The Pastor's Role in Via de Cristo
Ed Hansen: "do things the same way. We don't call things the same things in some areas. Basically, the program is the same, but yet it's different, so as you hear each one of these presenters, don't think, 'well, what's he talking about because basically he's going to talk about a different tradition perhaps than you do. We will have a question and answer period after the three presenters have presented their talk, and I would ask that you keep your questions until then.
Our first presenter I have just had the privilege of meeting. He's from Alpharetta, Georgia. You can tell I'm originally from Boston. I live in South Dakota, so when in my younger days I probably said "Jah-juh" now I say "Georgia."
His church is Prince of Peace Lutheran Church since 1987. He's married to Barb since 1977, has one daughter Kimberly, 21, and it's my privilege to present Pastor Tom Kenny.
REV. TOM KENNY
I want to make one correction, Ed. I've been married to Barbara since 1970 because Kim is 21 years old...but that's all right. My accent will betray me as not coming originally from Alpharetta. I was born and raised in Ireland in County Cork in the south of Ireland. I immigrated to the United States in 1967 as an ordained priest in the Catholic tradition and I immediately went to Cursillo. One of the questions I'm asked to answer for you this afternoon is "why did you attend a Via de Cristo weekend?" I attended because I was asked by the men in the church at St. Louis in Kendall, Florida. They kind of came on really strong and they said, " you've got to go to this weekend. We all had a tremendous experience. You must go. I got the feeling that something really special had happened for them and they wanted it to happen for me but like most clergy types I really didn't think that I was going to experience - anything that I hadn't experienced before and I felt pushed. I found reason for not going the first time, but they kept coming after me and I went. What I enjoyed about my experience initially was the mix of lay and clergy. Unfortunately there's a gap between clergy and laity for some reason and one of the reasons that was clear to me at the time being Roman Catholic was that the people tended to put the pastor up on a pedestal where they didn't have to be real close to him, and didn't have to be in touch with his humanity. Cursillo has enabled me to be in touch with my humanity, in the presence of my people. That is one of the benefits for me. I can be truly human and you all will still love and understand me. I think that's a great benefit to the church. Cursillo/Via de Cristo is a lay movement but it's not without its recognition of the role of the clergy, and it's not without its recognition of the fact that the church is you and I together. I am ordained from amongst you to lead you in the work of the ministry. Together we can be effective as the church. Either if we separate ourselves, I will not be effective - you will not be effective. I have become involved in Cursillo for a number of reasons. I was invited I saw the benefit of it. I went through an experience in my life where I became disillusioned with the ministry and left the Church. My introduction to Lutheranism was a good one. The transition from Roman Catholic to Lutheran was easy. I thought you guys really had the right idea. I was a real fan of Martin Luther when I was a seminarian. It was at the time of the second Vatican Council when the Roman church was warming up to the fact that Luther really had a good idea. Once I found that out, I left. When I got to the Lutheran church in 1971 they were getting involved in Cursillo in Miami, I don't know when the first weekend of Lutheran Cursillos were in Miami. Greg, do you remember? ... '72. Ed Simonsen, does that sound right? ... '72. Well, I began to hear about Cursillo again in my new experience - in my new life. People invited me back. I was going through great difficulty in my life as a human person. I had left my ministry. I had left my roots. I had left what was comfortable and I was trying to find myself again. The Lutheran church invited me or the men in the church invited me to be part of a reunion group. It saved my life, and I was part of a reunion group for 17 years with 4 or 5 men in Miami. How do I personally benefit from being involved and how does my congregation benefit from my involvement? Well, I'll let the congregation answer the second part. I said again it keeps me in touch with my humanity. It affirms my conviction that a healthy, active laity makes for a healthy, active church. We as clergy must affirm the power of lay ministry as the laity affirms ours as pastors. We give lip service to the priesthood of all the baptized. That is one of our tenets as Lutherans and yet I think we've lost it to some great extent. We've lost the vision of the power of the priesthood of the laity. Cursillo is enabling us to recapture it - that's how I see it. It's a good vehicle to enable us to give the ministry back to the people where God intended it to be. My congregation benefits as the people are beginning to hear the call to ministry and take seriously their leadership role. Recently, in our congregation the lay leadership began to ask for a different expression in worship. Some of the laity became uncomfortable with the idea that they wanted less participation from the pastor and more participation from the laity. Some saw that as a sort of a shutting out of the pastor. in fact, what they wanted was to take more ownership and leadership in worship and ministry. They want me to be there. They want me to be part of it. They want me to bless it. Some of my colleagues in the ministry are turned off by your enthusiasm and your over-earnestness as laity. The way they're reading you is they're saying you're telling them that you have something they need to have.
The problem in the church is elitism. Sometimes as earnest enthusiasts of Cursillo or Via de Cristo we give the impression that we now have our act together. It would be great if the pastor could get his act together. My congregation knows me better as a man because they see me I can do things at Cursillo that I'd never do in the pulpit. I can make a fool of myself in the context of a 3 day weekend and they still love me all the more. They pray for me because I think they see my humanity in a clearer way than they did before. For courage to be faithful to the call of God. They better understand the struggle that I have to be a prophetic voice and are more supportive of me as I work hand in hand with them to proclaim that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
What do I see as the role of the clergy/spiritual director in this lay movement, and how are they selected for each weekend?
I see the role of clergy as one of guidance and encouragement. Again, some of my colleagues in their distancing, perhaps, from this movement have failed to see that the laity really wants us to be part of what they're experiencing and wants us not so much to bless what they have and what they've seen and what they're doing, but to guide them in that and I see us as having a great opportunity as your clergy people pastors, resident theologians as helping to keep you on the right track.
There's nothing more beautiful than excited lay people who want to get the gospel out and there's nothing more beautiful than a pastor and laity who can join hands join arms in walking together to see that that happens by the grace and guiding of the Holy Spirit, Via de Cristo has helped me to understand the reality of team effort. For those of you who have been on teams, you'll recognize that no one person on a weekend is key to what happens on the weekend. A pastor can get up and he may have the Sacraments talk - Day in the Life talk - which is a long talk and is a sort of a pivotal talk and he can do really well or he can be very boring. The funny thing is that in the long run because of the team effort it doesn't seem to matter. I've seen laity get up - we had a fellow down in Miami who insisted on doing his own thing and he was critiqued and he was told to stay within the guidelines and he was critiqued heavily and sort of guided as to how this talk needs to tie into the others. We.., he got up and he did his own thing anyway on the weekend and it went on forever. He wasn't a pastor. I thought, "Oh, no, this is awful. They're hearing the wrong message and he's taking time. In the long run, it didn't really matter because of the team effort. I've been on weekend where the cha-chas have been the most influential force on the weekend. They've never gotten up and given a talk, but the power of their service has witnessed to the Christ in them - more powerfully than the most dramatic speeches that were given. I've heard people say "Oh, I've been invited to be on this team, but I'm only a cha-cha." The most powerful thing - I've always wanted to be a cha-cha but, they won't let me - the most powerful service on a weekend is serving. That makes sense, doesn't it? No one person on the team has an indispensable role, but all working together as a unit the effects sometimes are out of proportion to the team effort. What I mean by that is that I think that God has a plan that is like this. His plan is to make the church really look super when no one individual is responsible for it. Have you noticed that in some of these great ministries that have fallen that they are led by individuals who have no accountability to anyone else. You and I have a built-in accountability to one another in this movement that God has given us within the church. The way we select spiritual directors - I learned down in Miami that I don't like making phone calls and Claudia Steadman came to my rescue in Miami. I wasn't getting the calls made and she said, "I'll make the calls. I'll call up the clergy and we'll get them assigned for the weekends and I said, "Okay, here are the names. Here is the list. These are the people you ought to be calling." So when I arrived here in Georgia, I'm not sure when they asked me to be spiritual director on the secretariat here if they already had in place a system whereby one of the laity is designated to call the clergy and assign them. If they hadn't they do now and it's marvelous. I don't have to make all those phone calls and the interesting thing is that clergy respond I think better when laity call them than when a fellow clergy calls them, so write the - this is the only write-down of my speech - write it down - if you want effective participation by clergy in your secretariat or in your area, have a lay person call them to make the assignment for the weekends. Of course, with direction from the spiritual director. What I mean is input and direction.
Point #4: The best way to approach pastors who have not attended about whey they should attend a weekend. The answer is "I don't know." Don't tell them they need it. They may, but don't tell them that! Don't tell your pastor you need to go to the spiritual retreat. Share with them something that has been special to you. Ask him or her to do you the favor of going for your sake not for his or her sake, and explain to them how it has helped you to develop your spiritual life and to become a leader in the church. I think ideally when a new church is introduced to the Via de Cristo. Ideally, the pastor and two or three or four lay people ought to go together to experience the weekend. One of things that we have done as clergy in our area is we have developed a reunion group and we have invited clergy who have not yet been to Cursillo. We don't necessarily do the dynamics of reunion group but support group for any Christian group is...amounts to the same thing. The beautiful thing about Via de Cristo is that you have developed - or somebody has - developed a guideline for piety, study, and action we have developed a piety card that enables us to talk to one another in terms that we already understand. If you've been to a weekend it's helpful. You don't have to be. Somebody mentioned today, It was the gentleman on the board from Arizona - Larry. Cursillo and Via de Cristo is not about weekends its about Christian community it's about reunion groups and that's really where the life of the church is. The life of the church is in the small group where men and women are sitting down with each other and they're being accountable to one another about their relationship to God and about their apostolic action or lack of it. There is nothing more powerful in the church than lay people and clergy sitting down and talking about where am I with God where am I with my ministry, where am I with my witnessing and where have I failed to be and to be in it together on a weekly basis, so I would say invite your clergy to be part of whatever you're doing. I think that most pastors want to be part of an effective, meaningful church community/Christian community. Nobody in his right mind in the ministry wants to turn his or her back on effective growth in the church.
How do I see Via de Cristo as a useful tool for Christ for the ELCA and the LCMS? My answer is anytime the local church is revitalized, the national church's health improves. On the national level ELCA/LCMS are concerned about evangelism and stewardship. In my experience, both of these areas are positively impacted by involvement in Via de Cristo. When I came to Georgia, about 5 years ago, to be interviewed by this congregation at Prince of Peace they tricked me. They started talking to me about stewardship they said - how do you feel about tithing? I, of course, was delighted to be asked that question and I said, "I believe in it I believe in tithing, and here's where the trick question came; "Do you tithe?"
I knew that crowd was okay. Here's a Lutheran congregation in Georgia saying to their pastor "we are serious about commitment about stewardship and about tithing we need a pastor who believes in that and who will teach us about it. I'm impressed when my people come to me and say, teach us about tithing. I fully believe that is the influence of Cursillo that caused that question to be asked by the call committee.
So pastors if you haven't already gotten involved here's a reason. When we hear stewardship and evangelism we're always interested. I would like to see a little more respect for the movement and recognition of the impact from the national level, but I would consider it counter-productive for the national offices to own and therefore to seek to control a movement like Via de Cristo. I am not in any hurry to place this movement under the wing or the thumb of either Bishop Skillrud or Bishop Chilstrom or any other church person. The beauty of Lutheranism was that it was a movement for renewal within the church catholic. The beauty of Via de Cristo is that it's a movement for renewal now within the Lutheran church. I would like for it to have a little more respect, too, but if I have to trade in this feeling that perhaps we will become too institutionalized, I prefer for us to have the kind of freedom that we have. I think we're here to serve the church not to be a distinct church within the church but to serve the church.
I've said be careful not to over institutionalize. I recognize the power of this group meeting on a yearly basis and to be organized. I think it's important for us to plug in as local secretariats to have guidance and direction to keep in touch with one another so we don't have to continue inventing the wheel but I would be careful. I'd be cautious about over-institutionalizing. Be careful of elitism. On the local level, one of the accusations that's leveled at Cursillo is its elitism. It's compared perhaps to the charismatic movement in that people who have been are distinguished from people who have not been. I would hope that we would make great efforts to not draw lines between us and them. I would hope that we would continue to lift up the movement as one that is designed to bring forth and to establish and to train leadership in our congregations but that the emphasis is at the congregational level. I know there are people probably sitting here today who have made Cursillo their church. I don't believe in that, I don't like it. I don't agree with it but there are many of you who have gone back into your local congregations and you have become a catalyst for change there. Some folks get excited about new forms of worship and they tend to go off into their own groups and from their own worship groups or congregations. The church needs you... Lutheran Church needs and I know God needs you to be a catalyst within the church going on to challenge yourself and to challenge your fellow Christians and to challenge your pastor and to be challenged by one another to carry on the task of the gospel. There's one part of the Scriptures that appeals to me very strongly. It was mentioned this morning or this afternoon. II Corinthians 5: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and He has given to us now the ministry of reconciliation. We ought to be about bringing people together in the church and outside the church. We ought to be about bringing clergy and laity together. We ought to be about the business of building bridges between people of God rather than walls between people of God. Paul goes on to say, "For Christ, therefore, you are ambassadors and our task is to bring the message that God is still in Christ reconciling and offering to reconcile and working to reconcile the world to Himself. Thanks you for listening. God bless you.
Ed: Thank you, Tom and I apologize for my mathematics.
Our next presenter is from Pell Lake, Wisconsin. He's the present pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church -- been there about ten years. He attended Sunrise #2 in 1990 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He's married to Cindy. They have three children. He is presently the spiritual director for the Wisconsin Via de Cristo, and it's my pleasure to introduce Pastor Brian Metke.
REV. BRIAN METKE
Please stand. Put your hands to the sky. Stand on your tippy toes, please. Turn around and sit down.
Thirteen months ago my sister was devastated. Thirteen months ago, my sister came down to my congregation. She designed the stained glass windows, installed them. She spent the whole day there at our congregation, working on these stained glass windows. It was a joyful day for her.
When she went home, it was around ten o'clock at night. She opened the door. Everything was dark. Her dog wasn't barking, and she wondered where her husband was. Her husband, Chuck - he's been depressed on and off. He's been going to a counselor - a Christian counselor. She went upstairs; didn't hear a sound, and then she heard a thud. She ran, opened the door, and in the darkness she saw her husband crawling around like a dog. That night - that day, he knew she was leaving. He had taken 193 sleeping pills. She called the paramedics. Immediately they were there. They started working on him. Half an hour later, he had a seizure. He would have died if they wouldn't have been there. It was half an hour time. He was in the hospital. You can imagine how he must have felt. And yet we, my family, my sister, we showered him with love and care and let him know that we cared about him. And he said, "You know," Chuck said, "a hundred and ninety three sleeping pills. I opened every one of those packages. Each one I opened, I knew I was going to kill myself. You'd think that would kill you - 193 - but it didn't. God must have a plan for me. That's what we told him. God's got work for you, Chuck. What you gonna do? You going to try it again? Well, he went to counseling - a Christian counselor. He started working on this - working on his depression was under medication. It was several months after that he was between jobs and I asked him and his wife, my sister to participate in our fall weekend - Via de Cristo weekend. He never would have participated - never! - he wouldn't have time for that kind of stuff, but he was between jobs and he was vulnerable - just vulnerable enough to do it. To our great joy, because we knew this man was going to be transformed. He went on this weekend. But this is what he said: when he got there in that small group, immediately, he was defensive. He looked at these men in his group, and he said, "They're Martians. They're Martians. I'm used to drinking a beer watching football, playing baseball - I love that kind of stuff. And here they are talking about important things in life, about God and about themselves and what's going on. The tough times and their wives and their friends and their kids, and what not. They're Martians, he thought. I'm the only human being here.
As the weekend progressed, he continually thought that until Saturday night. Something happened and Saturday night he said to himself, "They're not Martians. I'm the Martian. They're all human beings - human beings the way God meant us to be, and here I am - a Martian." And he closed in even more, because he knew if he would tell anybody he'd just start blubbering, and he wouldn't make any sense. He'd make a fool of himself, and he kept it in and he was miserable. Saturday night, Sunday all day long -- he tells me now it was the worst day of his life.
Sunday - on a Via de Cristo weekend? I came. Of course, my sister - she couldn't come until the next weekend. I came because I had to pick him up that night: the Clausura. Everybody's giving their witnesses and I'm waiting for Chuck, a new man, a joyful man full of the Holy Spirit and his hair was back and he was just sitting their looking at his feet. He gave a testimony, but to me it was like a slap in the face. Something was wrong.
As I drove him home - an hour and a half drive - for an hour he told me all about the stuff that happened. Then he said, "you know what? I'm going to level with you. I feel as depressed as when I tried to commit suicide. Wow! Here he is - a half an hour from home! I just listened. He told me everything I just told you. When I walked up to my sister's house, and she was expecting a transformed man - a transformed husband. What could I tell her? "Hey, you better watch him! He's going to commit suicide!" What could I tell her?
That night, I realized that not everybody experiences this weekend the same way that I did. I was transformed myself - it was terrific! It was such a great time. And yet, I realize in talking with some of you folks, too, that your weekends weren't the greatest. A lot of people, they had lousy times, and I guess I learned that lay and clergy don't all experience that "up". God takes us where we're at, and we need to take one another where they're at.
I learned about the Via de Cristo movement about eight years ago as a new pastor. I've been at Trinity for ten years now - it was mission congregation - struggling congregation. I was working and working and working, but I needed to grow spiritually. So I picked out an older pastor who I looked up to. I thought this guy, I want to talk to him. I want him to be my mentor. I sat down. I made an appointment with him. I talked with him and said, "Where do you get your spiritual sustenance?"
He said, " you know where I get it? I meet with some Episcopalians. It's called the Cursillo. We meet once a month with an Ultreya. We sing and we talk together about our difficulties, and our spiritual struggles and joys."
I thought, "someday I'm going to join that thing. Someday, I'm going to get involved." But years went by - years and years and I didn't get involved. I heard about it now and then, and I was peaked my interest. It wasn't until about two years ago I was talking with a lay person - once again, just as Tom was telling us, it was a person at a confirmation event. He was telling me how he deals with his confirmands.
He says, "You know what I do? We're in this mentor program, and I meet with a confirmation student once a week or every other week, and I use this card." He pulled out his grouping card.
I said, "that's cool! Where do you get that?"
He said, "I'm involved in this group. It's called Cursillo/Via de Cristo."
I said, "I want that." It all came back to me. That's what I want! When do I sign up? When's the next one? They started sending me the papers, and Barb, over there, she started sending me papers and got me involved. It's through that lay person and that other pastor. I needed it! And my struggling congregation of 225 people - we are a mission church. We got involved first in the Bethel Bible series. A lot of you are familiar with that. It's a two year, intensive Bible study. In the last six years, our congregation has had sixty people go through that. Our congregation is no longer a mission congregation because we've gone back to basics. We've gone back to the Bible, studying memorizing, taking tests.
These people have been changed. But, you know what I find with a lot of us Lutheran Christians? Our faith is "head". We have a head faith. We're studying all this Bible stuff, memorizing things, but it stays up here.
And what I realize is that we need something that speaks to our heart. A lot of our Lutheran Christian fellow members - they're leaving our denomination for more spirit-filled congregations. It reminds us that we've got a problem. We're too head-centered. Via de Cristo speaks to our heart. For my congregation, it balances the two - with Bethel - with the head. Via de Cristo - for the heart. Those people are transformed, energized people. That's where it's at as far as I'm concerned. It makes such a difference.
When I went to my first weekend, I'm kind of a proud person. I know none of you are, but I really am. I told all my people, "You know, I used to work in church camps. I sing, I play the guitar. I love to act. We're going to do one of those Via de Cristo weekends in our church - 225 members, and we're going to do it better than whatever we're going to.' That's what I really believed! I told all my people that." I said, "we're going to this cool thing, and I got four other people to go with me." We got there, thought this was pretty neat. We can do this, we can do this. Friday night in our weekend, we have "Stations of the Cross". It's a living stations of the cross, so there's all these people. There's a couple dozen people up there acting, doing things like that, and that night I looked and thought, "We could never do this."
Man, my pride was shot down. At that moment, I realized that our congregation, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church of Pell Lake, is not self-sufficient. Via de Cristo has taught me what St. Paul says, "We're all a part of one body." Congregations are all a part of one body. We need each other, and I realize I need all these other congregations to get this going. And, as a pastor, I realize the same thing. You lay people, wow, this is a lay-led movement. I realize what St. Paul says, "the church is a body." Nobody is more important than the others. We all have our special jobs to do. In your congregation, in your church building, if somebody doesn't clean the toilets - nobody's going to come to church, will they? I can be up there preaching all day, and nobody's going to come, if the toilets are dirty, and that smell wafts through the building. After that experience, I said, "I will do anything. I'll clean the toilets. I'll do anything. I'll be a servant. That's what I want to do." They right away made me a palanca chapel guy. I wanted to serve in some other way. But I'm happy where I'm at. The point is, this movement shows us that we're all important. We're all part of the body. I personally benefit from Via de Cristo - just like Tom mentioned several times with accountability.
I meet with a group as a matter of fact, the person I meet with regularly has just moved, and last Saturday was my last grouping. I have to start a new group. In the last year and a half that I've been meeting, it's been the best year of my life. Spiritually, that card has changed my life - meeting, reading that card, talking about it with a lay person. We talk about sex a lot. I find all the men in my group, we always talk about sex, saying, "Whoa, those billboards, how do we deal with that?" That's really temptation up there. That's one of the big topics. It's kind of embarrassing, but it shows us all that we're all human beings. Nobody holds me accountable for anything. Once a month we have a council meeting, but I read my thing, and they all say, "yeah, oh great. We know you're working hard, pastor." That's all.
Nobody holds me accountable, except my group. "Say, hey, did you pray every day this past week like you said you wanted to do?" "Did you exercise like you said you wanted to do?" I'm held accountable there, and I as a pastor need to be held accountable just as we all do at times in our lives.
You're not watching your clock? Okay, we still have time. Good, thank you. One of the questions is, "How do I tell other pastors and other people about the Via de Cristo, and especially other pastors?" This is what I do.
The first thing I tell them about is that the best day of my life was my wedding day. Eleven years this August first, I'll be married. It was the best day of my life. The second best day of my life was the weekend at Via de Cristo. I felt God's love - the love of others, but I tell these pastors: I say, "it wasn't a flash in the pan." I didn't have this great experience, and then it was over. What's so great about Via de Cristo and this is what I'd encourage you to tell pastors, is that it doesn't end there. It continues with our Ultreyas once a month, with our groupings once a week. It's all built in there. Billy Graham - you can go to one of his crusades, and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior - as you watch them come down out of the balconies, and they're all committing themselves one year later, less than 2% of them are involved in a church. Less than 2% - what's happened? They haven't continued the follow-through. They had that high of an experience. They made the commitment, but it went flat. What this program does, is it keeps it moving. It's all built in there. Some people fall away, of course, but better than anything I've experienced in my years of ministry, this keeps it moving and keeps us accountable, growing spiritually as well. When I talk with pastors, this is how I do it as well:
Our pastors meet once a month in our district, in our area. What we're planning right now is having several of our lay people speak to the pastors. Several from our congregation, lay people, talking to this pastors' group, and just share what they've experienced, and when a pastor hears these articulate Christians sharing their faith, sharing what they've experienced in an educated, articulate way, it's got to do something.
Then, once a year, our whole synod, we have a workshop, one day full of workshops on stewardship, confirmation, on worship and music, and what we're planning right now is to have an additional one on Via de Cristo. Lay leadership, lay renewal, and we will have our group from our congregation. I will speak, members of our laity will speak, and then we'll have lots of silent table people in this group. We'll break up in small groups and go through that card. That grouping card with the people, so they get a first hand experience of what it's like talking about how Jesus has spoken to them in this last week. What they've learned about God, and how they've shared their faith.
One other thing when we're talking about our bishops - man, Bishop Chilstrom of the ELCA - he says, "Sometimes I mourn that I am presiding over a dying denomination." The ELCA is slowly getting smaller and smaller. Man, this movement, if this doesn't make a difference, I don't know what will because in our grouping cards we say, have you shared your faith with somebody this past week? We're training people to be evangelists, to share the good news with others. The Holy Spirit has provided this program - this movement to transform our denomination. It's a gift from God to the ELCA, to the Missouri Synod, and I'm very thankful for that. I've told you what you can say to lay people and pastors. It's not a flash in the pan, it's well structured.
But what do you say to my sister? Well, what could I say? I said, "hang in there." You know what "hang in there," another word for that is? Persevere. Ultreya. Ultreya means persevere.
Chuck's counselor usually doesn't meet on Mondays. He did. He set up an appointment for Chuck and that day before he left, it was about eleven o'clock, Chuck said to Nancy, my sister, "How do you accept Jesus as your savior?" You know, at that weekend everybody talked about Jesus as Lord and Savior. How do you do that?
She said, "I don't know what to say. Your counselor is a Christian counselor. He'll tell you how to do it." He went to the counselor that day. He spilled his guts. He did cry. He did make no sense at all at times. He blubbered and blubbered, and told him exactly what I told you - how he felt on that weekend, and then said, "How do I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior?"
And he said, "It was so easy. I had made it so complicated." And he prayed with the counselor.
That night, I didn't know anything had happened. But my kids did. We went out for pizza for some party, and they ran up to me and said, "Dad, what's wrong with Uncle Chuck? He's singing, De Colores, De Colores... Chuck never sings. Never! He never sings, and he's playing with us, Dad. Throwing us around having a good time. He never did that before." My brother-in-law is a transformed man. He still has problems. He goes to counseling when he needs to. He's still on medication for depression, but now he's got something else - spiritual energy.
He said, "I feel so close to Jesus. I never did before." (He grew up Roman Catholic. He still is Roman Catholic.) "I'd like to take my eyelids, and I'd like to tattoo a picture of Jesus in them, to know how close he is to me. Let me know that he is with me all the time." So, folks, if it happens to you, and it may, because not everybody has the same experience. When it happens to you, say "Ultreya." Persevere. Hang in there, because with God's amazing grace all things are possible. Thank you.
Ed Hansen: Our third presenter is from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He's presently the pastor of St. James Lutheran Church. He's been the Spiritual Director for Eastern North Carolina since 1987. He's married to Sally. It's my extreme pleasure to present Pastor John Earp.
REV. JOHN EARP
In all things give praise and thanksgiving to God. I am the last presenter before supper, so if you would please stand up and embrace each other in prayer, praise and thanksgiving...
I just want to join my spirit and my thanks to Pastor Tom and Pastor Brian for what they've said and done here. Wayne thanked me earlier for giving him a copy of this presentation that I wrote at lunch today. Some people prepare and some people cast themselves upon the mercy of the Spirit. I do want to do one thing that's a little different here. Since brevity is the soul of both wisdom and wit, we'll attempt to make up for some lost time. That seems to be a role that I take on almost every weekend. They stick me with these talks at the end of the day and say, "make up some time."
I want to speak directly to pastors. This talk is "The Pastor's Role on the Via de Cristo Weekend." But those of you who are ... who's the clergy in here today? Let's see you. Pretty much the clergy sitting in the front of the church. That's good . Okay. Well, I want to speak directly to the clergy for a little bit. Those of you who are lay folks, kick your pastors in the butt, and listen closely, because this is the role of the pastor as I understand it. A couple of things:
Pastors in the Via de Cristo movement are pastors before and after the weekend, and they're pastors during the weekend, and I want to divide my talk into those pieces. It's a sort of a how-to-go about doing this. What kind of persona do we project? How do we relate to the people...both on the weekend and during our regular ministries and between weekends?
It's important, even though this is a lay-led movement to thank God for all these active lay people. I will speak to all you lay people to say that we pastors are energized, and we have our faith renewed listening to you pray and watching you sing, and listening to your witness to us about what your spiritual lover, our Jesus, does for us all. Thanks for being who you are. It's a lay-led movement, pastors. However, to an incredible degree, you are the institutional memory. Lay people come in, they go out. But the institutional memory is pretty much ours, and it remains for us to be familiar with the Via de Cristo story, the history of the Cursillo movement, to know something of the history of your own local secretariat might. It might be a good idea for you to be on a first name basis with as many of the old rectors or rectoras as you can get ahold of, and that you take an active part in the ongoing life of your secretariat. If you have a good relationship with your synodical bishop, that would be good. Pastor Brian, you were talking about getting together at district meetings or something. In the North Carolina Synod at our last Assembly, one of our brothers, Pastor Peter Setzer, ran an incredible workshop to which I guess over a hundred people came. We got on the agenda because people were curious. What is this Via de Cristo business? Boom, there we were, at the Synod assembly. Hook up with people in outdoor ministry or whatever. Part of your job is to be the institutional memory and the institutional link. I agree with what Pastor Brian said. I don't want to come under anybody's thumb, either. But we have to deal with people in various levels of hierarchies as well.
It might be a good idea for you to know who the pastors are in your secretariat who are willing to serve, and those who are not. Be real honest about that. There are pastors who will burn out because they get committed to this and make a church of it, and who don't seem to do much of anything else except Cursillos. Let these folks be for awhile. Let them rest. Because the hard work, then, is to locate, recruit and motivate new pastors who just haven't done this as a part of their ongoing spiritual growth. Recognize them. Bring them on board. I just spend three or four hours, I guess a week or so ago, with three pastors in our movement who are going to be Spiritual Directors next October. I spent three or four hours in a kind of mentoring situation with these new pastors who have never done this before. They've been on their weekends- with some of them that was some while ago. They need some support. Pastors, take them under your wings. Be mentors. Because often enough the ones who are hesitant about coming on board and serving on weekends may well be overwhelmed or intimidated by the Method or the organization. Bring them in and calm their fears.
One other way that you may appeal to pastors who have not made a Via de Cristo weekend, who are looking for something to do -- Ike, I'm going to give you a commercial - Okay? In order for pastors to serve on T.E.C. - Teens Encounter Christ - or Kairos , the Cursillo in Prison, they have to go through one of our weekends. So if you've got a pastor out there who is really interested in youth work, lay it on him. Hook him. It's like fishing for human beings, you understand?
You want to do something neat with kids? Good! Go to the Via de Cristo, then go to T.E.C., and you'll be there. Want to do something in prisons? Great! Have we got a deal for you! Go to the Via de Cristo. Then get in touch with Ike, who will put you in jail.
As an institutional memory, be visible at various kinds of events, synodical assemblies, district meetings, and that sort of thing. Let them know out there that you are part of this renewal movement within the church catholic. Talk to those folks. There's no big secret here. Let them know. Wear your colors.
If you would, please, pastors and secretariat lay leaders, hold your pastor's feet to the fire on this: Pastors, be familiar with the Method. This would be very good. I know we are all tempted to do our own thing and get enthralled with the sound of our own voice. We figure we have to preach the entire gospel to the entire world in twenty minutes. Be familiar with what your role is in each talk and meditation. Luther Piel last year had this wonderful presentation on the basics - on the absolute basics. And how we get away with throwing in frills and all kinds of little bows and ribbons and bells that really aren't necessary. Pastors, be familiar with the Method because (thank Luther Piel for this), an emotional experience is not necessarily a spiritual one. Anybody can manipulate a crowd to have an emotional experience. It takes a dedication and a submission and a humility to the working of the Spirit to be a servant of Christ bringing men and women to an expansive experience of Spirit.
Be familiar with the Method, pastors. To that end, cross- fertilize with the Anglicans and the Romans. Go talk to your priest friends in town. See what they do. Use some of their resources. In the meantime, be the chief ecumenical officer of your secretariat. Somebody was talking about a Grand Ultreya looking at 15,000 people out in Phoenix. When I was in Florida we had a couple of those, and there were, I don't know, 400-600 people at Grace church in St. Petersburg. Those were neat events, but it will have to be you pastors who are willing to take the lead and make the initial contacts in the ecumenical community. There's a whole lot more when you're not on a weekend, but brevity, you remember, is the soul of both wisdom and wit.
When you're on a Team, just be available - a ministry of availability and presence. Everybody knows that, and yet there's something that pastors can do that most lay folks cannot, and I don't know whether it's by training or whether it's just because pastors are who they are or whatever. We've been given the gift - most of us - of a highly tuned intuition. You get on a weekend, especially Thursday night - it really would be good for you to turn your intuition up on as high a gain as you can get it - and be sensitive to the pain and the heartbreak and the desperation that people bring to Thursday night. Not everybody is as excited to be there as you are. Who knows? Maybe they just got fired on Thursday morning. Maybe they've discovered their kid is on drugs. Maybe they've had a terrible war with their spouse the night before. You've all run into those folks and, pastors, you're not there to do intensive psychotherapy with these people but nevertheless, befriend them, call them by name, be gentle. There's a time for joviality and we can be jovial. Try to seek out those one or two or three or half a dozen who are there, especially on Thursday night or Friday morning, who don't particularly want to be there.
Now, this may offend some of you. Pastors, when you get on your weekend, and when you get in to your pulpit at home, drop the "stained glass voice". It's offensive, and it sets up a barrier between you and the people that doesn't need to be there. It hides your humanity. You become somebody else. If you got one of the stained glass voices, crack it into a thousand pieces and let it go forever.
When you're on a weekend, make it a habit to train your memory so that you call everybody on the weekend by name at least twice a day. You may have to read their nametags, but go out of your way to walk up to every person on that weekend at least twice a day and call them by name. When you're on the weekend, heal as many as you can. You're going to have the whole spectrum of spiritual depth there. There are people who are spiritual lions. And there are people who are spiritual wolves. There are people who are spiritual lambs. Be sensitive to each one.
I disagree, by the way, that the opening music on Thursday night ought to be secular music. Sorry! These are Christians. They are there because they are Christians. Teach them the new songs. They didn't come there with any kind of misunderstanding about why they are there. It's a Christian weekend! We're going to lift high the cross and we're going to lift up Jesus and He's going to draw you right into His heart. We're going to start right now by singing Christian songs.
Pastors, if you commit to serve on a team, go to all the team meetings. If you can't go to all the Team meetings, don't commit to the weekend. (APPLAUSE)
Pastors, there have been three of us presenting. That's the only statement that has gotten applause from the lay people. Hear it...clearly. If you commit to a weekend, go to the team meetings. I worked a weekend in Indian River, Florida. It was 160 miles one way from my house over to Indian River and every Monday night for eight weeks, I was across the state and back to Team meetings. It was a women's weekend. On our last Team meeting they invited Sally to come along and this group of women she had never met threw her a wedding shower at their last team meeting. The following weekend was our weekend. And the weekend after that Sally and I were married. It was a busy time, but every Monday night for eight weeks - back and forth across the state of Florida. If you commit, go do it!
Critique all the talks. Every one of them. Critique all the talks. If your secretariat permits, be liturgically creative. I love the Lutheran Book of Worship, too. But if you can be liturgically creative, do that!
Keep within time limits. One of the real problems I've always had with the Via de Cristo movement and the Cursillo business is that we do not exercise any kind of decent stewardship of our bodies. We push them from early in the morning 'til late at night and it's not right. Pastors, do some theological reflection here on what it is to take good care of people's bodies and what kind of witness it would make. Work with your rectors, your rectoras, your secretariats. Get everybody in bed by 10 o'clock. If you can't get the Lord's work done between 7 in the morning until 10 o'clock at night, you may as well just stay home. You can get it done, but exercise some good stewardship.
Finally. Pastors, pray in the chapel. When you have to go over there with rollistas who are scared half to death, and who knows that they might do a good job, but they're afraid that they're just going to foul themselves up real bad, learn to pray. Go into the chapel at night and pray. Hold people's hands and pray - out loud. This is the best experience you can have. It's the best gift you can give.
Be enthusiastic without being silly. Be passionate without being manipulative. Above all things you pastors have got to be transparent to the presence of Jesus. If he's going to show up anywhere, he's going to be in the chas and he's going to be in you - the rectors are too busy and the other Spiritual Directors are worried about whether their talks are going to go off. Okay, it's you. You have to be there. You are the Lord's own cha. By the way, I had a friend who was rector a year ago. I said, "Chuck, I want to be on your weekend. I want to be half time kitchen cha and half time music cha. Best experience I ever had!
One last thing. Be under spiritual direction yourselves. What I mean by that is that we call pastors on weekends and pastors in the movement "spiritual directors" when really all that we are is administrative officers who sign up other clergy to come on weekends and then to give talks. That's not spiritual direction. Spiritual Direction out of the Roman tradition is a specific learned skill. It's a discipline under which you place yourself. Over the last eighteen months, I've had the wonderful experience of running into a Jesuit in my home town of Fayetteville who is a Spiritual Director, and it has been the most marvelous experience I've ever had. I meet with this guy pretty regularly. I thought I prayed pretty well. I can pray. I know how to pray. That has been my chosen path for spiritual direction. The man has opened up vistas to me. I just suggest to you, pastors (and hold their feet to the fire, lay people), get yourself under spiritual direction so that you can grow in the Lord Jesus in an intentional way.
God loves you and so do I. Brevity - the soul of wisdom and wit.
ED HANSEN: We now have time for questions and answers. Anyone that has a question, I would ask that you please come to the center microphone and address your question to whomever.
PAUL BOWMAN, LIGHTHOUSE: I want to address my remarks. I'm a new delegate. I haven't been a delegate to the secretariat 'til this. I want, first of all to second what Pastor John has said about the responsibilities of pastors on the weekend. But I also know that Lutheran pastors cannot handle Via de Cristo alone. They're going to have to assist us in recruiting other pastors so that they don't burn out. From memory, I've been able to identify eleven denominations that participate in our weekends and we still have pastor burn-out. And so we want to encourage that the Lutheran pastors recruit some of the other pastors in their communities. They're the first contact through the ministerial associations that you can make. We can't do that. We can follow through with visits. We can get them on weekends, but we really need you to help us to recruit them. We don't want to just lose people by attrition, either. Pastors burn out, but they also move on. We need you when they come to the first ministerial association meeting which I understand you don't attend with all that great regularity, but that when you do that you take the opportunity to recruit the replacement of the pastor who's left. I don't know whether you have a group of pastors that will meet as a group so I'm only suggesting these things as information for input to your meeting if you meet. We recognize that it's a lay movement. We particularly recognize that we wouldn't be in existence today without the help of the pastors. We need their direction and so again I second Pastor John's suggestion that they learn the ministry of discipleship and leadership to help us. It helps us to recruit people, too. Insist that all the pastors be critiqued and you be one of the persons that help critique them so that we don't have denominations on our weekends and we do. In Via de Cristo in New Smyrna Beach, or we wouldn't have enough people in a weekend. Don't disappear on a weekend. Hang tough! Get your pulpits filled and let your assistants handle with the liturgical responsibilities. Try to fill in as much as you can on the entire weekend. Arrange to be an important part of the weekend - the transparent view of all of us to Christ himself and I would just again submit that this is some of the things that if the pastors meet that they discuss and take on as responsibilities to help us from burning out and to help us to succeed in these weekends. I think that that covers more than I probably should have said. Thank you all.
PASTOR BRIAN: I have some good news in that line. I met with a pastor every two months and we have coffee and breakfast. I keep saying "Hey, you got to get involved in this." He was spiritually burning out, and finally, a week ago he said, "I made a commitment that either this fall or next June my wife and I are going to go." I think that's how we do it - one on one - and most pastors in this movement I know are doing that, one-on-one evangelizing for Via de Cristo as well as especially for Christ. So thank you.
DIANNE BOWMAN, LIGHTHOUSE: I made weekend... Sunshine #5 in Miami. At this time, Paul and I had been married at St. John Lutheran Church 22 years ago in Orlando and there was no Cursillo except the Sunshine down in Miami, there was the Roman there were other groups, but the Cursillo was still down in Miami. Paul and I made that weekend and when we came back in 1977, we were so thrilled and immediately wanted to get into a group. The pastor of St. John Lutheran Church had sponsored both Paul and I. We didn't know anything. When we came back, we didn't know anything except what we had experienced over these four days. When we came back, we ended up going into a Roman Catholic group for our reunion. We would go to Ultreyas at the Episcopal church. Since then Paul and I feel that we have truly been blessed because we have worked on just about every number weekend in the central Florida area. I was proud to participate in Broward C correctional #3, and that was an ecumenical weekend. What I'm looking at here at this particular time that y'all are meeting is a growing need of all churches to come together for Jesus Christ - not to proclaim a banner of denomination because when we have our weekends and we have just had our fourth weekend in New Smyrna Beach we have Baptist ministers who have come on the weekend as a candidate. We have Episcopal priests who have served on the team along with Baptist preachers. I was raised a Baptist. I married a Lutheran. I became Episcopal at this time, but Christ is not a denomination, and I think what we in order to grow in our Cursillo movement and when we're looking at Cristo the terminology - you know how terminology gets us all bogged down - but I know that we're all here today under the same banner, and that's of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I just bless you all and know that this is going to be a tremendous, tremendous time for all of us. Thank you.
ED SIMONSEN, RAINBOW: I'd just like to address to the clergy so that they could respond to one of the questions about having clergy the whole weekend. We know, indeed, the kind feeling in congregations as when the pastor is away, he's not dealing with them, so I'd like them to kind of maybe answer how they deal with their church. I've been fortunate to be in congregations where members who have gone on a weekend have addressed that question to the church h council and they've given me. I don't have to come to them for weekends to do whatever I want as long as there is somebody in the pulpit but they have said you can be outside your vacation four weeks -- after that, come to us and we'll decide on it. I think the other thing is secretariats can be helpful to get clergy there if they do a simple thing -- is pay the congregation whatever the substitute pastor would get. That sure makes for good feelings between the congregations and the movement. So pastors, how do you do it?
PASTOR TOM: I'd like to think that we don't ask any pastor to serve more than one time per year. I think that after that it can become a drain on the congregation. It happens, especially when the movement is new that you have to go back and ask somebody or for whatever reason to serve more than once a year but I'd like it for us to have that guideline that we wouldn't ask any pastor to be away from his congregation more than once. I recognize your applause for the remark also that pastors should attend every meeting. My philosophy on that is if there are three pastors on a team, one of them should be at every meeting not necessarily. I wouldn't demand that all three of them would be. That's my philosophy. I recognize that the building of the team is very much a part of the weekend and the dynamics and we should be there as much as we can. Pastors do have other things to do and sometimes the burn-out comes when we're expecting them to do more than they can afford to timewise so I think somewhere-draw the line somewhere in the middle there. Definitely, clergy be there but at least one of the three at all the meetings. Try not to ask them to be on more than one weekend a year.
PASTOR BRIAN: A though came to my mind. In my congregation, while I'm away, since this is a lay led movement. I encourage lay people to preach when I'm gone and provide a sermon if they're not able to but encourage them to do it as well. That's my answer to that so we don't have to pay a pastor to preach while I'm gone, the lay people can.
CORKY SPITLER, ATLANTA: I made Atlanta Lutheran Men's #18, and I'd just like
to respond to that, too, because I was serving a congregation right after I got
out of seminary where they were not supportive of Via de Cristo. Nobody ever
went from that congregation but they allowed me to go and serve on a team and
pay for a supply pastor because I approached it by saying that this is a
ministry to the whole church and we're connected to the whole church I'm asking
if you would allow me to go and do this as your pastor to be a pastor in the
whole church. However, if for some reason that you can't, that's okay with me
and I will take that weekend as a weekend of personal vacation and do it that
way. Once there was the realization, that I was going to sacrifice for that
there was no problem that might be another way that it could be done, too.