The Walk To Emmaus is an ecumenical movement sponsored by the Upper Room under the National Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church. The 72-hour Emmaus weekend has been described as a short course in Christianity. It enlivens people to the reality of Christ’s love and presence in a way that leads the individual to greater action in witness for Christ. It is designed to make Christ known in the world and equip the participants with the tools and resources they need to keep the freshness and enthusiasm received on the weekend.
The principal event of the Emmaus movement is a three-day weekend spiritual life experience designed to immerse the participants, called pilgrims, in the love of God and bring fresh awareness of the essential teachings of our Christian faith. Great care is taken to ensure the message given is of moderate theology.
Walk to Emmaus and the Church. The Walk To Emmaus is a movement of the church. It is not an entry point into the Christian life. Consider these three points:
1. The Emmaus Weekend is not primarily an individual experience. It presupposes an operative awareness of the Body of Christ. During the three-day weekend, participants grow as individual Christians in their understanding of the faith and their relationship to Christ – but always in a context of a Christian community. Throughout, the need to belong to a church and the need to be responsible to that church is emphasized.
2. Emmaus operates with a dynamic view of Christian leadership. It seeks primarily to find and support Christian lay leadership in both the church and the world. With respect to the world, it is hoped that these leaders will influence the areas of their daily lives, their work, home, recreation, etc. – for Christ. Participants may come to discover their role in ministry as lay persons, with gifts to give and the imperative to give them for the growth and health of their local church.
3. Clergy are strongly encouraged to attend the Walk To Emmaus weekend along with the lay persons. This provides the opportunity to share common experiences and understand the lay person’s experience. Nothing has been found in recent years that is more effective in re-energizing clergy and providing them with renewed enthusiasm for their own ministry. Clergy who have attended a Walk and who participate in Group Reunion may also assist on other weekends as an Emmaus spiritual director or spiritual team member. Everything that is done on an Emmaus weekend is intended to strengthen and clarify what the church is and how it carries out its Christ-ordained task. Pastoral leadership is central.
Overview of the Weekend. A Walk To Emmaus weekend begins about 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening and concludes about 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening. The typical day begins at 7:00 a.m. with a chapel meditation. After breakfast follows a series of “talks” given both by lay and clergy leaders. After each talk a period of discussion and sharing by small groups is provided. This is where much of the lasting effect of Emmaus develops. The same schedule holds after lunch and dinner. The day usually ends about 10:00 p.m. There is ample time provided in each day for “breathers” and casual sharing.
The whole weekend is rooted in joy and prayer, and in a holy orientation that is both natural and deepening. Each weekend has its own character, though each is well planned before it comes together. Overall, the schedule is demanding, though far from rigid, and each person is important to the weekend, whether one of the leaders or one of the pilgrims. Up to 26 pilgrims are accepted to each weekend and they will be accompanied on the Walk by a similar number of team leaders.
The talks presented on the weekend do not present a comprehensive review of Christian theology – even of the topics which are mentioned. They intend to present only what is essential to Christian living in ways which can be particularly meaningful to the participants.
It is clear from what has been described that persons who cannot physically or emotionally give themselves to the weekend probably should not make an application. However, if you feel you need further clarification or direction on the matter, please feel free to consult with the Walk To Emmaus Spiritual Director.
Who Can Attend a Walk to Emmaus? The following criteria are recommended for selection of pilgrims for a Walk To Emmaus weekend:
1. Baptized Christian
2. Active in their church
3. At least 23 years-of-age
4. Emotionally stable
5. We encourage couples to attend the same set of walks. Applications are accepted on a first come basis.
Walk To Emmaus is intended for persons who are active Christians, and who seek a deepening of their Christian faith. Those who are already active or who seek to become mature in their faith – who seek to integrate head, heart, and hand in the worship and service of God through Jesus Christ are proper candidates to make an Emmaus weekend. It is NOT a replacement for conversion, training new Christians, retreats, counseling, or grief therapy.
(When only one spouse desires to make an Emmaus weekend and the other refuses, or where only one spouse is baptized or is an actively committed Christian, special care must be taken.)
Your Responsibility and the Pilgrim. Even if you may not have made a Walk To Emmaus, as a pilgrim’s pastor you are an important part of the Emmaus team.
1. SUPPORT. Please continue to pray for the person before, during, and after the Emmaus weekend. Please include the Emmaus team in your prayers as well. No Walk To Emmaus can be successful without the prayers of many, many Christians.
2. AFTER THE WALK TO EMMAUS. You may expect the person to return from his/her Walk To Emmaus with a degree of excitement and discovery. The exact degree, of course, depends on the individual. Your interest in the person will be very important to his or her continued growth in faith. We encourage you to talk with the person about their experience. Your participant may also have an increased desire to learn about the Scriptures. On the weekend, positive suggestions are given for study. Your interest and desire to assist will help guide their continuing study along lines that are consistent with the basic Christian theology.
3. EMMAUS AND THE LAY MINISTRY. We would like to think every person who has made a Walk To Emmaus comes back raring to go to work in lay ministry. Often they are and your lay person may become a useful resource in your ministry in the church. But this is not always the case. We encourage you to make suggestions to the individual; to challenge them to make use of their gifts and enthusiasm in concrete ways at the local level.
A Final Word. The Walk To Emmaus was never meant to be an alternate to church, or to be a para-church organization, the “true” church within the church, NOR TO DRAW ATTENTION TO ITSELF.
As an ordained minister of Christ, we invite you to help us in the two-fold task of finding those persons who may benefit from the Walk To Emmaus experience, and assist us in integrating this tool into the overall mission of the church.