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Title: The Long Road Towards Justice and Beloved Community: A Civil Rights Pilgrimage

Guides: Amy E. Steele, Johnny Sears, and Diana Cason

Registrar: Donna Bryant or 615-340-7233

Online application and detailed itinerary in buttons below.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

– James Baldwin

In his book, Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman asks, “Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically – and therefore effectively– with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion and national origin?” Indeed, colonialism and white supremacy are threaded through the history and fabric of American society and its institutions, including the Christian church. Those who seek to follow Jesus on the way of love have a role to play toward building a more just and loving future. But first, we must confront and embrace our full past and learn to tell the truth about our present. This is the work of discipleship and spiritual formation.

To that end, The Academy for Spiritual Formation invites you to join us November 5 – 11, 2023, for a seven-day, six-night pilgrimage to places that hold sacred stories of Black resilience, survival, and tenacious hope modeled throughout the long and ongoing struggle for freedom, civil rights, and justice in the United States. By bringing us into proximity with our real history, this experience will provide a new and deeper understanding that cannot be found from books and documentaries.

The pilgrimage will be guided by Rev. Dr. Amy E. Steele, Dean of The Upper Room Chapel and Thurman scholar, along with Johnny Sears, Academy Director, and Diana Cason, Two-Year Academy alum and architect of the pilgrimage. We will visit sites in Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma and have conversations with local guides, historians, and scholars, including Dr. Luther Smith who will help us ground ourselves in the theology of Howard Thurman. Each day will be rooted in times of communal prayer, individual contemplation, and facilitated small group reflection to help us process and integrate our experiences. See the link below for an outline of our journey and intended sites.

Pilgrimage is an ancient tradition of spiritual practice; therefore, unlike a tour, this journey will pay particular attention to pace, practice, and purpose. As pilgrims, we leave the familiar comforts of home to seek transformation of the inner landscape of our souls and return with renewed sight and “bliss-bestowing hands.”

Participants will also receive guided preparation for the experience through reading assignments and live online sessions prior to the pilgrimage.

Space is limited to 27 participants. The application deadline is August 1, 2023.


  • Double Occupancy (standard rate): $1,750 – $2,250 (sliding scale)*
  • Single occupancy (standard rate): $2,350 – $2,750 (sliding scale)*

*To make participation accessible for any who want to attend, you may choose to pay anywhere within the given range. We encourage you to pay as high on the scale as your circumstances allow to enable us to continue offering these programs and to provide scholarships for those who need them.

Costs Include:

  • 6 nights – Hotel Accommodations
  • Breakfasts each morning
  • 3 Group lunches
  • 3 Group dinners
  • Coach transportation throughout, fees for museums, local historians and speakers, tips for driver, and retreat materials.

Note: The fees DO NOT include personal costs to and from Nashville, books/materials for required reading and pre-study, 3 lunches, 3 dinners, and any optional expenses incurred.

SCHOLARSHIPS: Partial scholarships of up to $500 available based on need (in addition to any early bird discount). Link to scholarship application will be provided after being approved for the pilgrimage.


  • Application fee when applying (not included in pilgrimage fees and non-refundable): $20.00
  • $100 non-refundable deposit is due within 10 days after your application has been approved to confirm and reserve your spot.
  • $900 interim payment is due by June 30, 2023. If applying or approved after June 30, $1,000 (inclusive of $100 non-refundable deposit) is due within 10 days after your application has been approved.
  • Full balance due by September 1, 2023.

Cancellation Policy:

  • Cancel by September 1, 2023 – full refund minus $100 deposit.
  • Cancel after September 1 but by October 1, 2023 – 50% of total cost will be refunded.**
  • Cancel after October 1, 2023 –25% of total cost will be refunded.**

**If you cancel and we are able to fill your space, we will refund your fees minus the $100 deposit.

COVID-19 Precautions: Participants are expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and up to date on related boosters. Masks may be required by some sites and, depending conditions at the time, the leadership team may deem it necessary to wear masks at other times.

Email [email protected] with questions or for more information.

This pilgrimage is eligible for 3 CEUs at a cost of $15

Apply Online
Trip Itinerary
Reading List