Back to the Basics
Well thank you very much. We had a good chat this noon. It was a privilege to catch up on some things Pastor Kinney asked me how many I might have seen from Minnesota that I knew. The truth is, and that's the reason my speech accent has been cut to such a plateau here, is that I've been out of Minnesota for forty years. I had to calculate that and consequently my knowledge of those who are there has to go back to those with whom I crossed paths along the way. But now we're in Atlanta and on behalf of the churches in this area, I certainly want to greet you and say that we're very, very delighted to have you here. I know what a tremendous influence Cursillo has had in this community in the lives of many, many people, and the strength that has come to many of our congregations through this movement so on behalf of that I want to express my appreciation to you.
We're gathered in a place here that's a very important parish in the life of our church as well. Sunday afternoon, without the benefit of air conditioning because that had been thrown out by the unknown shorting that was going on that led to the almost fire on Tuesday night. I'd like to hear that again on tape to see if that sentence makes sense. Whatever that was, was working last week and blew out the air conditioning system. So we had a fine and warm reception for the new ordinands here on Sunday afternoon.
But the encouraging thing about that was this was the sixth person out of this congregation to enter the ordained ministry. When I see that happen I am mindful of the fact that something very intentional has been at work. We are even charged by our constitution, at least I'm speaking now for the ELCA, and I would assume the same would be true for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but we are certainly charged as pastors and lay people to pray the Lord of the harvest, as this coming Sunday's gospel reminds us, that God will call forth laborers into His kingdom. And it's amazing to me how in some parishes that rarely happens and in other parishes we see a large number. That means that there have been a lot of people at prayer, very conscientious pastors at work, and lay people who have supported this. And so as we gather in this place I would not have you remember it only for the almost-fire, but also for a very significant spiritual ministry for which I as a bishop am very, very grateful, as persons have been called out of this congregation into the ministry.
That brings up a point that to me is very, very important. I think we're suffering today in our church in some respects because we are developing a kind of parochialism, a sort of narrowness within our little communities of faith. I would plead with you as people who are intensely concerned about the Christian life and the Christian church to remember that as we live out our Christian faith in our respective congregations. Upstairs somebody greeted one of our pastors with a word I hear you have a church now. His answer was, "No, I've had a church for a long time but I've got a building now." Well, that's a necessary corrective -- the church obviously is not the building. If this place had burned, the church would still be here. But we also need to move beyond the fact that the church is not limited to our own particular little congregation or large congregation. Sometimes the attitudes are wrong or more wrong the larger the congregation gets.
We are a part of a fellowship -- we express that each Sunday when we say we believe in "the one holy catholic and apostolic church." We need to remember the unity that we have with other congregations and other Christians everywhere.
It grieves me when I was in Africa last November on behalf of Lutheran World Relief to spend a day with a former classmate of mine, Stan Benson -- a few of you might remember him from Minnesota -- who was returning this year as a missionary to Tanzania, a career missioner -- he's been there for years -- and almost with tears in his eyes he said, "You know, when I go back to the States next June, I will not be replaced, because the mission budget of our church is so limited that they cannot do this."
It was not the will of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, that all of our missionaries from America should stay home because they still need us even though that church is growing so rapidly by itself. It's purely a financial matter, and that tracks back to the fact that so very, very often we're so caught up in our own local congregations that we are unconscious of the mandate that the Lord gives to His total church.
If I could plead with you for one message as you return to your own congregations again it would be not only to enliven and spiritually energize your own congregation, but to remember that you are part of the whole and what we are doing together in terms of beginning new mission congregations and supporting our world mission enterprise and supporting our theological seminaries and all of the enterprises of our church. That will not happen until we begin to see that that is a part of our church as well, and needs desperately to be done.
Many of you are from the southeastern part of the United States, so you don't need this reminder to you, but those of you who come from the heavily populated Lutheran areas of the midwest may need to be reminded, but down here we are few in numbers by comparison. Oh, yes, we have the same number of churches in our synod that you have in the Minneapolis area synod; now mind you I didn't say the Minnesota synod, I said the Minneapolis area synod -- there's another one in St. Paul and there are four more in the state but we have the same number of congregations that you have in the Minneapolis area synod.
When I was introduced as the bishop of the Atlanta area churches, that's a bit of a stretch because we cover Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Two hundred thousand square miles. We have areas where ELCA churches are one hundred miles apart. I carried on my old car before it was stolen, a plate on the front that said, "There's a Lutheran Church near you." I felt a little guilty at times driving around this area until I parked it on the church's parking lot. And then in Mississippi where we have sixteen congregations, I felt I was telling the truth. But other than that, no.
We're needed here in this area. We're needed, (not because there are not a lot of churches, because there are many churches), but because there is a large segment of the population of this area that is unchurched. A good 50% and some of the surrounding counties of Atlanta as high as 80%. We're also needed because as Lutherans we carry with us a middle-of-the-road message that is based on the gospel of Jesus Christ with a firm belief that the Scriptures are the word of God.
We don't bother and burden people with a lot of baggage a lot of legalisms and things of this kind which are so typical of the Bible Belt. Many people here have been turned off by this and it gives to us a wonderful opportunity to go into some areas that are really burned off, and to bring them the fresh news of the gospel in Jesus Christ which truly liberates, and as last Sunday's epistle lesson said, not liberate for license but liberate for the true freedom that is ours in Christ. So those of you who are from other parts of the country, remember this area of the church's life in your prayers, too. It's a fertile mission field and if we were to look ahead to the year 2000 and beyond into the 21st century, I'm convinced that if Lutheranism is going to grow and prosper in that next century, it's going to happen because in these vast expanding population areas we are there with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be there.
We're in the unfortunate situation now where we have the people who are ready to develop and grow new missions but we don't have the financial resources to do it. I would appeal to you who have a vital concern for the life of the Spirit in your own lives and the well-being of the church, to hold that torch highly as well.
So I greet you on behalf of the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- maybe I should add to that the greetings of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod because their president is based in Florida; and I would assure you that we have an extremely fine relationship with the congregations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in this area -- our bishops and presidents meet on a regular basis, that includes all of our region nine and their comparable churches and our congregations by and large have that same kind of thing so I would not hesitate at all to extend the greetings of them to you as well.
I pray that this will be a wonderful time of fellowship for you, of worship, of planning, and of witness and I appreciate the kind and warm spirit into which I've been received and I'll be glad to be with you now for a little bit before I'm due back in my office for another appointment. Thank you very much and thanks to all of you.
Bishop Harold Skillrud
756 W. Peachtree St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308-1188
REV. CARROLL LANG
(NLS Spiritual Director, 1986-1989)
(Newsletter Editor, has attended all 15 NLS meetings)
The definition of a Cursillo weekend is three days and fifteen talks. How many do more than that? Come on, every hand should go up. We have been, since the day the Cursillo began in Majorca, Spain, adding layer upon layer upon layer and hardly ever dumping the old stuff until today the schedule is fifteen pages long or more, depending upon how you write it, and contains so many new things that they've tried to improve on since the last time that we don't know what a basic weekend is anymore. But the definition of a weekend is three days and fifteen talks.
I'm going to talk to you about a few more things that we've laid on in our weekends, but not everything. Now I've only participated in two weekends that are not Iowa weekends. I gained a great respect for the sweat and tears that went into unifying a weekend -- a task we owe, in our movement, to Pastors Allen Hermeier and Ed Zaiser, who in our first Lutheran weekends in Iowa were asked by the Roman Catholic rector of that weekend, "Where are the lessons for the Bible enthronement and all the texts for the worship services?"
And they said, "huh?"
And so they were up 'til three or four a.m. to come up with texts and the lessons that are read during our weekends, and so I'm going to be using most of them. That's the way God's inspiration works, you know.
When our worship planning committee meets in our congregation, they don't just take a hymnal and throw a knife at it, and the last page not to have a hole in it is the next hymn we sing. That's not the way they do it, anyway. They examine the texts and the prayers and all the things that go into each Sunday and decide what would be the best three, four, five hymns or whatever we sing. The choir director decides what would be a good anthem to support the theme for that day. And so it is that all the lessons and the Bible enthronements (which I'll explain later) are chosen so that they fit the theme for each day.
If you have not carefully picked the standard lectionary of appropriate texts and the lessons and they do not support the theme of the day, then you're likely to cause a distraction on the part of the participant who will, while they're going through the weekend, wonder why we went off in this direction with this one? Why did we go off in this direction with the other?
It all starts with the training and prayers and the teamwork of the entire team and the prayers and support of the community that's supporting them through that weekend, but the weekend itself starts with the introductions all around. We begin the Godly practice of calling each other by name. The name that we have been given. The name God calls us by, too. When the rector gives that first instructional, inspirational talk, the weekend is off both to a universal style, but also a unique beginning.
It's universal in that no matter which movement you're in, the content of the talks and the meditations are the same. You will all get the same kind of message from the weekend. But it's unique in that every person giving those talks -- or each of those talks -- is giving it with their words and their style and their personality woven into it. And so every weekend is different.
Nevertheless, it's that universal quality of the weekend that makes your experience so much like mine. And there is a lot more similarity than difference. The rector's talk has the quality of saying, "ready, set, go!" and we're off for the weekend.
Now before we move on, we have the first of our Bible enthronements. Perhaps I better explain. How many of you already know what a Bible enthronement is? Oh, there's only a few. Okay. In our tradition, near the speaker's table is a small table with a bookstand on it. A place for a couple of candles and maybe a picture or some other decoration on the table. At the beginning of the day, a person walks in with a Bible, two people walk in, each with a candle, and a portion of Scripture is read following which the person may give a description or a witness of what they felt that passage of Scripture said, and then the Bible is enthroned on that bookstand as a symbol that, for us, the Word has that kind of emphasis in our weekend. And we do this in the morning. In the evening, then, before we go to night prayers, we have a recessional - a word of Scripture done the same way, except that now the Bible is taken off the bookstand, the passage is read, and then this group of three leads us to night prayers, where the Bible is again placed on that altar.
As we begin this day, we read from Mark, first chapter where we visualize Jesus' temptation. Now in Mark, it's very brief -- He was tempted forty days, and angels ministered to him, and so forth. But we talk about our wilderness experience during that night. We're going to have that silence where we resist temptations, and so forth.
Well, all the preparation in the world, all the greatest deliveries of the rollos of the weekend will all be for naught if the participants are so full of the cares of their own worlds that they brought with them that they get in the way of hearing the message that needs to be heard from Christ that weekend. And so we give them the chance, that evening, to dump all that in our confession -- our celebration of repentance. The participant's given the chance to verbalize those sins in a private confession or just to dump, as they normally do, and then to receive the absolution and to physically experience forgiveness in the shalom or the laying on of hands, if you do that.
That's the first touch of the weekend, except for the handshakes, of course. Actually, the whole weekend is a kind of worship service. We start with the confession, and then throughout the three days, we go through a worship setting, a worshipful growing and building until the end, the benediction. But I digress.......So we'll get on to the first day.
The first two of five meditations takes place during this time. The first one, "Know Yourself," sets the theme for both Thursday and Friday. In the confession, the retreat, meditation and talks on Friday, we'll get to know ourselves in the light of God's grace. The second meditation, "The Prodigal Father," enables the participants to feel free to come to God who has his eyes wide open, which gives you the idea of why the abrazo is so important on the weekend. The Bible recessional, a reading from Romans 1:11-12, affirms the faith we already have, yet encourages us to help increase each other's faith. These are the last words in our minds as we enter the silent retreat.
Next morning the silence is broken with a morning meditation: "The Three Glances of Christ." During this meditation, Christ looks at each one of us, just as he looked at the rich man, and Judas and Peter. In that glance we see only the love Christ has for each one of us as we get to know ourselves better. And on this day, Friday, we get to start wrestling with some questions. The Bible enthronement text is Matthew 8:23-27. The story of Jesus calming the sea. There's two questions the disciples ask: "Jesus, don't you care?" He seems to be asleep and not paying attention. Secondly, "What sort of human is this, who can calm the storm?"
In the first talk, Ideal, we ask "Who am I, and what is my aim in life?" The first to see what our ideals really are, even if we didn't know we had any. We take that first introspective step, knowing the self.
Then we ask, "Does God care?" and hear about God's ideal -- agape. Grace, an all-giving love, an abundant, generous love, trusting us with the care of the earth, showering us with his blessings day in and day out. Then the question, "In what way do I care?" This love is a partnership we hear in the Laity talk. Laity and clergy are partners in this mission that Jesus has given us as he ascended. The lessons at Holy Communion are about Abraham's call to faith, even at the advanced age of seventy-five, to go where he knows not where, and to a task he does not yet know, and to have children he has not yet, in his over fifty years of marriage, had the opportunity to father. The psalmist in Psalm 67 writes his response of praise to God for his infinite and steadfast love. In the second lesson from 1 John 4: "Extend that same love to our sisters and brothers in faith." And finally the gospel of John, first chapter, Phillip is called and in turn, Nathaneal by Phillip, gives us the example of how to share that grace with other people, laying the groundwork for Sunday's emphasis two days later.
Well, some of our questions are fears. "Lord, how can I do this?" "How can I who am so weak carry out this kind of a mission?" But the task is one that we do not do alone. We are aided by God's own Spirit. "Lo, I am with you always."
"Grace in Action" gives us an example of the church at work, supporting, exhorting, and praying, we gain courage. How do we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us? We do this by centering your lives on God. And how do we do that? By the use of the tools of "piety," the last talk of the day. Piety tools that are natural for us and help us to direct all we are and all we do and say in life toward God and the way God would have us go. Our Bible recessional is from the fifth chapter of Romans, in which Paul wraps up the themes of all these talks of the day by telling us that we are justified by faith and have peace through Jesus Christ. God is faithful and he is with us in all that happens to us in life, the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and Jesus died for us when we were the least lovable, and his purpose was to reconcile us to God, for we are his ambassadors.
Saturday's theme is the community of believers. In the morning meditation, "The Figure of Christ" we see Jesus both as divine, as God, and as human, totally human. Tying the theme from Friday's emphasis on the deity and power and love of God to the person of Jesus as real, tangible and fully human, who felt and experienced everything we feel. And so we know that he knows.
The Bible enthronement text is Romans 15:1-6, which emphasizes how Christ's selfless acts of love and mercy are a model for our own life. How can we know what that model is? By study, in which we search the Scriptures daily, and also read commentaries and daily devotional books, to get help to interpret what is written. Next, the Sacramental Grace talk presents a physical, tangible, very real way to experience the grace of God in the Word and in the elements of Baptism and Holy Communion. The lessons for our Holy Communion service continue this theme of celebration, in Isaiah 61:1-4, the servant Isaiah paints a picture of how we can be a sacrament to everyone around us by proclaiming good news to the afflicted, by binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor which includes the oil of gladness instead of mourning and the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of sadness or a faint spirit. In the sixteenth Psalm we read that the Psalmist expresses the joy that comes from knowing that God is ever-present among us.
When the high times are over, there is always a little bit of doubt on our mind. A healthy faith also has encounters with obstacles that seem insurmountable whenever we're in the middle of them. The devil, the world, and our own weak flesh seem so overpowering that we wonder if we're up to the task that God has set before us and is calling us to do. Now there are no obstacles, we find in this talk, that are too great for God and us to overcome with his sufficient help. And as examples of this we are told, in the "Leaders" talk that follows at the end of that day, of the common, ordinary people in all of life who exhibit, in their Christian faith, all kinds of leadership abilities, and show us many different qualities of leadership. No one of us possesses all these qualities, but the whole church possesses all of them, and we find that we are a very necessary part with the gifts we have to contribute to that whole picture -- that whole body. They're all gifts of God which empower us to serve in word and deed.
Well, the third day's theme is mission. The morning meditation's intent is to get us started thinking about returning home and what that will be like. Now there's two traditions I'm aware of. Sometimes they're both used at this meditation. One is to encourage the participants with the promise that "He who is with us is greater than He who is in the world." And the other is the image of the transfiguration, preparing the participants to come down from the mountain into the valley below that awaits them there. Preparation for mission in the fourth day is the emphasis of this meditation.
Our Bible enthronement text is Acts 1:6-8, where Jesus tells the disciples that they shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them to be disciples in their home town, in their state, and in the world. Thus, as in the Acts passage, the day begins with our immediate environment -- the "Environment" talk. The witnessing you do right at home or at work or at play to all that we meet. The "Life in Grace" talk that follows encourages us to stop for refueling as we do this. And the rest of the talks that are given on that day also help us see the need for each other. Especially in the "Christian Community in Action" how we can support and encourage each other along this way. And then in the "Total Security" and "Fourth Day" talks, which are often combined as "Total Security in the Fourth Day" on the weekend, we also find ways that we can continue to encourage each other. Now the lessons in Holy Communion. In our tradition we have Holy Communion after the end of the fifteenth talk, begin with Isaiah's vision in the temple. "Who will go for us?"
Of course, Isaiah naively says, "Me, me, did you forget about me?" Well, that's not so naive. We are just like Isaiah. We're ready! Sometimes a little too ready; when we get home, we bump into people that didn't intend for us to bump into them. But, we're ready. It gives us a part of the message that we're to bear, too. Come and see what awesome things that God has done. In II Corinthians 5, Paul adds the message of reconciliation that we are to share with each other. In John 14, the gospel, we're assured that we are not alone, but we will have an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will constantly be with us to interpret what we have to say. There is no recessional on day three, because this symbolizes that the Word is forever enthroned in our lives, wherever we go.
Well then comes the clincher. At least it was for me, because I fought my whole weekend. Being a pastor, no one was going to get through my crust. But this one did it. The Fourth Day community, all arms of joy and peace and love affirming the message that the whole weekend had been trying to get through my thick skull, they did, with that one two-hour session that just was, well - the only counterpart is the feast we'll share in heaven.
So, during the weekend a house is built. I have this image. I wish I had thought ahead enough to have some drawings here, but maybe you can picture this in your head. The holes for the footings is "Ideal." The footings, foundation, and the framework is God's "Grace," showered prodigally upon us. The walls are erected in "Laity" and "Grace in Action." The trim is added in "Piety." "Study" is the windows through which we see God at work in our world. Food to feed the workers, provided in the "Sacrament" of Holy Communion, which sustains the whole body as it acts in "Apostolic Action" in response to "God's Grace." To exhibit qualities of "Leadership" in each "Environment." And then the roof of our "Environment" in the "Life of Grace," which gives us "Total Security" is put on top. A sort of Via de Cristo umbrella, if you will, that echoes Paul's admonition to "build one another up, to support one another in love, and the expectation of his coming again," and from our shelter of security, our attention is directed to others.
Doctrinally, the weekend is the very essence of the kind of theology that started the Reformation in the first place. How in the world the Roman Catholic community thought it all up before we did is beyond me! But I'm sure glad that somebody did. De Colores!
Since there was no outline for the talk, "The influence of music on the weekend," I've structured the ideas of this subject as they relate to my own experiences and observations. Let me ask you a few questions:
What do you think a wedding would be like if there were no music?
How about an eleventh hour Christmas eve candlelight service without music?
Or a Sunday morning worship service without music?
And, of course, we know the answer to all of these.
Well, if we agree that an individual spiritual awareness is enhanced through music during these services, then I believe we also would agree that the music can serve a vital role on a Via de Cristo weekend. Through the use of music and song we can help set the mood of a specific point on the retreat. How and when we use music is very important.
Let's begin with the send-off. Who would ever dream that the song, "De Colores" would be the theme song for a national, even international, spiritual movement? Did your sponsor ever tell you what a puzzled look you had on your face when you rode off to the retreat, lifted by many voices singing about roosters, babe chicks and pio pi's. Or, better yet, that you would, within three very short days, have these words memorized singing them hundreds of times over the years. A simple song, yes, but it has added to the wonderful experience that each of us has shared making and serving on Via de Cristo weekends.
When we arrive in our area on the retreat setting, in the Western North Carolina secretariat, the candidates, or pilgrims as we refer to them, gather in the dining hall. Here the rector calls each one of them by name to come forward to give his or her nametag. Usually they are asked the question, "Do you like to sing?" Well, most give some response to the question, but if the truth were known, they would probably rather not sing at all.
After everyone has come forward we have what we call the ice-breaker. The music cha or chas ask that everyone join in the singing of, "Old McDonald," "Five Foot Two," or maybe "I've Been Working on the Railroad," or any other simple song that is easy to sing and that all probably know by heart. It is important to note, however, that the team should set the example by singing loud and clear. As I've stood many times leading these songs, I have yet seen a night when we did not get most all the group to participate. On more recent retreats, we even have a traveling kazoo band that comes along and some of you are here tonight.
After about five to ten minutes, most have a smile on their face and with the ringing of the rector's bell, we move on with the schedule. It is also important to note that we do not begin the music experience with difficult songs where group dynamics do not have an opportunity to materialize. The purpose of music at this point on the weekend is to ensure that the pilgrims feel comfortable with others, comfortable with their environment, and most important, comfortable with themselves. This is a critical time of the weekend. It is the first exposure of the pilgrims to the team and a new environment.
One universal language that they will understand is music. Through simple, well-planned songs, the group will respond with a positive attitude adjustment. I would recommend that music chas spend as much time in preparing for the ice-breaker as any other group singing encounter on the weekend.
When I made my Via de Cristo weekend in 1979, our family was living in Salisbury, North Carolina. A very special friend who was Catholic had made a Cursillo several years earlier, and, in fact, it was from he and his wife that Lynn and I first heard about this Christian movement. Johnny and I had shared our musical gifts in other areas and when he was asked to lead the music for a Catholic weekend, he in turn, asked me if I would work with him. I was thrilled that these friends would consider me to serve on their team, and I accepted.As we began to make our plans for the music, Johnny asked me what musical materials I had used on our weekend. I proudly pulled out my little red pilgrim guide and showed him all eight of the songs that we had sung. He looked at me and said, "Boy, do we have a lot of work to do!" for you see, he had an entire briefcase full of music. It was on this Catholic weekend where I first learned what effects music could have in increasing the spiritual awareness of individuals in a retreat setting.
It was not the fact that we used a wide variety of material, but it was how and when specific songs were used that I found interesting. Johnny had carefully selected appropriate songs for their opening gathering songs before and after meals, songs during the breaks, songs selected by the professors to be sung before their talk, and finally, songs that were a very special part of the chapel services. Not only had the songs been grouped as to the setting, they had also been placed in sequence so that the more powerful music came later in the weekend. Just as the talks begin with Ideals and build, so did the music.When I returned from this experience, it was only a few weeks before I had received a call to serve as a music cha on the next Lutheran weekend. I could hardly wait to share the music and ideas that God had blessed me with. That Catholic retreat was a red-letter day in my life. There's really nothing new in the way we apply music in a retreat setting. People have been singing songs when they gather for thousands of years.
Although some songs may be new, the results are the same. Music is a universal language. It's a common bond. It breaks down obstacles to developing group dynamics. I only have one write-down -- and this is it. "The purpose of music on a Via de Cristo weekend is to provide a tool that develops group sharing and spiritual awareness for the pilgrims."
You may say that this statement does not include the other lay and clergy team members and if you do so, you're exactly right! The golden rule is: "everything -- the send-off, the group activities, the rollos, the worship and the music -- is planned for the pilgrims." This is their weekend, and we must remember that first. I make that point to emphasize the following thoughts:
As the music is planned for a retreat, it is important to select songs that are familiar and lend themselves to group singing. There are many powerful songs, full of deep meaning, that are simply too difficult to do in a group setting. Such music would stretch the limits of the most experienced chancel choir, requiring hours of practice and while enriching a Sunday morning worship service, that's exactly what they should be reserved for.
I realize that we have many pastors here with us today, and I would ask that you consider the following statements in a positive, constructive manner as they were intended:
Clergy need to be reminded that a worship service in a retreat setting is not the time to try to duplicate the same hymns that support sermons on worship on Sunday morning. This is not to say that such hymns as "Beautiful Savior," "A Mighty Fortress," and "Amazing Grace" cannot be used, because, of course, these are old familiars that some may even know by heart. But often I have found that as a music cha we were asked to lead the group in singing a difficult, perhaps unfamiliar, song or hymn simply because it was the favorite of a spiritual director or team member; and the result was that the group, and more importantly, the pilgrims found the song or hymn too difficult to sing.
It's very important that the music lay leader work closely with the spiritual directors to ensure that the songs and hymns are both appropriate and easy to do. Likewise, it would not be advisable for the music cha to attempt to introduce his or her favorite song on the premise that the group can share with equal enthusiasm or level of ability. If I could summarize, just as we critique the rollos before the weekend so should we carefully influence the use of the songs or music selected for a Via de Cristo weekend.
Most of you in this room have experienced the serenade on a weekend. We could spend hours trying to get a better understanding of group dynamics, but there is no clearer definition of that term than that that is experienced in the serenade.
For those of you who are not familiar with this term, I would like to take a few minutes and share with you how we approach the serenade in Western North Carolina. Please remember this is the way we do it and certainly others may structure it differently on their weekend. Most of us have been asked to share their closest moment to Christ. We'll come back to the serenade in just a second. On a Via de Cristo weekend as a pilgrim or as a candidate or a team member. We have heard pilgrims many, many times stand up at Clausura and share his or her impressions of the weekend. Think about how many times that you have shared or have heard reference made to the serenade as a high point maybe even a turning point in the weekend. In addition if you have ever had the opportunity to go on a serenade you know the spiritual and emotional high that is felt.
Serenades don't just happen. They, like any other part of the weekend must be carefully planned so that the results will be a more uplifting experience for the pilgrims. And I repeat again -- for the pilgrims. In our area we are usually blessed with some ninety to one hundred twenty individuals who drive many miles to gather together at a designated meeting place hours in advance all for a serenade that lasts just about fifteen minutes. If you were to tell someone who has not made a weekend about what was going on all the time spent in preparation he or she would probably find it difficult to share with your enthusiasm. For that reason we try to keep the serenade as one of those surprises for the retreat.
So serenade rule #1 is: "don't let the pilgrims know what or when is about to take place." #2 is: "Always practice the songs with the serenade group before going to the camp or retreat setting." In our movement, those participating arrive at a church about an hour and a half prior to the serenade. Team chas or other outside individuals usually serve light refreshments and the group has about thirty minutes or so to greet each other. Someone who has been designated by the rector is the song leader. Normally, the rector and the song leader have decided on the songs and their order and songbooks or song sheets are made available. While I may not be an authority on a lot of subjects, I have been blessed with having served on quite a number of serenades as a song leader, and I would like to give you what I feel are some do's and don't's that we have learned in our area over some years of experience:
#1 - An announcement of the serenade -- the time and location should be made through newsletters and repeated at the send-off. (Obviously, after the candidates have left the room.)
#2 - The rector and song leader should have agreed on the songs and their order.
#3 - Song sheets or song books need to be made available. Trying to sing with a group from memory simply will not work.
#4 - Musical instruments such as guitars, flutes are desirable but not absolutely necessary. However, all musicians should be welcomed.
#5 - Do not try to sing songs or music that may be unfamiliar or beyond the level of the group to sing well. In fact, if a song is found to be too difficult, take it off the list and move on.
#6 - Look for an opportunity to use candles and flowers during the serenade. In our areas, we light the candles during the song "Pass It On" and roses are given to everyone -- pilgrims and team -- at an appropriate time. Here again, we may expand upon that in the workshop area, if you have questions.
#7 - (This is probably one of the most important). Avoid personal contact with a special friend. A hug or a kiss to a special friend may leave someone else very special with a feeling of being left out. Participating in a serenade with a smile on your face and a song in your heart will be all that is needed for God's love to flow through you to the pilgrims.
In summary, the serenade can be an emotional and spiritual high point of the weekend for all involved. It should be kept upbeat, so as like any other palanca, supports the pilgrims on their walk with Christ. When I think of how music can influence a weekend, I can not imagine a better more positive example than that of the serenade.
At this point, I would like to close by sharing with you three special moments that I had while serving as co-music cha on our mixed weekend #1 that closed just four days ago.
The first moment was in the chapel on Sunday morning when we viewed a beautiful cross covered with live flowers and we joined as a Christian community hearing and sharing in the song, "I Am The Vine."
The second close moment was on Saturday night when we had an outside chapel visit walking down a candle-lit pathway to a magnificent cross surrounded by candles all against the black of night, with the stars in heaven. As the pilgrims gathered, we sang the song, "On Holy Ground." That was truly a moving moment.
Finally, at the closing, after the pilgrims had received their cross the entire community celebrated the blessings of the weekend and the singing of "Lift High the Cross," one of my personal favorites from the LBW.
One final point as we reflect in this workshop, "Getting back to the basics." I would like to conclude by emphasizing that music is an excellent tool for the growth and development of group dynamics in a Christian community.
Through music on a Via de Cristo weekend the peace and love of our Lord flows through us, touching the hearts of the pilgrims.
May you all have a song in your heart each and every day of your Fourth Day.
In this part of the workshop I want to share with you the importance of the Fourth Day in the Via de Cristo and Cursillo movement and I think before I get started ... I'm from Arizona. We're one of the few Cursillo movements and sometimes the terminology -- there's rollo, there's talk, there's cha, rectors, lay directors -- is confusing. If I tried to add every one of those to what I have to say, I'd be here for a long time, so I'll talk about rollo team meaning talk team and Cursillo is the same thing as Via de Cristo. But I want to share with you some of our experiences and the techniques that we use in Arizona.
First, often members of a Cursillo community or even the Cursillistas view a weekend as the purpose of the movement. Instead of a time of preparation for what's really important, which is the rest of a Christian's walk in faith in Christ, from the Catholic Leader's Manual there's a statement by Eduardo Bonnin, who says "We must bear in mind that group reunions are not held so that there may be more people to attend a Cursillo, but that Cursillos are held so that there may be more people to make a group reunion."
It goes along with what the bishop was saying and that is to get people out in the field -- not to the school, but into the mission field. I will focus upon how events that happen on Sunday and even to some degree team formation. During team formation, team training, as well as what happens on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is designed to help prepare the pilgrim for the Fourth Day, or a group reunion and Ultreya.
Group reunion and ultreyas as the Fourth Day is not something that is suddenly thrust upon the participants. We don't say, "Guess what, folks, we're going to do this, we're going to do a group reunion or ultreya now," nor is it an automatic process that just happens because we are at the end of the schedule on the weekend. Group reunion and ultreya are formed through community building. It's a house that Carroll was talking about and it's a desire by the participant to become part of that community (I think we stress this in Arizona the community building begins with team formation, which involves the local secretariat and the Cursillo or Via de Cristo community.
Our secretariat maintains a current eligibility list of those who are eligible to serve as lay directors, core team members in the different positions as well as team members. After the lay director has been appointed and accepts the nomination or the position of being the rector for the weekend, we schedule a training session and the training session is intended to keep the weekends on the same format and reduce the changes and the shortcuts that come about through team building and from passing ideas from one rector to another rector. I think that what happens is that we begin customizing the weekend, doing our own thing, and creating our own agendas. When we do that the community and the secretariat begins focusing -- I think they begin focusing on the Cursillo as putting on great weekend retreats rather than using it as a step to build this Fourth Day.
Last year as an example, one of the speakers spoke about palanca and that when it gets to trinkets. I see this now in Arizona a little bit. When we start having banners that are t-shirts, we're making short-cuts and we're changing, and, I think, beginning to customize and change the agenda towards that feeling of putting on great weekends. When that happens, that's a flag we throw up and we have to take a look at it. Team formation and training sessions are also a very important part of this community building process and you have to have, I think, at least seven team meetings, (maybe more) including an overnighter. The team meetings are more than just gathering to hear the rollos; but really, team building is an opportunity for those on the team to go through the same process that the candidates will go through on a weekend: form a Christian community.
In the Christian Community talk we learn there are two stages of community building: one, is that period of developing bonds and relationships. The second is making a decision to commit. I think that teams have to go through that same process, when you have that community built you can then pass the community on and help form the community for the weekend. The team meeting also includes sharing, praying, singing, group reunion and Holy Communion. We're going to spend some time talking about the third day.
Sunday, on an Arizona Cursillo weekend begins with what we call Mananitas. It's a very important and pivotal point in the weekend, it's like the serenade. It changes people's hearts. Mananitas, in the Via de Cristo Fourth Day Manual is defined as Spanish for early morning. "Los Mananitas" is also the title of a Spanish folk song that's sung early in the morning to celebrate a birthday or other special occasion. Mananitas is the name of the morning wake-up on the last day of the Via de Cristo three day weekend.
In Arizona, we hold our weekends at an Anglican Church site which, while, it's in the city of Phoenix, is really remote in the desert. On a weekend, our Sunday begins with a wake-up call as early as three a.m. -- now that's for the community. Some people driving in from maybe thirty-forty miles away arrive before the team even arises.
The community goes into the rollo room, they look at banners, they look at the posters. We leave little pieces of paper at each place on the table, where the community can write notes -- that's in addition to other palanca notes that have come in during the week, but they can write little greetings to each of the participants. The notebooks have been removed so that any personal notes that a participant has made won't be looked at.
The participants get up early also around 4:45 a.m., and then under the pretense that we'll be joining the Anglicans (which we won't) for an early service at 5:30. We manage then to keep the arriving community and the arising participants separate until the rollo team forms a hug line.
Then each participant is hugged into the sanctuary one at a time to the thunderous roar of a Cursillo community probably in the neighborhood of 250-300 people cheering, clapping, and singing that beautiful Spanish folk song, "How beautiful is this morning when our hearts are light and gay, and we sing God's song of blessing and wake new today. The sun is now appearing as the day begins anew. Arise now and greet the morning. The dawn's a joy for you."
This whole experience as I say is pivotal -- the participants come down this hugline enter doors -- two doors that they'll go through before they go into the sanctuary. The first one they go into a sacristy and it's incredible -- three hundred people in one room singing -- you're not ten-fifteen feet away and you go into that room, and it's like dead silence. Then, you walk into the sanctuary, and it's like lights are shined on you. The noise is just awesome. Each of the participants is then hugged again by the pastors.
They stand at the altar and look out over the community that's there. For all they know, it's Anglicans. But then they see; "I know that person," " I know that person," "I know that person." Mananitas for participants is described in one of two ways -- they describe it as like having died and then gone to heaven as they've gone through that sacristy which, as I've said, is strangely so quiet and peaceful and then to walk into this sanctuary with all these people. Or they say I've never felt so loved. That is just the pivotal point for the weekend.
That whole Mananitas part of our weekend is a service -- it's not just the song in greeting the people. The head spiritual director gives the message: "Now you've been through this weekend. What's going to happen when you go back?" It starts Sunday. It starts talking about community and when you leave here what's going to happen to you and this world that you're a part of?
Following the Head Spiritual Director's message, there's communion by the participants and the community and then the participants leave. The participants and the community are never in contact other than through the heart. There's no hugging. There's no vocal talking. We keep it separate. Actually the cooks keep the participants, separated from the community, by placing folding chairs (their seats for the service) between the participants and the community. They sit in the first row.
The first talk, "The Study and Evangelization of the Environments" introduces the environments and explains it. You know, it's consisting of attitudes beliefs and ideals -- we're told that we tend to conform to the Spirit being generated in the environment and we tell the participants to look at themselves, that God must be working in their lives before he can work in the lives of others.
I think the intent of the Environments rollo is really neatly packaged in the conclusion where it says "our task -- environmental transformation is achieved by introducing new life into the environment -- a fully Christian life that indeed changes things."
We tell them "tomorrow we will find the world as we left it on Thursday. Nothing will change except you." But often we stop there, and there's another statement that should really be introduced and it's a key to the next talk which is Christian community and that statement is: "The key to introducing new life is the action of groups of Christians deepening their life in Christ and radiating this life into the environment that they are a respective part of.
The second talk on Sunday is given by the pastor and it is peculiar to the weekend. The pastor really writes the talk on the weekend using it to tie together the sermon -- anything that was left out and then reflects a little bit on the spirit of the weekend so I'm not going to spend much time talking about that.
The next talk on this final day is Christian Community. In the preceding talks the participants learned about their source of strength and deepening their union with God but probably thought of themselves as Christians individually. Now we are challenging them: "How am I going to change the world?" This talk in Christian Community must take them from thinking of themselves as individuals to seeing themselves as part of a larger evangelizing community. It's only -- this is important -- it's only if they see themselves in this light that the final talks, group reunion and ultreya, make any sense.
The participant must be shown the need for Christian Community and our mission, the Christian renewal of society, is not individual, but as a member of the community. The participants need to know that the group is the leaven. You know, the more weight and the more members that we have leaning on the end of that lever that stick,provides more force or energy to be focused on the object to be moved. It makes the job of changing easier.
A tangible -- I talk about the community but I think a tangible example of the community is received at Mananitas.
Experiencing the love and peace of heaven and of that Christian community is a feeling that most participants want repeated again and again. It's a real living experience that they want to see again. They're ready at that point in time for the message: "How do you build Christian community?" The Christian Community stresses that there's two stages of community building. One the first stage is building bonds, relationship, total commitments to each other and to a cause. It's a stage of sharing spiritual gifts, growth, and love. It is joyful, it is sharing, it is the formations of friendships with Christ at the center of the relationship. And it's a relationship based upon the giving of one's self rather than expecting something in return.
The second stage of development involves the decision to commitment. It's an acceptance of one another. It's sacrifice, it's confidence, and it's trust in each other growing in love through each other praying together and praying for each other. It's what we learned in group reunion. It's what we learn during the weekend. Isn't that really what happens on a weekend? That's a description of the community that's formed at the decurias at the table. That's the method and that's the how.
The final talks are on group reunion, ultreya and the fourth day and the group reunion/ultreya talk is motivational. One of the things we do more than talk about grouping. We use part of the time to actually demonstrate group reunion and building a group reunion community. Each table leader takes two to three of the participants and gives a personal and authentic witness about the importance of grouping and the role that grouping has played and is playing in their lives.
We don't talk about what we ought to be doing or should be doing or what the book says, or what we hope to do. Everybody who serves on a team must be grouping. So they have personal experience that they can share with each of the participants.
The table leader will go through the group card. The point is clearly understood by the participants that group reunion is important -- that ultreya is important and that they are our methods of persevering or hanging in there when things get tough. Group reunion -- we try to bring this out -- ultreya should be seen as warm fuzzies and that feeling should really be reinforced in the last talk of the day -- which is the Fourth Day. Later, at the Clausura, a member of the community, usually a group brother or sister, of the Lay Director, gives a personal witness about group reunion.
The Fourth Day doesn't just happen. It happens because a pilgrim or participant has been created or renewed on the weekend and becomes part of a strong loving and caring and existing community.
During the Fourth Day talk we try to show ways that a participant can participate in the Fourth Day. We talk about the importance of group reunion and the importance of the sponsor and the community itself helping the individual continue and get involved in group reunion.
We talk about going to leaders school so that the participant can also be on a team in the future. We announce the reunion/ultreya which follows every weekend which amounts to a potluck. As much as 25-30% of the community will attend. We explain the monthly ultreyas and attend. We tell about ways that they can get involved with the local community, the annual meeting and of the picnics that are held by local congregations, the banner and palanca parties that are held before each weekend.
One of the things that I would like to say to you is that churches are often like homes with fences that separate neighbors from one another. Fences shield our feelings and keep us from really knowing and reaching out to one another. Cursillo/Via de Cristo is changing that. Not only are we becoming aware of other Lutherans and of our differences (which really aren't that great) but we're learning about those who are not Lutheran and are part of a Cursillo community.
In Arizona, we're making plans right now for a picnic to bring together the Catholics, the Anglicans, and the Methodists. We're anticipating -- I am since I'm in charge of it -- a thousand people coming to this. I have recently met with the president of the Emmaeus group in Phoenix and he has plans for what he calls a Grand Ultreya, of renting the civic center in Phoenix in the fall of 1994, and inviting as many as 15,000 Cursillistas from all over.
So the Fourth Day is strongest when the whole Christian community is involved when we no longer say that I am a Methodist, a Catholic, or a Lutheran but I like you have been saved by the blood of Jesus and I have given my life to Him. Let's share that with one another.