It all started at the Glen Eyrie Retreat Centre in Colorado Springs with the first Institute of Spiritual Direction taught by Dr. Larry Crabb. God clearly spoke to Len Thompson to spend the rest of his life developing an evangelical approach to spiritual formation. There were many questions but after a couple of years, in May of 2004, The Centre for Evangelical Spiritual Formation of Edmonton was registered with Alberta Registries as a non-profit organization. A few months later, CESF received a charitable tax number with Revenue Canada and began to offer spiritual direction. The group was small but committed to the task of learning about spiritual formation in a primarily evangelical context.
The last few years have been spent in researching, in both academic and experiential ways, Christian growth. CESF formed an advisory board with people from across Canada to help us develop the vision. We have built a model of growth, tried it out in groups, modified it and also successfully tested it in a pilot project. Our vision has grown and expanded so that we are able to run the Urban Sanctuary (a day retreat facility), and offer spiritual direction and various kinds of retreats to pastors, missionaries and lay people who desire to grow spiritually.
As time has rolled on, we also have developed a partnership with Taylor Seminary, providing spiritual direction for their students, and teaching some courses as part of their program. Ben Reed joined our staff to provide a number of services to missionaries, including spiritual direction and he is developing some partnerships with other mission organizations in helping them with member care. We also are initiating an intensive mentorship program for those who want to hone their spiritual disciplines over an 18 month period. As people became familiar with each of these parts of our Ministry, the "Urban Sanctuary" seemed to be name that connected best with our identity. Thus, while we still maintain the different areas of ministry, they come together under one vision for Evangelical Spiritual Formation and one name - The Urban Sanctuary. (CESF is still our registered name)
God has brought many people to help Len in this vision. We continue to be amazed at the gifted people that God brings into our path at the Urban Sanctuary.