Five-Day Academy and The Secret of Joy
by Kathy Leithner
Forty people from eight states (half from Oklahoma) gathered at Canyon Camp recently to sink deeply into a rhythm of prayer, worship, teaching, silence, small- and large-group sharing, meal conversations, and free time. This time was eagerly anticipated, since it had to be postponed for two years due to the Covid pandemic. Those who attended came with hopes for rest and renewal, to be stimulated by new ideas and challenging perspectives, and for companionship on the journey of faith.
This was “truly excellent in all aspects,” one participant wrote in the evaluation. “I enjoyed the lectures and the new friends,” said another. Of her small group, one testified that they “brought me back from the brink of burnout.”
The theme of this fourteenth Oklahoma Five-Day Academy was “The Secret of Joy,” which shaped the daily worship themes of humility, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. Participants described worship as enlightening, life-giving, inspiring and joy-inducing.
Dr. Amy Oden and Dr. Loyd Allen were faculty for the week. Amy Oden’s topic was “Christian Mindfulness” and covered the practices, history, and theology of Christian mindfulness. “Wow!” said one participant, “Amy has a lot of info – but it’s her genuine presence that is moving.” “So down to earth and real,” wrote another, “that I felt like I’d always known her.”
Dr. Allen focused on Thomas Merton and the True Self, giving background on one of the most influential spiritual writers and teachers of the 20th century and inviting all to center our sense of self (beyond our roles and titles) in the Being of God. “He trusted us with very deep and vital information and spirit,” said one participant. “I appreciate that he didn’t back down from challenging us!”
On the first full day, snow began falling gently and lasted until evening, covering the canyon in a 3 1/2-inch blanket of white. That didn’t keep the hikers in the group from venturing out at free time to explore the canyon! And during the morning and afternoon times of silence, it was as if all creation was inviting the community to simply be, to gaze out the windows and ponder the wonder and beauty of God’s presence and Jesus’ invitation to life abundant.
The Oklahoma Five-Day Academy is sponsored jointly by the Upper Room and the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church. 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. It is open to lay and clergy of all denominations. Usually, the Oklahoma Five-Day happens every two years; the dates for the next one should be scheduled by mid-2023.