat Center billed itself as "Oregon's leading spiritual retreat center."
Many personalities within the New Age and New Thought communities conducted retreats at Namaste Retreat Center. Retreat leaders included: Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Alan Cohen, Joan Borysenko, Shakti Gawain, Stanislav Grof, and Arun Gandhi. Mary Manin Morrissey, head minister of Living Enrichment Center, conducted a yearly women's retreat that was attended by as many was 300 women from all over the United States as well as foreign countries. Eventually, corporate retreats, for the likes of Sysco and Nike, soon began to dominate the retreat bookings. Retreats for non-profit groups, such as Habitat for Humanity, were also held on the grounds. Namaste Retreat Center closed its doors in 2004 when the umbrella organization of Living Enrichment Center folded amid a financial scandal.
Living Bookends Bookstore was the in-house bookstore of Living Enrichment Center. The bookstore was begun with a meager selection, hardly more than a few bookshelves, while LEC was still in Tigard, Oregon. Living Bookends Bookstore moved with Living Enrichment Center to the Wilsonville location in 1992. Because Living Enrichment Center was a New Thought church, much of the stock consisted of New Thought authors, such as Ernest Holms, Myrtle Fillmore, and Mary Baker Eddy. Books by more contemporary authors, such as Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson were also available. The books of Mary Manin Morrissey, who served as Senior Minister of Living Enrichment Center, were also available.
Living Bookends Bookstore, along with its parent company of Living Enrichment Center, moved from the Wilsonville, Oregon campus to Valley Theatre in the summer of 2004. Living Bookends Bookstore had a going-out-of-business sale on August 29, 2004, which was the day of the final church service of Living Enrichment Center. Living Bookends moved to an office space near Valley Theatre.
Cristofori School was a kindergarten through third grade school that was headquartered at Living Enrichment Center during the mid-to-late 1990s. Students were taught the usual age appropriate lessons in math, reading, writing, etc. Students were also exposed to the ecumenical philosophy of New Thought, which was the governing philosophy of Cristofori's governing institution Living Enrichment Center.
"In April of (1997), LEC began a 1/2 hour weekly taped television show on commercial TV in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay area, including Sacramento, Phoenix, Dallas, Forth (sic) Worth, and Seattle. LEC committed to spend $120,000 on this aspect of the ministry. It is anticipated that the broadening of this ministry will develop additional revenue from the sale of products and be an additional source of contribution revenue, taking the pressure off the local congregation and the retreat center to support the operation of the Center. Currently, 15% of the contributions LEC receives (approximately $300,000 a year) comes from outside the Portland metropolitan area."
Life Keys was a name brand created by Rev. Mary Manin Morrissey. Life Keys produced audio tapes, CDs, and video cassettes of Mary Morrissey's Sunday talks. The videos were broadcast on many cable access stations across the West Coast of the U.S.. The audio and video cassettes were also available for purchase in Living Enrichment Center's Living Bookends Bookstore. Often, audio cassettes of a Sunday service were available immediately after service. The audio tapes were also available via a mail subscription. The audio cassette and CD recordings produced by Life Keys were sold to an audience from all over the world. Though most of the talks in the Life Keys series were delivered by Mary Manin Morrissey, some were recordings of talks given by visiting speakers such as Arun Gandhi, Marianne Williamson, and Wayne Dyer.
"Audio products fall into three categories: audio books, audio albums on a particular subject, and a weekly tape of Mary's Sunday talk. We have two audio publishers who have expressed interest in Mary's products. It is anticipated that we will self-publish the weekly message which, through subscription and the small group process, would become the basis for the national outreach. Currently the weekly message subscriptions are approximately $260/year. The weekly message will also be available soon by subscription on the Internet at a price of $3/week. This has the advantage of delivering the talk on audio with no additional cost for duplication, shipping and handling."
The Life Keys series discontinued in 2004 when Living Enrichment Center filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors. Mary Manin Morrissey's last talk distributed in the Life Keys series was entitled The Right Questions to Ask and was recorded on August 1, 2004. It was also Morrissey's last talk as Senior Minister of Living Enrichment Center. In this last talk, Morrissey says her life is in "disarray", saying that her husband is in a mental hospital for depression and that she herself needs to take a break. During part of the talk she seems to be on the verge of tears.
In early 2004 Mary Manin Morrissey was sued by members of her congregation for unpaid loans. It was reported that the loans were often made personally to Mary Manin Morrissey and that the personal finances of Mary Manin Morrissey, her husband Edward Morrissey, and Living Enrichment Center, had not been treated separately. In an e-mail to Willamette Week, Steve Unger, Mary Manin Morrissey's attorney, wrote that Mary Manin Morrissey and her husband Edward Morrissey had committed commingling, and that "the finances of [the] LEC, New Thought Broadcasting, Mary Morrissey and Ed Morrissey were treated not separately, but as a kind of 'financial family.' By the summer of 2004, the sum total of the debt was reported by Willamette Week and The Oregonian as totaling more than $20 million. On June 2, 9, and 16, Mary Manin Morrissey and Harry Morgan Moses conducted a series of talks called "Standing Firm While Your World is Shaking", for a "love offering" of $15 per class or $100 for the series. On July 14, 2004, Living Enrichment Center held "Calling Forth a Miracle: A Benefit for Living Enrichment Center with Very Special Guests" and declared 2004–2005 as "The Year of the Miracle".
Living Enrichment Center abandoned the Wilsonville facilities in June 2004. The church moved to Valley Theatre, a movie theater in Beaverton, Oregon. The first service at Valley Theatre was held on July 4, 2004. On August 5, 2004, in an e-mail to her congregation, Mary Manin Morrissey announced her resignation as Senior Minister, President, and Board Member of Living Enrichment Center:
I announced last week in church that I would be taking a break from serving as Senior Minister at Living Enrichment Center. Following Sunday, there has been an additional lawsuit filed against me and the church. Four other lawsuits have already been filed seeking repayment of loans I am currently unable to pay. The church Board has received legal advice regarding how to best protect the community of Living Enrichment Center and the shared desire of hundreds of you to continue as a Spiritual community. In support of this endeavor and so that I may direct my attention to the many personal challenges I am facing, I have resigned as Senior Minister, President and Board Member of LEC.
There is good and solid leadership in place to help guide and direct this wonderful community through this tough time. I believe the "new church" that can emerge out of this can carry forward all that is good and true about Living Enrichment Center. I am deeply saddened and heartbroken by all of the hardship and hurt that the church community as a whole and many of you individually have experienced.
For me personally, it has become obvious that I must do some deep reflection and grow in my own spiritual capacity. While it may be difficult, I would be grateful for your understanding and compassion.
There will be an engaged community meeting on August 22nd. This will be a very important meeting for the future of the community. I hope you will attend and add your prayers and guidance to the process. As the fall begins and I have had some time off, I hope to be invited to speak and teach as seems appropriate.
I wish I could convey what it has meant for me to be invited into your lives and to share your births and weddings, christenings and graduations, the great moments and the sad and scary places one must travel through human life. For all of our journey up to now, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. I will pray for each of you and the community as a whole each day.
God Bless You,
Living Enrichment Center's final service was held on August 29, 2004, at Valley Theatre. Rev. David Alexander delivered the talk "The Principle of Praise" and Don Wood and the Living Enrichment Center Choir provided music. Lisa Lednicer of The Oregonian wrote, "About 700 people, a fraction of a congregation once numbering 3,000, are expected to attend two morning services in the Valley Theater in Beaverton."
On April 17, 2005, Jeff Manning of The Oregonian wrote, "Edward Morrissey, husband of embattled former church pastor Mary Manin Morrissey, admitted in federal court Wednesday that he defrauded members of his wife’s church in soliciting $10.7 million in loans. He pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering, a felony that could get him 36 months or more in federal prison.... Edward Morrissey’s plea will probably not put to rest lingering questions over the deal that the Morrisseys cut with federal and state officials. Some former Living Enrichment parishioners were angered that Mary Morrissey eluded federal charges. Mary Morrissey leaned hard on parishioners to make the loans, some said, but she has claimed she had no knowledge of her husband’s use of that money.... Mary Morrissey agreed to contribute 25 percent of her disposable income to retiring the debt until parishioners are fully repaid or for the next 20 years, whichever comes first."
On April 6, 2005, Bend.com reported that a settlement deal between the Morrisseys and the Department of Consumer and Business Services had been reached: "As part of this settlement, neither of the Morrisseys may offer or sell securities. Further, Edward Morrissey agreed to plead guilty to a single federal count of money laundering. The plea agreement reached between Edward Morrissey and the U.S. Attorney’s Office calls for the government to recommend a 36-month sentence, but that recommendation is not binding on the court."
After a year in prison at Terminal Island, in August, 2006, Edward Morrissey was transferred to a Seattle halfway house. Edward Morrissey was released from the Seattle halfway house on February 2, 2007. In the August 28, 2006 edition of Wilsonville Spokesman, editor Curt Kipp wrote that Mary Manin Morrissey has repaid $24,000 of the debt.
Three separate ministries grew out of the demise of Living Enrichment Center. Friends of Mary, an organization established by Mary Manin Morrissey, eventually evolved in to Life Soulutions Several other former LEC ministers established New Thought Ministries of Oregon. And Barry Dennis, a former LEC musician, established "Celebration Church"
On August 23, 2006, Curt Kipp of Wilsonville Spokesman wrote:
"It's been a worker rehabilitation center and a megachurch with its own conference center. More recently, it’s been a magnet for tweakers, vandals, squatters and thieves. What’s next for the abandoned Living Enrichment Center campus? No one knows for sure — except perhaps the new owners.
"The Living Enrichment Center originally was built in the 1970s as the Callahan Center, a state-run facility that rehabilitated injured workers. It is part of the Villebois Master Plan area, but it is the least fleshed out part of the plan. The plan was written when LEC was still there, and it didn’t call for any redevelopment of the site.
"Presently, the LEC site has a main building with a swimming pool, plus 20 cabins that have proven attractive to squatters. The facility has a kitchen that can serve more than 500 people per day. But the buildings are said to be in need of repair, and expensive to maintain. It’s very possible the buildings will be demolished as part of a redevelopment effort.