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Mid North Coast

About Us

A short history of Emmaus and the Mid North Coast

    (Commenced on the Mid North Coast in 1986 - Celebrated 30 years in 2016)

Emmaus grew out of the Cursillo movement, which began in 1949 in Spain as a three-day fast and spiritual renewal for Roman Catholic clergy. Its full name was “Cursillo de Christiandad”, which means “short course in Christianity”. It was extended to lay people when its benefits became clear. In 1957 Cursillo spread to the USA.

It was primarily a Roman Catholic movement until the 1970s when the Cursillo community in Peoria, Illinois, began to conduct ecumenical Catholic Cursillos, and a Lutheran Cursillo was formed in Miami Springs, Florida. In 1974 the Rev. Robert Wood of First United Methodist Church, Peoria, attended a Peoria Cursillo, and two years later the Upper Room, an agency of the United Methodist Church in the USA, became involved in sponsoring people to attend Cursillo weekends.

In 1978 Bob Wood became the first Spiritual Director of Upper Room Cursillo and the first Upper Room Cursillos were held in Nashville, Tennessee, with help from three Catholic Cursillo communities. In 1981, by agreement between the Upper Room Community and the Roman Catholic Cursillo movement, the name of the Upper Room Cursillo was changed to The Walk to Emmaus. By the end of that year there were 25 Emmaus communities across the USA. Tres Dies (which is Latin for ‘3 Days’) was established elsewhere in the US as another Protestant expression of Cursillo. In the early 1980s Cliff Powell, a young Australian psychologist who, early in his career had been a School Counsellor at Chatham High School in Taree, went to Colorado to do a PhD in psychology. When the time came for his practical experience, he chose to go to Memphis.

While there he and his family worshipped at Christ United Methodist Church, which was becoming deeply involved in the Walk to Emmaus. Cliff and his wife, Marion, also became involved and were convinced that the Emmaus experience and its renewing effect on both clergy and laypersons was exactly what the newly-formed Uniting Church in Australia needed. When he returned to Sydney, he arranged for his colleagues to run his counselling practice, and volunteered to devote a year of his time to helping to establish an Emmaus community.

A leadership team was recruited from across the United States while Cliff and Marion worked in Australia, publicising the program and recruiting pilgrims. The upshot was that in 1984 the first Emmaus Walks in Australia were conducted at Otford, NSW, led by the Reverend Bob Wood, as Spiritual Director, with a visiting team of 32 Americans from all over the USA (most of whom paid their own fares and used their annual leave) and Cliff & Marion Powell who had made their walks in the USA. The Americans came from both Emmaus and Cursillo communities.

Twenty Australian men and thirty-three women attended these first Walks. Thus began the first Emmaus community outside USA. During 1985 the Uniting Church Board of Mission in NSW became the official sponsor of the Australian Walk to Emmaus movement. In 1991 responsibility was assumed by the Uniting Church National Mission and Evangelism Committee. The Emmaus movement is ecumenical and has spread widely since its arrival in Australia.

In NSW, Emmaus communities have formed on the Mid North Coast, Far North Coast, Western Sydney, Northern Inland, Newcastle/Central Coast, Riverina, South Sydney/Illawarra and Central West. Emmaus has also spread interstate. There is a National Secretariat and communities in all states and territories. Each community has a Lay Director, a Spiritual Director and a Board of Directors, which is responsible for organising walks and gatherings. More than 12 000 Australians have been on an Emmaus Walk. We belong to the Mid North Coast Emmaus Community, which is the second oldest in Australia. Eight members of this community, including Cliff Powell’s sister and brother-in-law, were pilgrims on the first Australian Walks in 1984. These six, together with others from the first Sydney Walks, organised the first Mid North Coast Men’s and Women’s Walks at Bonny Hills in 1986.

Because parents were so moved by their Emmaus Walks, they wanted their teenagers to have similar experiences.The result was the development of Chrysalis Flights for young adults. The first was held in 1985 in the USA. A number of Chrysalis communities have also been formed in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia by members of Emmaus communities. The idea of Chrysalis is that the young people come as grubs but shed their chrysalises to emerge as beautiful butterflies.

There is also a form of Emmaus for people whose physical disabilities make a traditional Emmaus Walk difficult or impossible. It is called Alarga, a Spanish word meaning ‘reaching out’. The first Alarga weekend in Australia was held at Margate, Brisbane, in 1991. Alarga Weekend 6 was held here at Bonny Hills in 2000. Kairos is a form of Emmaus developed for ministry in prisons. The first Kairos Short Course in Australia was held at Parramatta Prison in 1995 and has since spread to other correctional institutions, including Kempsey, where the first course was run in 2005.

These courses are run over five days, inside the gaol. Since 1999 the Kairos Outside ministry has provided weekend short courses and on-going support mechanisms for women who have a partner or family member detained in the correctional system. Recent years have also seen the introduction of Torch, a two-and-a-half-day version of the Kairos Short Course, especially tailored for young offenders in juvenile institutions. All these ministries (Chrysalis, Alarga and Kairos) are organised and conducted by members of Emmaus communities. Australia was the first country outside the USA to embrace the Emmaus movement. Since then it has spread to many countries and all six inhabited continents. There are now over 400 Emmaus communities worldwide.

CreatedOn: 2/12/2010 3:23:49 PM | ModifiedOn: 2/28/2018 12:06:32 PM