In 1986 I attended my first Emmaus Walk 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 Emmaus Walk 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 Emmaus weekend when the entire leadership team was made up of totally of Deaf leaders.
There are 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 Emmaus Walk is a United Methodist 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 Emmaus Walk retreat 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 an Emmaus Walk held at Camp Innabah. The faith-sharing of the women who attended was heart-warming.
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. An Emmaus Walk 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 who are entering the ordained ministry felt their calls on an Emmaus Walk. 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 Emmaus Walk movement. And I appreciate the discipleship growth that comes from it and the many leaders it calls forth from its ranks.
Find out more about the powerful Emmaus Walk experience, ministry and movement through the United Methodist Upper Room.