What is Emmaus?
The Emmaus Weekend 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 Emmaus Weekend experience begins with a 72-hour short course in Christianity, comprised of fifteen talks by lay and clergy 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," made up of those who have attended an Emmaus weekend, support 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 seek to Christianize their environments of family, job, and community through the ministry of 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 Emmaus Weekend and offers it through local Emmaus groups around the world. Although connected through The Upper Room to The United Methodist Church, The Emmaus Weekend is ecumenical (open to and supported by many other churches outside of the Methodist denomination).
What about the name 'Emmaus Weekend'?
The Emmaus Weekend gets its name from the story in Luke 24:13-35, which provides the central image for the three-day experience and follow-up. Luke tells the story of that first Easter afternoon when the risen Christ appeared to the two disciples who were walking together along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Like Christians and churches who are blinded by preoccupation with their own immediate difficulties, these two disciples' sadness and hopelessness seemed to prevent them from seeing God's redemptive purpose in things that had happened.
And yet, the risen Christ "came near and went with them," opening the disciples' eyes to his presence and lighting the fire of God's love in their hearts. As they walked to Emmaus, Jesus explained to them the meaning of all the scriptures concerning himself. When they arrived in Emmaus, Jesus "took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them," and their eyes were opened. They recognized him as Jesus, the risen Lord, and they remembered how their hearts had burned within them as they talked with him on the road. Within the hour, the two disciples left Emmaus and returned immediately to their friends in Jerusalem. As they told stories about their encounters with the risen Lord, Jesus visited them again with a fresh awareness of his living presence.
However, the story of Jesus' resurrection does not conclude with the disciples' personal spiritual experiences. Jesus ascended to the Father, and the disciples became the body of the risen Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were sent forth by the Spirit to bear witness to the good news of God in Jesus Christ. They learned to walk in the spirit of Jesus, to proclaim the gospel to a disbelieving world, and to persevere in grace through spiritual companionship with one another.
The Emmaus Weekend offers today's disciples a parallel opportunity to rediscover Christ's presence in their lives, to gain fresh understanding of God's transforming grace, and to form friendships that foster faith and support spiritual maturity. While Emmaus provides a pathway to the mountaintop of God's love, it also supports pilgrims' return to the world in the power of the Spirit to share the love they have received with a hurtful and hurting world.