Jesus moves hearts through a Walk to Emmaus weekend experience. The format of the Emmaus weekend centers around the original idea in the Catholic version which is known as Cursillo de Cristinidad or a “little course in Christianity.”
As noted in the previous article, “pilgrims” are those who experience the Walk for the first time. The pilgrims pay nothing for the weekend. Each pilgrim or pilgrims is invited by a “sponsor” and must fill out an application to attend.
The pilgrims gather and listen to 15 talks over three days about the basics of the Christian faith. Ten of the talks are given by lay people. They can be simply members of a church or board members in a church organization. Lay people cannot be pastors or any professional ordained ministers. The remaining five talks are given by trained clergy from various denominations. This helps the pilgrims understand better who Jesus is and how His teachings apply to them.
Pilgrims participate in a number of other Christian activities during the weekend as well. These include special communion services, prayer services, games, and the like. Sponsors even get together at times and provide musical entertainment, or perform a lighthearted show for the pilgrims. Jesus moves hearts in and through every activity on an Emmaus weekend.
One of the highlights of the weekend are the agape letters. Agape is the biblical Greek word for self-sacrificial love. Agape is the type of love Jesus showed for sinners by dying on the Cross. These letters represent a kind of self-sacrificial love and concern. They are letters written by others, such as friends, relatives, and those on the Emmaus team of volunteers. The messages provide uplifting encouragement to each pilgrim. They are stuffed in bags called “agape bags,” and include small gifts, tokens, and mementos along with the letters.
How The Walk Comes Together
The way the Walk to Emmaus is organized and conducted is also unique. Not only is it done completely by volunteers, the Walk is conducted and driven by the Lay Committee and Community Lay Leader, rather than by clergypeople.
The Community Lay Leader of each Walk is the person primarily responsible for everything that goes on during a weekend. They must organize the dates of each event, plan, and participate in practice runs of all the activities to take place at the Walk. This includes weeks of meetings before the start of the Walk, practicing giving the 15 talks, remaining deep in prayer and commitment, to exemplify the love of Jesus for each pilgrim.
Prayer is the key component that makes the Walk to Emmaus a powerful spiritual renewal event. A volunteer team comprises the official Prayer Team for the Walk. Each pilgrim who is to attend an upcoming Walk is prayed for, by name, for weeks leading up to the beginning of the Walk, as is each member of the Lay and Clergy teams. During the Walk itself, the team prays for each pilgrim, by name, every hour for the 72 hours of the event. Each individual speaker is prayed for before, as well as during and after each talk. Prayer upholds and surrounds this entire weekend where Jesus moves others today on the Walk to Emmaus.
The culmination of each Walk is akin to a graduation ceremony. Pilgrims are invited to speak of their experience if they wish. Families and friends of each pilgrim are invited to witness this, and most of them attend. Crowds over 100 are not unusual, nor is an abundance of laughter and tears. Some pilgrims speak longer and more emotionally than others. Some, not at all. All there are touched by Jesus and see the working of Jesus’ love.
Critics of the Walk to Emmaus
Some of the requirements of the modern Walk to Emmaus have generated controversy and criticism.
For example, each pilgrim is required to leave their watches, cell phones, radios, computers, and the like behind for the 72 hours of the Walk. The volunteer lay people keep track of the schedule for the weekend. They awaken the groups in the morning to have breakfast, and then, are guided from place to place, and activity to activity. This is necessary to focus the attention of each pilgrim equally toward the experience of Jesus’ love and presence while on the Walk.
One of the controversial elements of the Walk is the insistence that men and women pilgrims do not attend the Walk at the same time. The men often attend first, and the women go on their own Walk to Emmaus a week or two later. The content of both Walks is the same, as is the content of the talks, as well as the other special spiritual activities. Each person experiences Jesus individually on the Emmaus weekend, but all, male or female, receive the same content.
This is another effort to avoid distraction from the focus on Jesus and the Scriptures, and the basic lessons Jesus taught and lived so long ago. Spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends would inevitably prove distracting to each other in the small confines of an Emmaus weekend.
The Fourth Day Walking with Jesus
The pilgrim’s Walk to Emmaus with Jesus is concluded after the ceremony. However, the work of the Walk for the now former pilgrim continues. Each is encouraged to continue walking with Jesus in the Fourth Day Emmaus communities around them. The former pilgrims also meet regularly in reunion groups to encourage and uplift each other.
Testimonies abound about the positive impacts of connecting with Jesus on an Emmaus Weekend. According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, resident, Donna Cannon said the weekend is emotionally-charged, wrapped in prayer, and anything but dull.
It’s not just a bunch of lectures and speeches. You may laugh more and cry more than any other time in your life.
Anne Schwiening tells of how her own trauma was healed by connecting with Jesus on her Walk. She said she was sexually molested by someone very close to her:
What God gave me on my walk was the grace of forgiveness for what happened in my childhood… I had heard the Lord’s prayer that weekend for the first time. I had said it, and knew it by heart, but I really heard it for the first time on my walk. I knew that until I forgave, I could not be forgiven.
One pastor praises the Walk for how it helped his church unify as servants of Jesus. The Rev. Roy Smith noted:
True-Lite Christian Fellowship congregation was predominantly black… But the ecumenical nature of Walk to Emmaus served as the catalyst to develop a more ‘multi-cultural’ focus for the church.
The modern Walk to Emmaus connects people to Jesus is a real and loving way. Life change that results from this connection with Jesus is attested to by many participants in the Walk. Strong bonds of faith and friendship are formed. Hurting marriages have been healed and given new hope. The gospel news of forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus is told in simple and profound ways. Indeed, Jesus moves others today on the Walk to Emmaus. It is an incredible road to travel.
By Daniel Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
The Public Slate: Jesus Moves Others Today on The Walk to Emmaus
Reference: What happens on a Walk to Emmaus Weekend?
mrt: Walk to Emmaus
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Waiting For The Word Flickr page – Creative Commons License