The Upper Room was a daily
devotional in wide use in early Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a quarterly and a
Methodist publication. Its first issue came out in 1935 just before A.A. was
founded. And how did it become a part of the morning Quiet Time and other daily
devotionals so common in the early A.A. Christian Fellowship founded in Akron,
Ohio, in June 1935?
First of all, Dr. Bob—cofounder of Alcoholics
Anonymous—had been exposed in his days as a youngster in Vermont to the
Christian Endeavor Society's Quiet Hour. Bob had been very active in the
Christian Endeavor Society in North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury,
Vermont, where he and his parents, grandmother, and foster sister were all
regular attenders. The Quiet Hour had numerous advocates in the 1880's. Among
the adherents was the YMCA which often called it the "Morning Watch."
Also the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist F. B. Meyer, and
Christian Endeavor leaders like Amos Wells and Dr. Francis Clark. And the
substance of the practice was: (1) Reading of Scripture. (2) Prayer. (3)
Seeking God's guidance. (4) Studying a devotional and its verse and other
matter for that day.
Second, many years later, both Bill W. and Dr. Bob
were exposed to an offshoot as it was presented by Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman,
founder of the Oxford Group. It was called Quiet Time, and numerous books and
pamphlets were written about what Quiet Time was and how it should be
practiced. Then Reverend Sam Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in
New York, also became a proponent of the practice and wrote about it in several
of his books and articles.
Third, when A.A. was founded in 1935, Dr. Bob's
wife Anne Smith began holding morning Quiet Times at the Smith home in Akron.
And these were attended by AAs and their families. Again, the format was the
same—Scripture reading, prayer, seeking guidance from God, and use of
devotionals. (See Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics
Anonymous). To these practices was added the regular sharing that
Anne Smith did from the personal journal she had kept between 1933 to 1939. And
Anne Smith's writing is filled with descriptions of Quiet Time andmeditation, and how to conduct them. (See
Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, 1933-1939, 3rd
Now that we know the books that Anne Smith
recommended and what she said about Quiet Time, we see that there was more than
one devotional in use. We also know from unearthing the books in Dr. Bob's
library just what those devotionals were. (See Dick B., Dr. Bob and
His Library, 3rd ed.; and The Books Early AAs Read for
Spiritual Growth, 7th ed.) We also have a vast number of references
to the Quiet Time books Oxford Group people used. (See Dick B., The
Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed.)
And here are the major devotionals that were in use
in early Akron Alcoholics Anonymous: The Runner's Bible; The Upper
Room; My Utmost for His Highest; Victorious Living; Daily Strength for Daily Needs;
and The Meaning of Prayer.The Upper
Room came on to the scene almost by accident. "Mother G."
would bring a number of copies to Dr. Bob's Home. And, though the books were
not always welcomed with excitement (according to Dr. Bob's daughter);
"Mother G." was a relative of Dr. Bob's daughter. The little
quarterly was quite small, had an appeal to the not-too-frequent readers, and
fit nicely into their back pockets. Hence it was not only used along with the
other devotionals; it is mentioned frequently in A.A.'s DR. BOB and
the Good Oldtimers. There seemed to be no particular favorites. Dr.
Bob often studied and circulated The Runner's Bible.
"Mother G." circulated The Upper
Room. Henrietta Seiberling spoke some about My Utmost for
His Highest. Victorious Living is actually mentioned in one of the
stories in the First Edition of A.A.'s Big Book. The Frank Amos report on the
original Akron A.A. "Christian Fellowship" program simply mentioned
that the required time observance and readings were part of the scene. And
A.A.'s own General Service Conference-approved literature pointed out that
Quiet Time was a "must."
For a study devoted to this particular aspect of
early A.A.'s religious observances, see Dick B., Good Morning!: Quiet
Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.
Richard G. Burns holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Stanford University where he was Case Editor of the Stanford Law Review. He was a Phi Beta Kappa in his Junior Year at UC Berkeley. There he received an A.A. degree in economics with Honorable Mention. He was an Information and Education Specialist in the United States Army where he held the rank of Sgt. He attended the information-education school at Washington & Lee University. He practiced law in California from 1951 to 1986. He was president of the Corte Madera Chamber of Commerce, Corte Madera Center Merchants Council, Mill Valley Community Church, Redwoods Retirement Center, and Almonte District Improvemen Club. Also elected Director of the Almonte Sanitary District. He is a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active recovered member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous with continuous sobriety beginning April 21, 1986.
He writes under the pen name Dick B. He has devoted 24 years to researching the history and successes of the early A.A. Christian Fellowship in Akron; and published 46 titles, more than 1450 articles, and materials on Facebook, Twitter, MauiHistorian.Blogspot.com, Alcoholics Anonymous History.com, In the Rooms, Linked-in, Tumbler, MauiHistorian.Word Press.com, Aa Historian WordPress.com, AA History with Dick B. on cyber recovery social, Dick B. YouTube Channel, Articles Base, GoArticles.com, SearchWarp, Self Growth Experts, Social network forums on International Christian Recovery Coalition Forums, Recovery Internet Fellowship, Cyber Recovery, Daily Recovery, Christian Recovery Ministries, radio, TV, and over 70 audio blogs on the history subject. He regularly conducts radio interviews of Christian Recovery Leaders and Workers on www.ChristianRecoveryRadio.com.
He is Executive Director of the International Christian Recovery Coalition and of Freedom Ranch Maui Incorporated. He is an Advisor to God's Way Ministry, a Christian Church and is also a consultant to Wyoming Pacific Oil Company. Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Law, Who's Who in Finance, and Gale's Contemporary Authors