April 28, 2009
A Pilgrim's Walk
Dos Colores Double Rainbow near Centerton AR
I am exhausted but feeling like life has changed again. For the past few days, I have been on a long awaited spiritual journey called "Walk To Emmaus
" This is a four day intensive... I dont want to call it a retreat because it more closely reminds me of the team building weekends that I have been on. I found much of it fascinating, and at times baffling, and I was glad that I was able to go and participate. I had long heard of it, but didnt know how one went about going. Only this year did they post in the church paper that you could talk to someone about going. You need a sponsor to put your name forward and I knew that each chapter held a walk just a few times a year, so it is a sort of honor I guess to be asked, but truly it is a call to service within the church, and the Walk is a way to equip you for that service.
I have included the link above that has information on the background of The Walk and will not go into the background of the Emmaus movement here. That would be a long winded post that would not be fruitful. There seems to be a lot of controversy on the net about if this community is a cult, a secret society or something that is divisive in the church. If it is any of these things in the church you belong to then someone has been remiss about how they have acted or spoken with regards to it. This is not a club for Christian Over Achievers, or a way to get around being a part of a regular community of faith. Just because you go on a Walk doesn't mean you are any more a Believer than everyone else, or that there is something wrong with you if you don't want to go on a Walk. This is not for everyone. The intensity of the experience can be hard for some people. The closeness of the community and lack of "alone" time was hard for me. However, that being said, I was glad to have had the company of three ladies from my church that I have been wanting to get to know better, and our Pastor, the only man in attendance in this group.( Imagine for a moment guys, being alone with and involved with about 36 women, (he was the only one leaving the site at night to go home and sleep) for four full days) As I was to see, this sort of thing is something he loves to do, having been a participant in his walk in the early days with one of the founders of this movement here in the US.
Walk 64 gathering on the porch of Parker House, Mt Sequoiya Fayetteville AR
My concerns were the lack of privacy, the fact that the body mechanics that give me my great voice also lends itself to the worst snoring you can possibly imagine. I have been asked to sleep in my car on one retreat and to just up and leave at another. The retreats I have been on up at Little Portion, I have been asked to request a single room and if this is not available to not force someone to endure this affliction with me, out of Christian charity, and to withdraw from the retreat. It looked like I was going to have to share a room, but at the last minute there was a cancellation and I was accommodated.
My Luxurious Nest, my solo room I was so grateful to have this bit of privacy to process all that was hitting me at once... and the bed was comfortable too. There was a communal bath just across the way which was nice too
There are some things they do that are hard to understand at first. First they want you to allow you sponsor to drive you to and from the site. This is so you dont have to be concerned with transportation, they even carry your luggage, get you settled into your room at the site etc. The sponsor has taken care of the financial arrangements as well. Everything is provided to you. You are told that if you have a need or a desire they will do her best too accomodate. It was warm this weekend and the A/C wasnt up to the task, so that need was presented and fans appered. Another lady said that she wished she had brought a six pack of her brand of soda. Bottles of it appered on the snack tables for all to enjoy.
You are asked to leave your personal concerns behind at home, to facilitate this you are asked to not use your cel phone and to leave it and all electronics at home. This was very hard for many people most especially for a young mother who left her fifteen month old alone with her daddy for the first time. They were fine. I was given another dispensation as I was driving myself(I was supposed to be in FT Smith at an interview that day but it was canceled. I didnt change my plans, and used the time to run a lot of errands and get a lot of things done.) I also was allowed to keep my cel but to not have it on during the weekend. The purpose is so you can focus on the things we were learning and not be concerned about time or the pressures of daily living. I find at night that the clock is a comfort. I was told it was ok if I needed to look at the time but keep the thing off and hidden.
The content of the course work is a series of fifteen talks given over the three day period. They are given by Ordained Clergy, or a non ordained lay speaker and vary as to how much theological content they contain... They dovetail into each other, as they are somewhat scripted... A personal story that ties into the theme, a introduction and a statement if you are a clergy person or a Lay speaker, and then you give the talk. After the talk there is group discussion around a table that you have been assigned to, with a leader and assistant to help and focus things. A secretary writes a summary that is a synopsis of the discussion. This position changes with every talk as the participants rotate positions arond the , with only the leader staying in her place. Then there is a time where you create a "Artistic Impression" of the subject. This can be singing a well known song, or making one up. Some choose a literal artistic approach and create posters, collages and other crafts. Skits are written, poems are crafted and read. On the second and third evenings, each group presents its summaries and art in turn. With four tables and five presentations for each it makes for a full evenings entertainment, while reinforcing the lessons of the day.
There was a bit of free time. I took one break as a time to walk around the grounds of the Conference Center. Its a beautiful location that was given to the Methodist Church early in the last century. Located on the summit of Mount Sequoya, it overlooks the city of Fayetteville. From the front porch of our dorm the night lights were beautiful. Many of the buildings are 75 plus years old, adding character and charm to the facility. The spaces were cozy and rustic, and for life long Methodist from the region this is a place full of happy memories, of summer camps and conferences, even family vacations! Our Pastor uses the available rooms here for occasional working retreats since it is only thirty miles from our city. The kitchen is working 7 days a week so you can call ahead and they will prepare you a meal. He brings a stack of books and turns his phone off and relaxes for a few quiet days. I am sure he is not alone in this escape. Other denominations in the area use the dorms and kitchens as well. There was even a group from the local Embroiderers Guild of America holding a stitching retreat there, and a local man walking about that had come up to rest and work on his comedy routine before a fund raising comedy competition linked to the local Race for the Cure that was also held this weekend in Fayetteville.
There is a chapel service morning and evening, rather than give away any more about what goes on there,Im going to leave it at that. I have had many such experiences gone to a lot of retreat sorts of things but this was a most unique experience. Im withholding information not because its a BIG secret but the organization asks that you keep the secret because it allows the next "pilgrim" to have a fresh experience. I understand that and respect that.
Some of the "surprise" elements were very touching and amazing. From the constant flow of food (more eating opportunities than a cruise boat, I kid you not...) to hand made gifts from strangers. From the care of the supporting staff to learning that literally 100s of people have been and were praying for you, serving you and caring for you, some for months prior to you arrival. Of the 36 to 40 people in closest contact with each other in the conference itself, only 17 of us were "pilgrims" on our first "Walk". It was astounding to me and yes it does overwhelm.
There is a point in the process that is very dramatic and for many if not most people quite emotional. I found myself quite detached and more observant. I was praying for the others there that were having deep moments...even what I call "burning bush" experiences where you come face to face with God as you understand Him. Was it that I find such emotionalism excessive, not really... I think I am just so drained out right now. I know that there might have been some hesitancy to even allow me on the Walk, because my life is so chaotic right now. I found some of the images created by light and darkness disturbing, it the same way that a burning cross has a beauty and a horror about it for what it connotates... The burning light shining in the daarkness or the evils of the KKK and Hitler's spectacals of light and darkness... very dramatic...
For I am not a new pilgrim on this journey...as are so many who have not had burning bush experiences. I am not groping for a candle lit path to a new and greater truth... I have already found that Truth on a deserted beach 21 years ago
, and while I have had other watershed moments with God this past event so long ago was the biggie for me... Not that I cant stand a fresh touch from God now and again...
I had inner messages that I interpreted in one way, my Pastor another. My new therapist, who is wonderful at this, turned the ideas upside down in a radical interpratation that was very insightful, and caused me to look at this weekends events quite differently. That while I thought that maybe I am currently too broken for God to use, that the "usefullness" quotent is actually at its highest now. That the losses of my life to me signaled failure, lack of community, and of a lack of Agape love towards others, she said those "others" I am so concerned about, used and hurt me and that while it hurts, God is sweeping all of that away just as sure as a wildfire burns off the brush so new trees can grow tall.That what I thought was a heart turned to stone that needs to be broken and removed is actually a bedrock of faith worthy of building skyscrapers on...That in suffering and adversity, the faithful witness shines out of the broken places, like light throught the Luminarias or the rainbow sunlight through the broken glass of a stained glass window.
I have most importantly gained a Community of friends that I can turn to. The next step is "Fourth Day", and "Group Reunions" Where you meet in small groups of 3 to 8 for mutual encouragement and accountability. I am fairly sure that we will have to start a group like this for ourselves, because so many of the groups around here meet during the day. It is a beginning of a new phase in my life, that no matter what happens I will always have this time to treasure
De Colores (the colors)
De Colores ( the colors)
The diamond will sparkle
when brought to the light
De colores, and so must all love
be of every bright color
To make my heart cry
Radiant Light over the valley the view from the outdoor chapel Fayetteville AR
Labels: Catholic, Emmaus, Faith