This article originally appeared on the blog site of United Methodist Church Bishop Peggy Johnson of Pennsylvania on October 22, 2015.
In 1986 I attended my first Walk to Emmaus as a pilgrim on Weekend #37 in the Northern Virginia Community. That community gave birth to the Maryland Emmaus Community, and from that time on I was involved in the movement regularly as a team member, sign language interpreter, and sponsor.
There was hardly a season that I wasn’t heading off to New Windsor, Maryland, for another Walk to Emmaus weekend. Every weekend was unique. God moved in powerful ways in the lives of the men and women who attended these retreats.
Many, many members of the Deaf congregation I served went as pilgrims and later as team members. We even had an entire Deaf Walk to Emmaus weekend with the entire leadership team composed of Deaf leaders.
There are Walk to Emmaus Communities literally all over the world, including the Eastern PA and Pen-Del Conferences.
This retreat movement had its origins in the Roman Catholic Cursillo retreats in Spain. Its intent was to form Catholic leaders. The Walk to Emmaus is more ecumenical version of this retreat with the purpose of forming Christian leaders and deepening the discipleship of Christians. There are separate weekends for women and men.
On the first Easter night, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, Jesus walked with two disciples who were walking to the town of Emmaus. They were downcast about the news of Jesus’ death and did not realize that the risen Jesus himself was walking with them on the road.
The Walk to Emmaus experience is like a little walk with Jesus for three days. Christians gather for talks, small group discussion, communion, singing and praying. The team leading the event—and the wider Emmaus community—spend many hours preparing for these weekends, which they also cover with intensive prayer.
Recently I attended the closing service of a Walk to Emmaus held at Camp Innabah. The faith-sharing of the women who attended was heartwarming.
Emmaus Communities offer follow-up gatherings for prayer and praise and encourage every member to become part of a small group to continue developing one’s walk with Jesus. A Walk to Emmaus weekend is not intended to replace the ministry of a person’s church or to compete with its programs or mission. It is not a secret club.
Folks attending a weekend can continue in the movement or just have the one time experience. It aims to help the participants experience the unconditional love of God, and that experience can be life transforming.
Many people in ordained ministry felt their calls on a Walk to Emmaus weekend. I experienced a call to the episcopacy at an Emmaus Walk Sponsor’s hour in 2007. So, as a former pilgrim and now an advocate and leader, I support the Walk to Emmaus movement. And I appreciate the discipleship growth that comes from it and the many leaders it calls forth from its ranks.
For more information on the Walk to Emmaus, visit the website: http://emmaus.upperroom.org/
Do you have an Emmaus story to share? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org
On September 1, 2008, Bishop Johnson began her assignment to lead nearly 900 churches in The Philadelphia Area, comprised of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences. Bishop Johnson believes in the inclusion of persons with disabilities, “not just to receive, but to be co-ministers with us in the priesthood of all believers! Read more: www.epaumc.org/about/bishop