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Walk to Emmaus celebrates 25 years

1/15/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The Walk to Emmaus, an international movement for spiritual renewal and leadership development for service through the church, celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer.

The July 24-27 anniversary observance will offer the Emmaus participants, called "pilgrims," an opportunity to gather for spiritual renewal, church leadership training, learning about God's work through the program and exchanging faith stories.

"We look forward to a festive fellowship of people from around the world who have participated in the Emmaus movement," said the Rev. Stephen Bryant, editor and publisher of Upper Room Ministries, which launched the program in 1978. "Worship, music and dynamic presentations will resound as we celebrate the many colors of God's grace as they shine through the Walk to Emmaus."

The program, which gets its name from Luke 24:13-35, develops leaders for the church, encourages them to live as Christian disciples and enhances the partnership between clergy and laity. The Upper Room, a ministry unit of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, sponsors it. Although connected to the United Methodist Church, the program is ecumenical.

The Walk to Emmaus has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 Christians in 27 countries, Bryant said. It "has become a contagious spiritual renewal movement" in which participants return to their churches "bearing witness to the risen Christ with burning faith, expanded spiritual awareness and a deeper commitment to serve Christ through missions," he said.

More than 80 workshops support the theme, "Making a World of Difference," and will help participants discover how grace is real in their lives. The workshops focus on leadership, diversity and spiritual growth and renewal.

The silver anniversary event will be at the Nashville (Tenn.) Convention Center.

Guest speakers will include the Rev. Tony Campolo, commentator and author; Larnelle Harris, a recording artist and winner of five Grammys and 11 Dove Awards; Michael Hingson, who escaped the attack on the World Trade Center with the help of his guide dog; the Rev. Isron Tlholwe and the Rev. Christopher Harrison, key leaders in the development of Emmaus in Southern Africa; and the Rev. Eradio Valverde Jr., who helped establish the Emmaus Walks in Spanish-speaking areas, including Puerto Rico and the United Methodist Church's Rio Grande Annual Conference.

Others will include Mickey Griffin, director of programming for Kairos Horizon Communities Corp., who developed a program for the children of inmates that resulted in family reunifications and restorations; the Rev. Robert Pierson, whose Tulsa, Okla., church has experienced "extraordinary growth" attributed to strong lay involvement; and Bishop Graciello Alverez, member of the team who brought Emmaus into Mexico and Cuba, and who continues to serve as an Emmaus spiritual director and local church pastor.

Special workshop tracks designed for personal retreat will also be available for those seeking a time to enhance their prayer life, to practice spiritual discernment, to become more aware of God's grace and to exercise the disciplines of piety, study and Christian action.

The four-day celebration will offer opportunities for praise and worship, music and singing, and fellowship with Emmaus pilgrims from around the world. Pilgrims are encouraged to bring their community banners and stands for a parade that opens the silver anniversary festivities.

For registration information, go to Early bird discounts, group rates and youth rates are available. For hotel accommodations, call (800) 657-6910 or visit the Web site. Registration is also available for a Vacation Bible school-like program for children 12 and younger.

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