Celebrating 40 Years of the Academy for Spiritual Formation

May 10, 2023 by Stephen D. Bryant

Forty years ago, I was a young pastor serving in Corpus Christi and searching for something more, a deepening spirituality that would draw me closer to the heart, mind, and work of Christ. I was hungry for a prayer practice and for companions on the journey with whom to shape a life in the Spirit in a way that was not being satisfied at the time. It was during that season of searching and discovery that I began to envision a model for spiritual formation in my congregation so “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).

The search led me to Nashville in May 1983 to participate in the first two-year program of The Academy for Spiritual Formation. The 40 days in residence fed my mind and soul, quenched my thirst for an authentic Christian spirituality, and introduced me to others on a similar journey to that “love at the heart of all things” (Douglas Steere). The Academy truly changed the course of my life, personally and professionally.

Shortly after Academy #1 and a season of further studies in the theology of Christian spirituality, I joined The Upper Room program staff, and in 1997 was elected to serve as The Upper Room’s top executive, Publisher and World Editor, with an unexpected return tenure from 2017-2021 before retirement. It’s been my honor to work alongside all three Academy directors, innovative and grounded spiritual leaders—the late beloved Danny Morris (founder), Jerry Haas (1999), and Johnny Sears (2010). Their collective passion and diligence, the excellence demonstrated in the faculty and leadership teams, and God’s favor has resulted in The Academy’s growth into multiple formats and languages and its global expansion into South Korea, South Africa, UK, and Russia (among other countries) providing a transformative experience for thousands of people longing for an authentic life with Christ and neighbor.

Please join me in celebrating The Academy’s 40th Anniversary with your prayers and gifts. As a former participant, faculty, or friend, you know first-hand the powerful restoration that The Academy offers. Your support will ensure that The Academy continues to create transformative space for people to connect with God, self, others, and creation for the sake of the world. A profound, precious gift in today’s challenging world.

I see that plans are underway to host a Civil Rights Pilgrimage this fall, to launch the first hybrid Academy experience in 2024, and to continue meeting the ongoing requests for online retreats as well as in-person Five-Day and Two-Year Academies. Can you imagine what the next 40 years will bring?

The Academy has set a goal of raising $40,000 over the next 40 days to help sustain the ministry, to remain responsive and adaptive, to flourish. That’s why I’m turning to you. Join me in making a generous gift. Your gift of any size during May and June will make a meaningful difference as The Academy moves with the Spirit’s calling, leading the way in the ongoing incarnation of the body of Christ in our times.

Stephen D. Bryant is an alumnus of Academy #1 and previously served as the World Editor and Publisher of The Upper Room.


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