The Walk to Emmaus is a spiritual renewal program intended to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders. The program’s approach seriously considers the model of Christ’s servanthood and encourages Christ’s disciples to act in ways appropriate to being “a servant of all.”
The Walk to Emmaus experience begins with a 72-hour short course in Christianity, comprised of fifteen talks given by lay and clergy members on the themes of God’s grace, disciplines of Christian discipleship and what it means to be the church. The course is wrapped in prayer and meditation, special times of worship and daily celebration of Holy Communion. The “Emmaus community” is made up of those who have attended an Emmaus weekend. They supports the 72-hour experience with a prayer vigil, by preparing and serving meals and other acts of love and self-giving. The Emmaus Walk typically begins Thursday evening and concludes Sunday evening. Men and women attend separate weekends.
During and after the three days, Emmaus leaders encourage participants to meet regularly in small groups. The members of the small groups challenge and support one another in faithful living. Participants live their Christian faith in their environments of family, job, community and through involvement in their congregations. The three-day Emmaus experience and follow-up groups strengthen and renew Christian people as disciples of Jesus Christ and as active members of the body of Christ in mission to the world.
The Upper Room, a ministry unit of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, sponsors the Walk to Emmaus and offers it through local Emmaus groups around the world. Although connected through The Upper Room to The United Methodist Church, The Walk to Emmaus is ecumenical.
The Walk to Emmaus is an adaptation of the Roman Catholic Cursillo (pronounced cur-SEE-o) Movement, which originated in Spain in 1949. Cursillo de Cristianidad means “little course in Christianity.” The original Cursillo leaders designed the program to empower persons to transform their living and working environments into Christian environments. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Episcopalians and Lutherans, along with several nondenominational groups, such as Tres Dias, began to offer Cursillo. In 1978, The Upper Room of the General Board of Discipleship adapted the program for a primarily Protestant audience and began to offer it under the name The Upper Room Cursillo. In 1981, The Upper Room made further adaptations and changed the name of the program to The Upper Room Walk to Emmaus. In 1984, The Upper Room developed a youth expression of Emmaus called Chrysalis.
The Walk to Emmaus is ecumenical and invites and involves the participation of Christians of many denominations. Emmaus is ecumenical not only because members of many denominations participate, but because Emmaus seeks to foster Christian unity and to reinforce the whole Christian community. This is one of the great strengths and joys of the Emmaus movement.
The fact that Emmaus is ecumenical does not mean it is theologically indifferent. On the contrary, The Walk to Emmaus is designed to communicate with confidence and depth the essentials of the Christian life, while accentuating those features that Christians have traditionally held in common.
The Upper Room Walk to Emmaus is a tightly designed event that is conducted with discipline according to a manual that is universally standard. Emmaus is offered only with the permission and under the guidelines of The Upper Room. This ensures a proven format and a common experience that should be consistent from weekend to weekend wherever The Walk to Emmaus is being offered.
Each community is administered locally through its local Board of Directors. The program is administered globally through the International Emmaus office in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.
To get involved in Emmaus, each person must have a sponsor who has already attended an Emmaus weekend himself or herself. If you have a friend who has been on an Emmaus weekend, ask your friend to tell you about his or her experience with the program. Your friend can help you decide whether or not you would find an Emmaus experience helpful.