Spiritual Formation at Andover

By Evan D. Burns

At the founding of Andover Theological Seminary (1807), the professors actively engaged the students intellectually and spiritually.  Leonard Woods (1774-1854), the Abbot Professor of Christian Theology, recounted the illuminating spiritual ethos shared among the faculty and the students of Andover.[1]  Not more than a few weeks after the seminary was opened, Woods called the faculty and students to a meeting for prayer and religious intercourse, which developed into a regular “Wednesday Evening Conference.”[2]

All the students were expected to attend, and either Woods or [Moses] Stuart met them, and prayed and conversed for an hour in a practical way on the whole range of Christian doctrine.  Professor Stuart late in life expressed the belief that the Wednesday evening conferences were the most valuable contribution that he made to the Seminary.[3]

Woods states, “while we attached high importance to literary acquisitions, we gave a still higher place to spiritual improvement.  We strove to make the impression… that spiritual religion and growth in grace should be their paramount object.”[4]  The faculty addressed the seminarians on matters of “holy religion, both doctrinal, experimental and practical.”[5]  They spoke on different subjects for six to seven years, and purposefully did not repeat the same subject at least for three years.

[1]For a full description of the spiritual life fostered at Andover, see Leonard Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: J. R. Osgood and Company, 1885), 159-70.

[2]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.

[3]H. K. Rowe, History of Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: Thomas Todd Company, 1933), 50.

[4]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 163.

[5]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.


Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.