Academy Podcast



Welcome to The Academy Podcast, a podcast dedicated to sharing rich content for the purpose of spiritual growth. The Academy Podcast is brought to you by The Academy for Spiritual Formation, an international ministry of The Upper Room. The Academy is dedicated to creating safe space for people to connect with God, self, others, and creation for the sake of the world. To learn more about our Five-Day and Two-Year retreat offerings, visit Were glad youre here.


  • Best of 2020

    Best of 2020

    14/12/2020 Duration: 01h19min

    December's episode is a compilation of the best moments of 2020 from Claire's podcast conversations with Lisa Yebuah, Dan Wolpert, Ben Boswell, Amos Disasa, Frank Rogers, M Barclay, Lanecia Rouse, and Amy Stroup. Of course, we hosted many more conversations than these in 2020 with Academy leaders and friends—conversations that challenged us to act, opened us to joy, and reminded us that justice and mercy are the children of Love. The excerpts from the conversations in this “best of” podcast are just a few of our favorites, many of them memorable moments that changed our own thinking, feeling, and being in the world. In the end, we’re simply grateful. Grateful we can hold this space for holy and healing conversation; grateful we can talk about hard things, real things, big things; grateful we can show up, again and again, in the presence of the Holy One asking to be transformed for the healing and transformation of the world.

  • Conversation with Luther Smith

    Conversation with Luther Smith

    09/11/2020 Duration: 01h18min

    Today’s conversation features Luther Smith, who is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, longtime Academy faculty person, and a member of The Academy Advisory Board. Luther spent 35 years of his career as an activist, scholar, and professor at Candler School of Theology, and he is known to be an authority on the life and theology of Howard Thurman. Luther is Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at Candler and his current research focuses on the writings and correspondence of Howard Thurman, advocacy on behalf of children, and a spirituality of hope. He is married to Helen Pearson Smith and lives in Stone Mountain, GA. They have four children and five grandchildren. Whether you know Luther and have had the honor of learning both from and with him or today is your very first introduction to his life and work, you’re in for a treat. Our host Claire McKeever-Burgett says of him, “Luther served as faculty at the first Five-Day Academy I attended in 2014 and from that time on, he’s

  • Conversation with Rev. M Barclay

    Conversation with Rev. M Barclay

    12/10/2020 Duration: 01h04min

    In this episode, we’re joined by Rev. M. Barclay who is the co-founder and executive director of enfleshed, a nonprofit creating and facilitating resources of spiritual nourishment for collective liberation. M is passionate about bringing fresh and relevant perspectives to the questions, traditions, and theologies that have sustained faith communities for centuries. They have extensive experience in writing, preaching, and teaching on Christianity and its relationship to queer and trans lives, feminism, white anti-racism, and other pressing matters of justice. M is a leader with the UMForward Collective and formerly served as Director of Communications with Reconciling Ministries Network. They have also enjoyed working as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate, and faith coordinator for reproductive justice in Texas. M is proud to be a 2018-2020 Culture of Health Leader with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They delight in queer community, finding the nearest hike while traveling, reading t

  • Conversation with Lanecia Rouse

    Conversation with Lanecia Rouse

    14/09/2020 Duration: 53min

    In this episode, Claire is joined by Lanecia Rouse Tinsley who is a multidisciplinary visual artist based in Houston, TX, and the owner/creator of LAR Art Studio. Lanecia's portfolio includes a range of work in abstract painting, photography, teaching, writing, and speaking. Lanecia’s work is deeply informed by her studies in sociology, theology, and culture. Her works are products of contemplative and intuitive abstract composition practices. She explores in them various perspectives that might illumine our everyday quests to make life meaningful and content while grappling with fundamental questions about our existence. Lanecia is the perfect reminder that the work of love and justice is expansive work and it begs of us to stand our sacred ground, to open ourselves to change, and to deeply trust in the God who marches, dances, listens, learns, and sings along with us.

  • Conversation with Amos Disasa

    Conversation with Amos Disasa

    11/08/2020 Duration: 01h11min

    Today's conversation is with Amos Disasa, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, TX. The conversation, recorded at the end of June, is deep and wide, intense and honest, vulnerable and, at times, terrifying, in the sense that much of what we discuss cuts to the core, inviting deep introspection and authenticity. As Amos says, "We aim to have healthy conversations, not perfect ones." This feels like one of those conversations--healthy, whole, honest, true.

  • A Conversation with Amy Stroup

    A Conversation with Amy Stroup

    03/08/2020 Duration: 01h05min

    Our new music is from today’s conversation partner on the podcast, a Nashville based singer songwriter, Amy Stroup, who graciously offered instrumentals from her songs “Far Side of the Sea,” “Versailles,” and “Fearless” for our podcast episodes going forward. You’ll want to check out all of Amy’s music on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your tunes. This episode sounds a lot like a conversation between longtime friends, because it is one. Claire and Amy have known each other since high school. At the beginning of June, they talked about all things songwriting, healing, racial justice, Richard Rohr, connection, spiritual practices that keep Amy grounded, who she’s currently listening to and reading, and more. While connection has always been important, it feels even more so in these days of living in the midst of a global pandemic and as we continually engage antiracism work. Maybe this will spur you to send a text to an old friend or quarantine for 14 days so you can safely drive to see your peop

  • A Conversation with Ben Boswell

    A Conversation with Ben Boswell

    08/07/2020 Duration: 01h23min

    In this episode, we’re joined by Ben Boswell, Senior Pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and Two-Year Academy #39 graduate. In his role as Senior Minister, Ben works at the intersection of strategic leadership, spiritual formation, and social justice. In addition to pastoral responsibilities, Ben facilitates anti-racism trainings for white dominant congregations called, “What Does It Mean to Be White?" Ben is a former commissioned officer in the U.S. Army National Guard, a graduate of Marion Military Institute (AA), Campbell University (BA), Duke Divinity School (MDIV), St. Paul’s School of Theology (DMIN), and completed course work for a PhD in Moral Theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America. Ben has served as a Commissioner on the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, and on the board of the Alliance of Baptists and Baptist House at Duke Divinity School. In the following conversation, Ben and Claire discuss dismantling white supremacy, the Black, Indi

  • Conversation with Amy Steele  Sophia Agtarap

    Conversation with Amy Steele & Sophia Agtarap

    06/07/2020 Duration: 01h19min

    In this episode, we’re joined by Sophia Agtarap and Amy Steele of Vanderbilt Divinity School. The Academy and The Upper Room have partnered with both Sophia and Amy and Vanderbilt Divinity School on many endeavors, most recently the viewing and panel discussion of “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story” that included Academy faculty person Luther Smith. What follows is a conversation with Amy and Sophia about spirituality and justice, how COVID-19 affected the divinity school and shifted theological education, taking care of ourselves and others in these strange and intense times, and more.

  • Conversation with Lisa Yebuah

    Conversation with Lisa Yebuah

    15/06/2020 Duration: 01h09min

    Conversation with Lisa Yebuah by Academy Podcast

  • Conversation with Dan Wolpert

    Conversation with Dan Wolpert

    10/06/2020 Duration: 01h08min

    In this episode, we’re joined by Dan Wolpert who is Academy faculty, Upper Room Books author, Upper Room eLearning facilitator and teacher, Executive Director and co-founder of MICAH, the Minnesota Institute for Contemplation and Healing, spouse, partner, ally, activist, dad. Dan has been a student of the spiritual life since age 21 and has taught in the fields of psychology and spiritual formation in numerous settings. In addition to his retreat and teaching work, Dan provides counseling and spiritual direction services at MICAH. He is also the author of “Leading a Life with God, the practice of spiritual leadership", “Creating a Life with God: the call of ancient prayer practices", co-author of “Meeting God in Virtual Reality", and most recently “The Collapse of the Three Story Universe: Christianity in an age of Science”. Dan lives in Minneapolis, MN just two blocks from where George Floyd was killed. Claire and Dan's conversation is an important one, especially for white people. Dan helps illumine the spi

  • Conversation with Elaine Heath

    Conversation with Elaine Heath

    19/05/2020 Duration: 01h29s

    In this episode, Claire is joined by Elaine Heath, Academy faculty, Upper Room Books author, and so much more. Elaine’s scholarly work is interdisciplinary, integrating pastoral, biblical, and spiritual theology in ways that bridge the gap between academy, church, and world. Her current research interests focus on community as a means of healing trauma, emergent forms of Christianity, and alternative forms of theological education for the church in rapidly changing contexts. What follows is a conversation with Elaine about what is needed from us as spiritual leaders for these times, what it means to “neighbor well,” the profound and sound theology of Julian of Norwich, and so much more.

  • Conversation with Roger Owens

    Conversation with Roger Owens

    13/05/2020 Duration: 54min

    In this episode, Claire speaks with Roger Owens from his home in Pittsburgh, where he’s now teaching spiritual formation classes to his seminary students online, enjoying family meals with his teenagers again, and discovering that The Academy and its rhythms are a helpful guide in this time of global pandemic...and always. What follows is a conversation with Roger about the expansiveness of God, the invitations of a global pandemic, his writing process, the spiritual practice of music, and more.

  • Conversation with Frank Rogers

    Conversation with Frank Rogers

    07/05/2020 Duration: 01h09min

    Today, I get to talk with Frank Rogers via Zoom about all things spiritual formation, being gentle with ourselves in the midst of difficult emotions, how he found himself working the The Academy, practicing compassion, and more. What follows is an honest conversation with Frank about what it is to be human and healing in these uncertain times. It is full of joy and endless compassion, all things Frank embodies and lives in beautiful and inspiring ways.

  • Conversation with Amy Oden

    Conversation with Amy Oden

    26/04/2020 Duration: 01h25s

    "Today," our host, Claire, says, "I get to talk with Amy Oden via Zoom about all things spiritual formation, healing in the time of COVID-19, her work with the Academy and why she thinks it’s important, and more. What follows is a conversation with Amy, who is a friend, mentor, and colleague in the way of Love."

  • Conversation with Victor Perez

    Conversation with Victor Perez

    13/04/2020 Duration: 53min

    In this month's podcast, our host, Claire, talks with Victor Perez via Zoom about all things Bilingual (Spanish + English) Academy #42, which is scheduled to begin in August 2020 in San Antonio, TX, breathing deeply in the midst of a global pandemic, spiritual practice, prayer, family, Puerto Rico, and more. What follows is a conversation about what it is to be human and searching for true connection in these uncertain times.

  • Rooted in Love: A Conversation with Marjorie Thompson

    Rooted in Love: A Conversation with Marjorie Thompson

    16/03/2020 Duration: 01h55s

    Our host, Claire, describes this month's podcast saying, "In this month’s podcast, I sit down with Marjorie Thompson, who is a longtime Academy faculty person, author, and my personal spiritual director. In light of the recent tornadoes that devastated parts of Nashville and Tennessee, as well as growing concerns about the coronavirus throughout the world and a politically charged election season here in the US, I wanted to talk with Marjorie about how to remain grounded faith leaders in the midst of chaos, disaster, and fear...What follows is a heartfelt conversation with one of my spiritual guides, a true friend and companion along the Way of Love. "

  • Conversation with Leaders of The Academy for Spiritual Formation

    Conversation with Leaders of The Academy for Spiritual Formation

    18/02/2020 Duration: 58min

    In this month’s podcast, our host, Claire, sits down with Academy Director, Johnny Sears, for a conversation on all things spiritual formation, family, poetry, leadership, and life. He and I are what we like to call soul siblings—much more than colleagues, although we’re that to each other, too. We get to lead The Academy together, and it is truly a gift. We hope you enjoy listening in on our conversation this month – and we hope it might inspire you to sit down with your own colleagues, soul siblings, and loved ones and do the same.

  • The Breath of God

    The Breath of God

    04/12/2019 Duration: 32min

    This month’s podcast features teaching from Rabbi David Horowitz at Two-Year Academy #41 in Alabama where he taught on Hebrew Spirituality. With his sharp wit, expansive knowledge, and deep compassion, Rabbi David offers us a place to listen, learn, and let go into the presence and breath of God. Rabbi David still resides in Akron, OH with his wife, Toby, and spends his time gushing about his grandchildren, traveling, reading, writing, and, thankfully for us, teaching at The Academy. Academy Faculty since 2004, Rabbi David is, indeed, a friend and teacher to us all.

  • Spirituality and Embodiment

    Spirituality and Embodiment

    05/11/2019 Duration: 28min

    This month’s podcast features teaching from Jane Vennard from Two-Year Academy #38 in Nebraska when she offered insight, invitation, and reflection into the important topic of spirituality and embodiment. Offering listeners questions about how and when and where we honor, pay attention, and care for our bodies, Jane’s teaching is a master class in spiritual direction, an invitation for all of us to pause and really examine the love we show these bodies of ours...the only ones we’ve got.

  • Creativity, Writing, and Spiritual Practice in a Divided World

    Creativity, Writing, and Spiritual Practice in a Divided World

    29/08/2019 Duration: 31min

    This month’s podcast features a conversation between Academy Podcast Host and Associate Director, Claire McKeever-Burgett, and Academy Worship Leader, Upper Room Books author, and Director of Prayer and Worship Life at The Upper Room, Beth Richardson. They talk about everything from Academy worship to spiritual formation in a divided world, church, and culture to geographical landscapes of faith to how spiritual practice informs the writing and creative processes.

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