Frequently Asked Questions
To one who is new to the Academy, we want to offer a sense of what to expect. While not easy to describe in a few words, "balance" is one word that comes to mind -- a balance between the inner journey (one's most intimate relationship with God) and the outward journey (engaging with God with others and the world). Another word is "rhythm" -- a slower rhythm than many of us live with, that flows from head to heart.
What is the Academy for Spiritual Formation?
The Academy for Spiritual Formation is a program developed by The Upper Room in the early 1980’s for the single purpose of helping people to grow in their relationship with God. The daily schedule is very balanced between the academic (lectures and discussion) and the formative (silence and worship), hence the name “Academy for Spiritual Formation.” Both “head” and “heart” are engaged during this retreat.
What is “spiritual formation”?
“Spiritual formation” is a process of learning and growing in the spiritual life. For Christians this means becoming more Christ-like in one’s attitude and actions. Spiritual formation is a life-long journey, in which one comes to rely more and more on the Holy Spirit to guide and shape one’s life. Robert Mulholland developed the following definition many have found helpful: “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” See his book Invitation to a Journey for more on this topic.
What’s the Biblical basis for this ministry?
Acts 2:42 indicates that those baptized “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.” These four actions constitute the basic “practices” of the Academy: teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer.
Tell me more about the Academy. Who will attend?
The typical 4- or 5-Day Academy has about forty participants, clergy and lay. Most but not all are usually United Methodist because of its sponsorship. We welcome people of other faith traditions and seek to provide a setting in which the focus is not on one’s denomination, but on one’s relationship with God.
Why do people come?
Some of those coming may come looking for a place to rest; others may feel drawn by the faculty or the topic or the place. The schedule of the Academy is designed to include both stimulation and Sabbath rest. We ask people to leave denominational politics and office talk behind, to come in response to God’s call.
Is this right for me?
If you are looking for something to help you go deeper in your Christian journey, the Academy may be right for you. You do not need to be an expert in the faith, though some familiarity with the Christian faith is assumed. A key is your willingness to grow and to struggle with others to make the faith real for you in your life.
What will be expected of me?
Mostly you will be invited to be a participant, to come to the well of God’s living water and drink! You will not be asked to assume a major leadership role during the week. Dress is casual and comfortable; this is your place to retreat, rest, learn and grow!
Who are the faculty presenters and what is their role?
Faculty presenters are carefully selected for their knowledge, teaching ability and personal faith. They are there to stimulate the community with new insights and perspectives, like fresh water flowing into a dry land. But not to flood it! Often the greatest wisdom comes from the dialogue between faculty and participants.
The faculty presenter for the 2023 Five Day Academy in North Texas is Elaine A. Heath, a scholar, theologian, educator, author, and ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Her numerous books include Five Means of Grace and the recommended reading for this Academy, The Healing Practice of Celebration [Abingdon Press, 2020].
Are there other things I’m supposed to be reading before I come?
Each faculty presenter will recommend one or two books or articles. This year we are asking all participants to read Elaine A. Heath's book, The Healing Practice of Celebration, Abingdon, 2020. The book is available for about $14 from your local bookstore or Amazon.com.
As other selections are made, we will post them here and on the "Read" tab found on this site.
This sounds really different from the Walk to Emmaus.
Both programs seek the spiritual renewal of the participants for the renewal of the church and transformation of the world. The Walk to Emmaus is more of a motivational retreat, lifting people to a mountain top experience. The Academy is more about integrating our life and faith, balancing head and heart, helping people to listen to their lives, to one another and to God.
What’s the worship like?
Worship provides the framework for a typical day at the Academy, beginning with Morning Prayer before breakfast, Midday Prayer before lunch, Evening Prayer with Holy Communion before dinner and Night Prayer before the Great Silence. Written liturgies in The Upper Room Worshipbook are generally used for Academy worship. The worship pattern is based on the ancient “liturgy of the hours,” some of the earliest practices of Christian worship.
Every evening you will meet in a Listening Circle to reflect on the day and to share spiritual journeys. A convener is assigned to help your group begin and end on time and create a safe space for listening to one another and to God. As the week goes on, the listening circle can be a sacred place for spiritual growth and intimacy.
I’ve heard that the schedule includes silence. Why is that?
The schedule includes an hour of silence after each faculty lecture so that you may reflect at your own pace what has been said. Between Night Prayer and Morning Prayer, we participate in the Great Silence…to listen to God through the night and to open our ears to the morning song. Silence is so important it’s sometimes called “the Church’s forgotten Teacher.” T.S. Elliot once asked, “Is there enough silence for the Word to be heard?” Too often the answer is no. When we are physically silent, we can also turn off the noise in our heads that keeps us from truly listening.
What does it cost?
The total fee for 2023 is between $450-545, depending on room preference and when you register. A non-refundable $150 deposit secures your reservation. For lowest rate, you're encouraged to register early. Please refer to the "Register" tab on this site.
What about Covid?
The Academy's full response to Covid can be found at this link.
Are scholarships available?
Are scholarships available?
Every effort is made to make it possible for people to attend, regardless of their ability to pay. Clergy may apply for continuing education funds through their judicatory and/or local church. Special consideration for students and conference provisionals requires a Letter of Request. It is the generosity of others that makes this possible. If you would like to contribute toward helping another attend this retreat, an opportunity to do so is available as you register online.
What is the daily schedule?
The relaxed schedule follows a modified Benedictine model. The schedule for the days is posted on the "Rhythm" tab on this site.
Who can I ask if I have other questions?
The Leadership Team consists of volunteer lay and clergy leaders who are here to assist you. They welcome any inquiry you may have. Leaders for 2023 are shown on the "Team" tab on this site.
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