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Five Day Academy gives participants chance to tap into spiritual selves

Five Day Academy gives participants chance to tap into spiritual selves

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Five Day Academy gives participants chance to tap into spiritual selves

March 17, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0263}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — People were pulled in so many different directions before, during and after the storms that hit the state last year, many didn't know if they were coming or going.

Months after the hurricanes Floridians are still working to help people recover from the devastation and get on with their lives.

LEESBURG — The Rev. Jan Gregory-Charpentier of Upton, Mass., (foreground) and Sarah Madsen of Brooksville, Fla., spend time at the prayer labyrinth during last year's Five Day Academy for Spritual Formation at the Florida Conference's Life Enrichment Center here. Photo by Lucy Wray, Photo #05-0147.

For clergy and laity working in recovery who would like a much-needed break, the Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation is exactly what they need to recharge their souls, according to organizers.

There aren't fax machines, pagers, telephones, televisions or other distractions to prevent participants from tapping into their spiritual selves at the April 24-29 retreat at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg.

The Rev. Catherine Thacker, pastor of Lockhart and Taft United Methodist churches in Orlando, will be the retreat leader. She said the week is an excellent time to draw closer to God, while receiving needed rest and renewal of the spirit.

"Laity and clergy both have been caring over and above the call of duty because of the storms," said Thacker, who has attended the past four Florida Five Day academies. "Laity, clergy and care givers have been dealing with people who lost their homes and businesses, while many suffered loses themselves, so this is a time of rest and reflection for them."

Thacker said a time away from busy schedules will give people a chance to recharge so they can continue helping others. She said refusing to make the time to slow down leads to people getting "burned out."

"There are so many demands on everyone's time, but you really do need to take time out so you can have the strength to continue," she said.

This year's academy marks the fifth anniversary of the Five Day Academy in Florida. The featured topic is "The Community of Hebrews and the Community of Today." The presenters are Dick and Elise Eslinger.

Dick Eslinger is professor of worship and preaching at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and director of the Center for Worship, Preaching and the Arts. He has written seven books on preaching, including the most recent, "The Web of Preaching" (Abingdon). He has been pastor of several local churches and on staff at The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) in the area of worship.

Elise Eslinger is director of United Theological Institute for Applied Theology, including outreach and continuing education, and United Seminary's Institute for Applied Theology, which includes centers for worship, urban outreach, leadership formation and continuing education for ministry. She has served on the conference staff and at GBOD in the worship area. She is a member of the founding team for the Academy for Spiritual Formation and is editor of both the "Upper Room Worship Book" and its new edition coming out next year.

Martha Clark, leader of the Florida Conference Spiritual Formation Team, said the retreat is ideal for someone who is seeking a deeper relationship with Christ.

"This is great for someone who is on an intentional spiritual journey," Clark said. "If you're at a place in your spiritual journey where you want to have a more in-depth experience with Christ, if you're looking to grow closer to God, this is it."

LEESBURG — Nancy Critchfield of Winter Park, Fla., spends time in silence and prayer at the  Florida Conference's Life Enrichment Center here during last year's Five Day Academy for Spritual Formation. Photo by Lucy Wray, Photo #05-0148.

One integral component of the academy is the emphasis on silence throughout each day. Clark said silence is not something most people indulge in on a regular basis.

"Most of us live in a life sequence that is busy, and we long for an experience that has silence and meditation," she said. "In the silence, you can become centered and more Christ-centered."

Lucy Wray said, for her, the academy "provides a sacred and protected space where I can reflect on my own journey and be challenged to walk down paths never considered before."

Wray is a member of the Five Day Academy leadership team and attended the Two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation at the Alabama-West Florida Conference's Camp Sumatanga. She said she is looking forward to the Five Day retreat.

"What is appealing about the week is the monastic rhythm followed daily, which was introduced by St. Benedict centuries ago," said Wray, who has attended each of the Florida Five Day academies. "Following a schedule of regular worship, prayer, study, silence and sharing quickly turns the week into a reflective, yet celebratory time. Soon the distractions of the secular world fade away as you live in a community of kindred spirits, each seeking something unique in defining or redefining his/her personal relationship with Christ."

Wray says the time away has always been special to her.

"If I come willing to be vulnerable and shaped by the Spirit, then I will not be disappointed," she said. "And through all this, it becomes quite apparent that God continues to fill me up, so much so that the love received cannot help but pour out to others."

Upper Room Ministries developed the Five Day Academy, and the Florida Conference Spiritual Formation Team sponsors the Florida Academy. The total cost is $525, which includes tuition, meals and lodging in single occupancy rooms with bath. Linens will be provided.

To register or for more information about the upcoming Florida Academy visit or contact Carol Sue Hutchinson, director of the Florida Conference office of Discipleship Ministries at or 800-282-8011, extension 140.


This article relates to Spiritual Formation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.