The Walk to Emmaus is a very important part of the Spiritual Life of
Beverly Drive United Methodist Church. The spiritual disciplines of
Prayer, Scriptural Study, the Eucharist, and community Fellowship,
all work together to aid us as we grow in Sanctifying Grace, moving on
toward Perfection in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
People often ask us "What is the Walk to Emmaus?" Often people fear that the
Walk is some kind of secret society or challenge to the life of the Church,
but nothing could be further from the truth.
The following article is an attempt to answer this question.
What is the Walk to Emmaus?
The Walk to Emmaus is a spiritual renewal program intended to strengthen
the local church through the development of Christian disciples and
leaders. The Walk to Emmaus experience begins with a 72-hour short
course in Christianity, comprised of fifteen talks by lay and clergy on
the themes of God's grace, disciplines of Christian discipleship, and
what it means to be the church. The course is wrapped in prayer and
meditation, special times of worship and daily celebration of Holy
Communion. The "Emmaus community," made up of those who have attended an
Emmaus weekend, support the 72-hour experience with a prayer vigil, by
preparing and serving meals, and other acts of love and self-giving. The
Emmaus Walk usually begins Thursday evening and concludes Sunday even
ing. Men and women attend separate weekends.
During and after the three days, Emmaus leaders encourage participants
to meet regularly in small groups. The members of the small groups
challenge and support one another in faithful living. Participants seek
to Christianize their environments of family, job, and community through
the ministry of their congregations.
The Upper Room of The United Methodist Church sponsors the Walk to
Emmaus and offers it through local Emmaus groups around the world. The
three-day Emmaus experience and the follow-up groups strengthen and
renew Christian people as disciples of Jesus Christ and as active
members of the body of Christ in mission to the world.
Many church leaders acclaim Emmaus as much more than a program. It is a
powerful movement of spiritual renewal that is making a difference for
countless individuals and many congregations. Between 1978 and 1995,
nearly half a million persons participated in Emmaus. During this same
period, the Emmaus movement has taken hold in 300 sites around the
world, including the U.S.A., Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico,
Costa Rica, Germany, and India.
Emmaus is an experience in which growing Christians of all sorts come
together in common affirmation of the essentials of the Christian faith.
Bishop Adriel de Souza Maia of Brazil worked to take Emmaus to his
homeland because, as he put it, "We need a church renewal movement which
brings together the two sides of the Christian life: prayer and action,
personal spiritual growth and social concern. Emmaus holds together
these two sides of the coin."
What is the aim of Emmaus?
The aim of Emmaus is to inspire, challenge, and equip local church
members for Christian action-in their homes, churches, workplaces, and
communities. Several important components of the Emmaus program work
together to accomplish this aim.
The three-day Emmaus course in Christianity moves church members to new
levels of openness and commitment as disciples of Christ. People
re-experience the gift of God's love and emerge from the Emmaus weekend
with a desire to pass that love on to others. The three-day course
strengthens persons' conscious union with Jesus Christ as the embodiment
of God's grace, truth, and compassion.
A layman from Tennessee wrote, "I learned the importance of a life of
piety, study, and service and their interrelationship in providing a
life in grace. I felt the immense power of God's love and grace and new
insights into ways of sustaining and increasing my openness to that
grace. I developed a new longing to share my experience of Christ with
others with hopes that they too can feel what I feel. Although my
Christian journey started a long time ago, the progress and growth due
to my Emmaus experience is invaluable to me."
The Emmaus weekend gives participants an opportunity to reflect on the
meaning of their faith in God, to receive the transforming grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, to relate closely with other persons who are seeking
a deeper faith, and to rededicate their lives as members of the body of
Christ called to ministry in the world.
The Emmaus follow-up groups build on what begins during the three-day
experience. These little discipleship groups of two to six persons meet
weekly for an hour. Members review their weekly spiritual practices,
their awareness of Christ's presence and call, and their plans for the
week to come. The accountability group's purpose is to provide ongoing
support for one another's commitment to live wholly in the grace of God
and to grow in the self-giving spirit of Jesus Christ. In addition to
undergirding personal Christian growth, the follow-up groups serve as
excellent bases for Christian action and outreach in the local community.
Teams in servanthood make a difference. Many who participate in Emmaus
also grow in the servant spirit of Jesus Christ through their subsequent
involvement in making Emmaus possible for others. By serving in the
kitchen, setting up the rooms, cleaning the bathrooms, preparing the
worship center, praying for the pilgrims and teams from behind the
scenes, or committing to weeks of team preparation, these persons learn
the joy and discipline of humble servanthood. By serving as team members
and committing to several weeks of team preparation, persons learn to
lead faith-sharing in small groups, to express their faith and speak
before groups, and to use their unique gifts in concert with the gifts
of others as members of one body.
Local church involvement is an outgrowth of Emmaus. Though involvement
in Emmaus activities can be fun and satisfying, Emmaus achieves its aim
only when local churches gain strength; and people become active members
of the body of Christ, sharing the love of God in homes, workplaces, and
communities around the world. Participation and service in all aspects
of Emmaus-the three-day short course, follow-up groups, team and
background support-are designed to empower and equip Christians to
effectively be Christ's hands and feet in the world.
What happens during the Three-Day Emmaus Experience?
The Emmaus Weekend Schedule that follows is a bare outline of the Walk
to Emmaus weekend. This two-dimensional overview of the weekend, which
lists activities and topics, cannot adequately communicate what really
happens in and among the people as a result of being together for three
days, focused on the love of God. Nevertheless, this outline gives a
picture of what goes on among the pilgrims in the conference room and
chapel. This outline also shows why we describe the Walk to Emmaus as a
short course in Christianity, not a relaxing retreat. While the Emmaus
Walk is fun and rejuvenating, it is also concentrated and full.
The three days have distinct phases and reflect a trinitarian framework.
The focus of Day One is God and the relationship God offers. The focus
of Day Two is Jesus Christ and each disciple's response to the grace of
God in the context of Christian community. The focus of Day Three is the
Holy Spirit and the call to live as an active member of the body of
Christ through service in church and community. All three days point to
the Fourth Day-living every day as a walk with Christ in the company of
one another, through a lifestyle of regular prayer, study, and service.
A moment of silent reflection, then discussion and creative responses
follow each of the fifteen talks. The services of worship and daily
prayer are thematic and are designed especially for the Emmaus Walk.
Each day includes break times and snacks. The three days as a whole are
embraced by prayer and signs of the sacrificial service on the part of
many who help make each Walk happen.
From What Is Emmaus? by Stephen D. Bryant.
Copyright © 1995 by The Upper Room.