Pastor’s Ponderings

“I took my walk to Emmaus in February 1996 in Byron Center and sat at the table of Paul”. In the Cursillo movement of the Christian Church that is how you introduce yourself. Little did I know that my Walk to Emmaus in February 1996 would be more than just one little step on my journey walking with Christ. That step was a step taken by me, though the power of the Holy Spirit would engage me in a journey that eventually would take me into the pastor-calling and eventually here to Claybanks United Methodist Church.

If you are not familiar with the Walk to Emmaus, De Colores, Chrysalis, Keryx or one of the other spiritual retreats that are formulated under the Cursillo movement, let me give you just a belief description of how the movement has been intertwined with my spiritual journey.

The walk to Emmaus is sponsored by the Upper Room of the United Methodist Church. There are Emmaus chapters throughout the United States and the world, and their function is to bring 36 pilgrims on a journey through a structure that allows them to walk closer with God through the power of the Holy Spirit as they explore Jesus Christ’s meaning in their lives over a 72-hour period. Basically, the structure brings together people on an extended weekend with many other committed Christians who had taken their walks, and now they are there to see that you have the most beautiful experience possible as you begin your walk to Emmaus. The basic structure has a conference room with leaders, assistant leaders and clergy. A number of talks are given followed by discussion, singing, praying, communion, chapel visits, worship and sharing of how Jesus Christ has become the focus in the lives of those taking their walk for the first time and in those who have assisted on Emmaus weekends possibly over and over again.

After taking my walk, I had an opportunity, in fact many opportunities, to be a part of the journey for many pilgrims. I was able to sponsor Reba, Michelle and many other Christian friends as they took their Walk to Emmaus. My first position was helping set up for a weekend. In fact, I did a number of those during my active time in Emmaus. Reba and I then served on housekeeping duty together. Reba and I then had an opportunity to assist a walk as coordinators for housing, feeding and care of the pilgrims and the conference room staff. Following those experiences, I (and Reba too) was invited to be a part of the conference room as an assistant table leader and give a talk that I remember well on “Christian Action.” It was following that weekend, while riding home with Reba who came to pick me up, that we first had a discussion about my exploration to become a pastor.

After working a number of other walks in different roles, I had an opportunity to be the director of the Emmaus walk at the Grandville United Methodist Church in the spring of 2001. Preparing and leading a walk brought me so much closer to God and that experience continued to influence me. Soon after that walk I began my exploration, the beginning of the process of becoming a pastor in the United Methodist Church. Since that time, I have had a number of opportunities to be in the conference room as clergy and sharing the love of God with the new pilgrims and the staff members on Emmaus weekends.

A number of years ago I was invited to be a clergy member of a Keryx. Keryx is the Cursillo walk offered inside a prison. A number of walks happen in a number of prisons each year within the Michigan correctional system. A close friend of mine has invited me and a number of other lay and clergy to be a part of Keryx number 29 and 30 to be held in the Carson City Correctional Facility this winter. I am thankful to the Administrative Counsel of Claybanks United Methodist Church for allowing me to take part in the two walks offered in January and February of this upcoming year. Training for these walks has begun and require much time, sacrifice and commitment for over 30 men from the “outside” and over 30 inmates inside who have taken walks previously. It is when I get to experience the commitment, love, and concern for the spiritual growth of those who are incarcerated by their fellow inmates and many from the outside that I truly get to see the love of Christ shared by so many. Overcoming the difficulties of maintaining Christian commitment within our prison systems shown by inmates can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I will not be with you for two Sundays, one in January and one in February. In the weeks to come I asked that you pray as we seek leadership for those Sundays that I will be at Carson City. I also will be asking you to pray for the volunteers, the prison chaplain, the inside team and those that the Holy Spirit is gathering together for the walk and prayers for me.
In Matthew 25:39-40 “When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” And Jesus replied, “I tell you in the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” It is impossible these days for all of us to visit those incarcerated yet when we pray for and support different prison ministries we are doing what Jesus has commanded us to do, to visit those on the margins and in need of Christ’s love. Thank you for allowing and supporting me to be part of your fulfilling of Christ’s command. Lives will be changed, and Disciples for Christ made.

Pastor Gary

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