History of the Upper Room

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History of the UK Edition

British Isles edition of The Upper RoomThe Upper Room daily devotional guide UK edition was first published in 1954, by St Andrews Press. In 1984 the Methodist Publishing House became the publisher and continued in this role until 2008. The aim of everyone involved with the magazine has been to provide a resource which encourages daily devotional reading of scripture, prayer and meditation, and the feeling of being involved in a worldwide family of three million people who use The Upper Room every day.

Part of the mission of The Upper Room has been to reach out to people who may have no formal connection with Christianity, who may not go to church, but who are nevertheless seeking a spiritual dimension to their lives. The Upper Room is unique in that its readers are also its writers; Christians who are seeking to share their experiences with others in a direct, honest statement of personal faith in Christ, and the ways in which faith grows. In this way The Upper Room has proved to be an excellent tool for reaching out to people wherever they are and whatever their background and current circumstances.

One of the most important ministries of the British edition has been its outreach to prisons. The decision to extend this work was taken after the Editor received a letter from a prison chaplain, in which he explained that a prisoner on suicide watch had come across a copy of The Upper Room, had asked for a Bible to read alongside it, and had subsequently found new reason to live. The prison population is more than 70,000 in the UK, and in order to try to reach some of these with The Upper Room, a 'sponsor a prison subscription' scheme was set up. Individuals contributed to pay for a year's subscription to the magazine for a prisoner. At the same time, readers were invited to join in a prayer ministry for prisoners and for prison chaplains.

Writers' meditations are key to the ministry of The Upper Room, and a number of workshops for writers have been held in England and Scotland. The aim of them is to demonstrate that good devotional writing begins with scripture, and that the more we meditate on scripture, the more is revealed to us from it. Participants are shown how to construct a meditation and how to improve their writing, offering writers the chance to share experiences and to keep in contact. As a result of the workshops, the Editor has been able to include more meditations by UK writers, so expanding the appeal of the edition, and encouraging writers to send in more meditations.

Contact with readers of the magazine is also crucial. Many correspondents share news and views about the UK edition: how it used within their church; how a particular meditation has helped them through a difficult time; how the magazine has been used to help people, often strangers, who have responded to the sharing of experiences.

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History of The Upper Room - pre-1954

In the early 1930s a group of women at Travis Park Methodist Episcopal Church (San Antonio, Texas) began praying together because they were concerned about the spiritual lives of their families. They desired a devotional guide that would encourage the daily discipline of reading scripture, prayer, and sharing with other Christians.

They pleaded for denominational support, but the 1930s was a time of financial depression in the United States. It certainly seemed like a big risk to start a magazine; however, the women would not give up easily. They continued their prayers for a revival of regular family spirituality, prayer, and Bible study.

That small group of women literally prayed The Upper Room daily devotional guide into existance, and 1934 minutes of the Board of Missions read 'to publish a quarterly devotional booklet to be sold in the local church'. The pattern was a suggested Bible reading, short meditation, prayer, and thought for the day. It was characterised by sincerity and simplicity.

In 1935, the person appointed to be responsible for the booklet heard a devotional message about the experiences of the disciples on the day of Pentecost in the Upper Room - and so the booklet was named The Upper Room.

The first issue of 100,000 English language copies was published in April 1935 with meditations written by Methodist church leaders and lay persons. Within a few months after the first issue of The Upper Room was published, there was a growing demand to translate the devotional guide into other languages. Hindu was the first non-English edition, and it was quickly followed by Spanish and Korean.

In 1948, the magazine began to be published bimonthly, and today meditations included in the daily devotional guide are written by people representing many Christian denominations, nationalities, and cultural experiences. It is now translated into 35 languages and distributed to over 100 countries worldwide for a total circulation of over 3 million copies (readership is estimated at over 8 million persons).

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Find out more about the work and ministry of The Upper Room (US) - visit their website.

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