Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fill Your People with Joy

SOULfeast 2014, SOULfeast 2015

by Claire McKeever-Burgett


For the eleventh year, people hungry for a renewal of spirit participated in The Upper Room’s premiere spiritual formation event, SOULfeast at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

During the week of July 13-17, 2014, three hundred lay persons and clergy from eight denominations gathered to listen and learn about the “Living Psalms” through workshops, recreation, and worship.

Roberta Bondi served as keynote speaker for the five-day event. The professor emertius at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta and author of  several books, including Wild Things (Upper Room Books, 2014), led participants in study and prayer through the Psalms of lament, pilgrimage, and praise, reminding all that the early Christian desert mothers and fathers prayed the Psalms by reciting them over and over again, beginning with Psalm 1, going all the way to Psalm 150, and then starting back at Psalm 1 again.

This practice of praying the Psalms, Roberta admonished, is something we can do, too. Offering participants practical tools and insights into the sacred songs of our ancestors, Roberta Bondi helped connect twenty-first century followers of Jesus to the ancient psalmists’ prayers of petition and gratitude.

In addition to Upper Room staff, 2014 SOULfeast workshop and worship leadership included Rob Fuquay, Candace Lewis, Dana Trent, Tom Steagald. Elizabeth Canham, Wendy LeBolt, and Tim Bias, the General Secretary of the Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church.

In closing worship on Thursday morning, July 17, Roberta preached from Psalm 23, calling each person the beloved sheep of the most Holy Shepherd. Then, Roberta helped serve Communion to SOULfeast participants, inviting all to feast at the table of our Lord.

As a follow-up note of thanks to the staff of The Upper Room, Roberta wrote a prayer-poem describing her time at SOULfeast.

“Gratitude flows over me,” Roberta writes, “as soapy water in the shower/I am slippery with it, pleased by it/to be given the present of good work/I am filled by it with delight/ My God, may you always fill your people with your joy.”

The staff of The Upper Room joined Roberta in thanksgiving and joy at the close of another inspiring and life-giving SOULfeast. Plans are underway—and registration is open—for SOULfeast 2015, July 12-16. United Methodist pastor Jacob Armstrong (Nashville, TN) will serve as the preacher for the week, while author and theologian Elaine Heath (Dallas, TX) will be the keynote speaker leading the morning plenary sessions on the 2015 theme, “Renew Your People.”

As always, you are invited to join us for a time of renewal and joy as we live, learn and pray, together, “My God, may you always fill your people with joy.”


For more information or to register, visit