Spring has sprung. New life is emerging all around us. A sense of excitement is in the air. My soul wants to break free of its tether and soar across the universe! After two years of isolation due to the pandemic, I’m ready to dance across West Virginia with Jesus, leaving footprints of love everywhere we go.
Yes, I do wax poetic about the grace I’ve received. I’m living my best years since deciding to take seriously Jesus’s call to “follow me.” Two important stepping stones that have helped God transform me, and me transform part of my little corner of the world, are programs offered by The Upper Room, a division of Discipleship Ministries. Even though The Upper Room is associated with The United Methodist Church, these programs are not for Methodists only.
Based on the encounter of two of Jesus’s followers with the Risen Christ, The Walk to Emmaus offers today’s disciples an opportunity to rediscover Christ’s presence in their lives, to gain fresh understanding of God’s transforming grace and to form friendships that foster faith and support spiritual maturity.
This retreat has been described as a short course in Christianity. Participants, called Pilgrims, hear talks from clergy and laity on topics such as grace and discipleship. At the conclusion of the weekend, the Pilgrim is offered an opportunity to reflect on what s/he will do with the knowledge gained and love experienced during their Walk.
For me, going on the Walk to Emmaus in about 1994-1995 was the beginning of an intentional plan of spiritual growth. Even more formational was The Upper Room Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation which I attended in Alabama from 2012-2014. (And, no, one does not spend two years away from home attending a camp or school. The Academy meets for one week every quarter for two years.)
The Academy’s mission is quite similar to that of our Conference: “The Academy for Spiritual Formation creates transformative space for people to be in communion with God, self, others, and creation for the sake of the world.” Part of their vision is “to be a movement that helps reshape the way pilgrims conceive of and live out the Christian life — a way that is rooted in and flows from God’s spirit and action in the world.”
The Upper Room website describes the Academy as “an experience of disciplined Christian community emphasizing holistic spirituality — nurturing mind, body, and spirit. The program is ecumenical in nature and fosters spiritual rhythms of study and prayer, silence and liturgy, solitude and relationship, rest and exercise.”
The Walk to Emmaus and the Academy for Spiritual Formation help “provide the spiritual breath of fresh air that changes the world.” Participants regain (or realize for the first time) the passion that enables them to be “spiritual leaders who make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
The Kanawha Valley Emmaus Community has not resumed operation since the COVID pandemic. However, The Upper Room has developed a new program, offering the 72-hour Emmaus experience online over three consecutive weekends (Friday night and Saturday). This program, The Village Encounter, will be held the first three weekends of May 2022. Cost is $40. Pilgrims can contact BA Miskowiec for sponsorship. For more information, follow this link: https://mailchi.mp/upperroom/emmaus-enews-march-2022?e=b3f246ecc8
The next Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation is scheduled to begin in January 2023, in north Alabama. BA Miskowiec plans to attend this Academy and can be contacted if you have questions. Follow this link to learn more: https://academy.upperroom.org/events/category/two-year-schedule/ Scholarships are available, so please do not let money be the reason you do not attend.
Do you want your life to be transformed? Do you want to help God transform the world? After the two years of upheaval we’ve experienced, a vacation with Jesus is just what we need. Take steps now to participate in The Village Encounter and/or the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation. And if you need some encouragement, contact BA Miskowiec to discover whether my story can be your story as well.
**** For those who have attend a Walk to Emmaus – you’re invited to join in a new 4th Day gathering, via zoom. The first meeting will be Wednesday, April 27th at 7pm. Follow this link to register and receive the zoom meeting link.