The Emmaus spiritual renewal movement, like all such renewal movements derived from the original Cursillo de Cristiandad, has as one of its "fourth day" features the monthly gathering together of folk who have been on a Walk to Emmaus, the initial three-day retreat. In the San Antonio area so many people have been Pilgrims that there are seven Fourth Day Groups, or local communities. Each has a monthly meeting, but twice a year we all gather together at some large church in whichever FDG is hosting that month. (The official local Emmaus community is the Southwest Texas Emmaus Community, co-extensive with the SWTX Conference of the UMC.)
Tuesday last (the 15th) we had our "July Joint FDG Gathering", hosted by the New Life FDG at Northern Hills UMC on the north side of Loop 1604. I got a ride there with Bill Clarke, who also had given me a ride to & from Men's Walk #1327.
The Gathering was wonderful, an almost overwhelming final blessing for yours truly! For one thing we turned out in droves -- over 300 attended, to be specific. And when the host Lay Director asked for indication of how many were from each of the constituent FDGs (plus visitors from other Emmaus communities), the number of folk who stood up at the mention of "Care Bexar" was simply exhilarating!
Instead of an actual "Fourth Day Talk" usually given during a monthly gathering, we saw a new film that the international office in Nashville is proposing to use as an alternative to the film "In Remembrance" that's probably been used since Emmaus got started in the Seventies (i.e., 1970s). The new film, "Dust", has a scholarly clergy fellow commenting about what it meant that Jesus the Nazarene was a Jewish rabbi with disciples. A Jewish blessing to be said to a disciple of such a roving rabbi in those days was, the narrator says, "May you be covered with the dust of your rabbi!" That is, the dust raised by a rabbi walking on the unpaved roads of rural Palestine would settle on the disciples who walked behind him. Interesting picture! Interesting film!
The songs we sang were fine; we sang using PowerPoint rather than the Emmaus songbooks, but I didn't mind. I didn't even mind the one song I didn't know. The prayer time was deep. Since there were so many, the Lay Director chose to simply pass the mike thru the crowd, first on his right and them on his left. When I had come to choosing a seat, I had wanted to sit with Rich and Joy Drady and others of Alamo Heights Christian Church, but there weren't any seats. Rich urged me to sit three rows up in the front row "because you're a front-row guy". And because I took the seat nearest the central aisle, I ended up being the final one to receive the mike.
Call this a "God thing". My final Emmaus meeting in S.A., and I get to be the last one to utter prayer praises and concerns! Thank you, gracious Lord!
Then, during the Lord's Supper distribution, when folk come forward to receive a piece of the loaf and dip it in the cup and partake (this method is called "intinction"), we sang "Here I Am to Worship" and two other songs.
. Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down,
. Here I am to say that You're my God
. You're altogether lovely Altogether worthy,
. Altogether wonderful to me
I remember that I sensed that things were getting intense deep inside my heart, and my head threatened to leak. I found myself praying, "Dear Lord, please don't let 'Here I Am, Lord' be our closing song!" This song, a call to discipleship and ministry, is usually what we sing as the closing song of a monthly gathering. It's also one of my favorites even tho' it always puts me on the verge of tears by the third and final verse, And I KNEW that were we to sing it this evening I'd end up bawling like a baby.
Well, God heard my prayer! The closing song was "They'll Know We Are Christians" and that one I can handle!
Following the worship we adjourned to the church lobby for food and drink. As always at any Emmaus event I've ever attended, the food was plentiful. Once I'd consumed a plateful of the main potluck offerings -- veggies & dip, sandwiches, casseroles, etc. -- I went back for a plateful of dessert -- cakes, pies, cookies.
One dessert was a cake heavily covered with creamy white icing and over most of the top cherries in a thick sauce or syrup. It looked yummy, and I wasn't about to pass it by! However, as I started to serve myself a slice, Pat Hoover, my "prayer partner" for Kairos Briscoe #1, sauntered over and remarked to me, "Now, you know that's not good for you!"
I replied with a smile to her, "Well, I don't care! This is my final Emmaus event in Texas and I'm gonna celebrate!" We both laughed at my mock belligerence.
This Emmaus joint FDG gathering was only one of several farewell events that are and will occupy me during this month, before I move away. I've a lot of groups and individuals to whom I now must say «Adios. Que el Señor te (o les) bendiga hasta que nos vemos, o en esta jornada de la vida mortal o en la gloria del cielo». Or for you monolinguals, "Bye. May the Lord bless you 'til we meet again either in this mortal life or in Heaven." These include (but aren't limited to) my two church congregations, the "Mama's Men" Bible study that meets Wednesdays over breakfast at Mama's Café on Nacogdoches Road, Kairos and Emmaus bodies, my best friend in S.A., Joe Tovar. Etc.,etc. Whew! did I get involved in a bunch of spiritual relationships and friendships, or what?
Well, nevertheless, now I must say «Adios» to all of y'all in Texas. AND:
"Tennessee! Here I come, ready or not!"