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Reunion/Small Group Forum

JACK PACKER

My name is Jack Packer. My wife and I worship at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Dearborn, Michigan. I attended Men's weekend #11 at Lutheran Cursillo of Central Michigan. I sat at the table of Peter.

C. Scott Peck, a Christian psychiatrist who has authored several books that I have read recently has come to an interesting conclusion. Perhaps you have read one or more of his books as well. Three of his books that come to mind are:

The Road Less Travelled

The People of the Lie

The Different Drum.

Another Christian author that has come to the same conclusion in a couple of his recent offerings is Tony Campolo.

Their common conclusion is this: If Christians are going to maintain their faith and their sanity in this pagan and sinful society, they are going to have to form themselves into small sharing fellowships that meet on a regular basis, that share their common faith, and through loving fellowship support and encourage one another to persevere.

Now the fathers of Cursillo, Eduardo Bonnin and Juan Hervas, came to that conclusion almost fifty years ago over in Spain. It was this conclusion that inspired them to design the Roman Catholic Cursillo out of which our Lutheran Via de Cristo evolved.

Their initial thoughts did not include the weekend itself. They actually started out with the group reunion. They realized that if Christians were going to survive, if they were going to maintain their faith in this secular world, if they were going to grow in their faith, they would need to be in close fellowship with other believers. So they started out by trying to form people into reunion groups, by trying to impress upon them the importance of these groups.

They did not meet with complete success, but they did experience enough to give them the confidence that this was the way to go. What they needed now was some experience that demonstrated to the people the need and the importance of this reunion group. An experience that would give them a taste of a reunion group an experience that the people would come home from with a real desire to be part of such a fellowship, an experience that would bring them into personal contact with His Holy Spirit in a way more powerful than they perhaps had ever experienced before.

Tackling it from this angle, they came up with the idea of the three day weekend. They worked out the talks and the procedures that we now know as the Via de Cristo experience.

I think one of our problems today is a tendency to put more stress upon the weekend, when actually the important part is the reunion. Everything that is done in terms of the Via de Cristo methodology and purpose, has as its end objectives getting people involved in the group reunion.

Juan Hervas and Eduardo Bonnin have both been quoted as saying: "We don't have reunion groups in order to get people to make a weekend. Rather, we hold weekends to get people into reunion groups.

Conversion is a continual and ongoing process. The group reunion assures the continuance of the conversion process, and it promotes the living out of what is fundamental for being Christian. Over the course of the three day weekend, a restlessness, a hunger is developed in the pilgrim that can only be satisfied by the reunion of friends.

Basically, the aim or objective of the reunion is to realize the vision that is presented in the three days. Hopefully, it will open up to each person the possibility of continuing this encounter with self, with Christ, and with their Christian brothers and sisters.

The immediate and main objective of the leaders of the movement should be to help the new Cristoistas find a group of friends to whom they can commit themselves to form a Christian community. Through this new community, they may be led to assume their apostolic obligations. Something that needs to be promoted, demonstrated, acted out in the reunion, is the message of one of my favorite banners -- bloom where you are planted.

Often times many of us have grandiose dreams of what we would like to do for Christ. If we were only someplace more agreeable, more compatible with our hopes and dreams. We must all come to the realization that God has placed right where we are, and that is where He wants us to work.

The reunion can do this. The group can decide upon a project that involves the entire group. They can then tackle something that no one individual might do on his own. Through the group, they all might learn to bloom right where they are. The goal of the group reunion is growth in four areas:

Growth in friendship and fellowship

Growth in study of the Bible

Growth in apostolic action

and growth in commitment.

Our human nature requires that we have and experience friends. The hermit is not really experiencing true life. God built us in His image, and He made us for fellowship - fellowship with Him as well as our neighbors. The group reunion gives backbone to this friendship and fellowship. I have heard a Cristoistas say that he had no close friends until after he had made a weekend and joined a reunion group.

Growth in Bible study. How many have the stick-to-it-iveness to continue in Bible study completely and entirely on their own? I am sure some do, but I am equally confident that many do not. Meeting weekly with your reunion group, and explaining what study you have done this past week gives you the necessary incentive to continue, and of course, sharing some of the insights that you picked up from this week's study helps assure that you will better remember what you did study.

You are more apt to study each week when you have the knowledge that you must share with your reunion group, by also confessing that you didn't study this past week, if in fact you let the week get by without. It is through study that we draw closer to our Lord, and this drawing closer makes for growth in our commitment.

Following is a statement by Dwight L. Moody on Bible study: "I prayed for faith, and thought that some day Faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ' Now Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.' I had closed my Bible and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since."

Another way we draw closer and grow in our commitment is by our daily devotions. Again, without the reunion group, and the sharing that takes place, I wonder how many remain faithful in the practice of daily devotions.

And lastly, we grow in our apostolic action, through our involvement in the reunion group. Sharing week after week with our reunion friends. What we are, or aren't doing in apostolic action, inspires us upward and onward in apostolic action.

And of course the real gem is when the group selects a group. Apostolic action project that they can work on together. This will bring some of the weaker ones into action that might not tackle anything on their own. In this reunion we are really sharing our Christian life with our brothers and sisters. By this sharing, we encourage and uplift our fellow reunion mates, and they, in turn, encourage and uplift us.

The sharing that takes place comes from the fact that they have the ability to share the desire to share, and they have something to share. Sharing does not involve simply telling good things to each other, or sharing stories, but it is making others a part of one's life, and participating in the other's life. The basic thing that is shared is being an authentic Christian community.

Reunion groups do not exist to primarily satisfy the individuals need for a social dimension in their lives. When reunion groups forget this and begin to function primarily as a social gathering, they are not only not carrying out the purpose of Via de Cristo, they are also in danger of ceasing to exist as a reunion group.

Basically, a group reunion is a group of persons who are friends and Christians who come together in a reunion to become better friends and better Christians.

How does a new Cristoista find a reunion group? Actually there are a variety of ways. Perhaps one of the simplest and most logical: the sponsor invites the new Cristoistas to join his/her reunion group.

In Good News! we have several groups that have split two or three times. Sponsors have invited their candidates to join their group, and the group grows too large, and they split into two groups, and so on.

We encourage our sponsor to do this, and if it is not convenient to do this, we encourage the sponsor to be responsible for finding a group for their candidate. We have had some instances where the sponsor grouped with the new Cristoistas, even if it meant a second group for the sponsor until a reunion group was found.

Another way the new Cristoistas can find a reunion group: Sometimes at the table on the weekend, there may be persons from the same community or general area, and they could form a reunion group right amongst their table mates.

Another thing we are doing at Good News! is we are setting up a computer data-base on our reunion groups, listing when they meet, where they meet, the names of those in the group, and a contact person for the group. Through this we can make referrals when called upon by someone looking for a reunion group.

If the Via de Cristo weekends produce groups which are authentic Christian communities and they persevere afterwards, then the movement will achieve its purpose to build up the church, and bring Christ into every environment.

Our emphasis, then must be to offer the Cristoistas the method of living in friendship that is shared in a Christian way so that as a consequence of their being Christian together, their apostolic life overflows into their life situations.

Now Bette will share with you some ideas and practices that may lead to failure for your reunion group.


BETTE PACKER

My name is Bette Packer. My husband and I worship at St. Paul Lutheran of Dearborn, Michigan. I attended Lutheran Cursillo of Central Michigan Women's weekend #16 in 1986. I sat at the table of Lydia.

For my part in this short presentation, I have chosen to speak on some of the ways that may cause a reunion group to fail.

1) Lack of commitment is one of the principal reasons for a reunion group to fail. Members must be committed to each other and committed to regular attendance. The Lord will bless that group that places a high priority on regular weekly attendance. For Christian Community to fully develop, each person must be putting into the grouping his/her best. Haphazard and only occasional attendance will let others know you don't place a very high priority on this event and it will discourage others...and may lead to failure of the group.

2) Remember... what you hear at the grouping, what is shared there by your reunion mates, is confidential and not to be repeated outside of the group. Spreading abroad what was shared with you in confidence at the reunion is a sure way to break up a group. Just because they shared it with you and the reunion group does not mean they want to share it with the entire congregation or the community. What is shared in the group is to be considered for the group ears alone.

3) Some people seem to have more than their share of problems. Problems at home. Problems with the spouse or family. Problems at the work place, or the school. Problems at church. Now as reunion mates, and close friends, we should listen to their trials and tribulations. But not being therapists or counselors, But...and this is very important. This should not be the first item of business at the reunion. The first item of business for the reunion is to pray the Holy Spirit prayer, and this to be followed by going through the "Piety, Study, Action, Closest Moment."

Then, after that, the sharing of problems may take place. I have heard from several different Cristoistas, a statement that went something like this: Well, again we really didn't group tonight,, all we did was listen to so and so's problems, and by the time that was over with, it was to late, to go through our grouping.

My friends, if you are not going through the Grouping procedure, How can you call yourself a reunion group? If you let one person take over your group by regularly doing most of the talking and unloading problems, you will find others in the group, gradually dropping out.

However, we all know there will always be exceptions to these statements. For example, if there is a very special problem or need a brother or sister has and truly feels he/she wants the support and opinions of his group, by all means take the time to hear them out and help where possible. However, I still feel that this should come after the grouping procedure.

4) For a reunion group to succeed, there must be a right attitude in its members. I have heard some say, "I'm not grouping too regularly now. I have not been getting too much out of it." Now that statement itself reveals what the problem is. We are to be servants. We are to go to serve our reunion mates. To see what we can give them. Not so much to see what we can get from them. If we go with the right attitude, the Lord will see that we are blessed. If we are going only to see what we can get. How can we expect the Lord to bless us?

5) Try to put some meat in your sharing. The only way I can explain this is to give some examples. For instance, when we share our piety, and tell about our church attendance, share with the others some special point that you got out of the service, or the sermon. When you share about your devotions, share something that you read, something that has stuck with you. Share with them also some special intercessory prayer thoughts that concerned you during the past week. The same with your study, don't just name the book that you read, but be more specific and share something that you got out of what you read during the past week.

In your apostolic action, explain what you did, and what the result was. And then explain what you have in mind for apostolic action this coming week. From time to time, try to have an apostolic action that the entire reunion group can participate in. This will help build community within the group. Also, talk about or plan a social event for the group. Last, share your closest moment to Christ with the group.

Now, if you do all of these, it will be necessary to think on these things during the week. You won't be able to walk into the reunion group, and be groping in your mind for what you will share on these various items. Think ahead. Plan ahead, and the group reunion will take on more meaning for you, and also for your reunion mates.

6) Another way to help send your group to failure, is to not be punctual. I frequently hear, they never really get started on time, anyway. So why should I hurry? Everyone should try to be on time, so the grouping could start on time. Being constantly late is being disrespectful towards the other members of the group. If you respect your reunion mates, you will put forth the effort to be punctual.

One of the goals of the reunion group is to build a real and close friendship between its members. And there can be no closer friendship than one based on the common faith in Our Lord. Christ tells us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be there with us.

So Christ does come to us in and through these group reunions. The reunions are something we do for HIS sake, and He takes them seriously. Because He is present at them, they should be done prayerfully with dedication to HIM.

Remember on the weekend, your rector asked for your idealism, your dedication, and your spirit of charity. Well, your reunion group also needs your idealism, your dedication and spirit of charity.

God loves you and so do I!

Now we will distribute some survey worksheets.

Please answer the questions first, and then if there is time, share with those around you. It is not necessary for you to sign the survey sheets, unless you wish to do so.

Please turn the survey sheets in to us when through. We hope to have a report on the survey in a future issue of the National Newsletter.

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