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Florida To Host Academy For Spiritual Formation

Florida To Host Academy For Spiritual Formation

First time for the Conference to host event, which will be bilingual



The prayer labyrinth at the Florida Conference Life Enrichment Center in FruitlandPark, near Leesburg, offers opportunities for spiritual reflection.
The Academy for Spiritual Formation is well known as an exercise in building spiritual strength. The Upper Room, a ministry of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, has conducted 31 of the long-term academies since 1983. Now, for the first time, the Florida Conference will host an Academy, which consists of eight five-day sessions, one each quarter, over the course of two years. Participants are immersed in a pattern of study, prayer and meditation, worship and sharing with covenant groups.

Morning and afternoon classes are led by a faculty of authors, professors and pastors. Spiritual guidance is offered by a leadership team experienced in spiritual direction. The academies are Wesleyan in spirit, with the first year focused on personal holiness and the second year on the needs of the world.

The upcoming Academy will begin July 26, and all sessions will be held at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg. The Academy will be limited to about 56 participants.

The cost for the Academy is $6,100 for tuition, board and a single-occupancy room, and $5,200 for a double-occupancy room. The cost does not include books or transportation. Payments may be spread over the two-year term of the Academy, and partial scholarships are available.

In order to apply for the Academy or inquire about scholarships, visit its website, or call Donna Bryant at 877-899-2781, ext. 7233.

The Academy held in Leesburg will represent something new. Sessions will be conducted in English and Spanish, the first time the Upper Room has attempted a bilingual Academy. There will be simultaneous translation available for both languages and English-speaking and Spanish-speaking covenant groups.

The leadership team for the Academy is headed by Victor Perez, International Spiritual Director for Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis, The Upper Room's spiritual retreat programs. Addressing the need for Spanish presentations, Perez said there are times when spirituality is best expressed in one's native tongue.

"It's the language of the soul. There are things that can't be communicated unless they are part of your language," he said.

On the other hand, the bilingual Academy is intended to be an opportunity for a spiritual exchange between Hispanic and Anglo cultures, he said.

"There are Anglo leaders working in a setting with a Hispanic population, and vice versa. This is an opportunity for people who like to stretch a little bit," he said.

Victor Perez, International Spiritual Director for Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis, The Upper Room's spiritual retreat programs, presides over a eucharist service at a recent Academy for Spiritual Formation. The Florida Conference will host a two-year Academy beginning in July. Photo provided by The Upper Room.

Perez said there are Hispanic pastors from Florida and United Methodists from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean nation of St. Martin registered, and the worship services will be a blend of Hispanic and Anglo cultures.

"It will be like a little Pentecost," he said with a laugh. "The key is that there will be a deeper understanding of who we are in the eyes of God."

Since it will be a first, the bilingual Academy is an experiment to see if it can be duplicated in other Jurisdictions, Perez said.

Wray, who is part of the Shade and Fresh Water program of the Conference's Center for Clergy Excellence, which provides personal and spiritual support for clergy, said her experience in the Academy had proved valuable in ministering to pastors who may be asking deep spiritual questions.

"When we work with clergy, we bring a lot of this with us," she said.
As an indication of the depth of the spiritual connections that can be formed at the Academy, Wray said the covenant group she was part of has continued to meet every six months.

"We share our struggles and blessings. I feel very fortunate," she said.




News media contact: Cary McMullen, 800-282-8011,, Lakeland
*McMullen is managing editor of the e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.


For Lucy Wray, the Academy for Spiritual Formation was an exercise in discipline. Wray had just completed her training to become a spiritual director, but she was eager for the kind of experience that the two-year Academy demanded.

"You're sharing with people who are really seeking a greater richness to their faith walk," said Wray, a member of the Florida Conference's Spiritual Formation Team. "What makes it exciting is that it's a commitment for two years."