Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I hope this letter finds you well, filled with faith and anxious to serve the Lord. To say these are trying times is both obvious and an understatement. It is particularly trying to determine the course of our Community when we are precluded from gathering in numbers greater than ten (10). While electronics and technology enable us to share with one another to a degree, it cannot substitute for the intimacy of sharing dinner and participating in a worship service at a gathering. The greatest obstacle to joining together to eat and worship is the restrictions imposed by national, state, and local authorities in response to the spread of Covid-19. Recent spikes in new cases and hospitalizations warrant caution and preventative measures, and are accompanied by new restrictions in our comings and goings.
As you know, I have on two previous occasions petitioned the Board of Directors to postpone the Men’s Walk. Prior to doing so, I assembled an ad hoc committee to discuss the impacts of postponement on the pilgrims, sponsors, and teams. On each occasion, the committees recommended exercising extreme caution and postponement. Recent changes in the guidelines from state and local authorities have presented us with the need to evaluate the impact on conducting the walk in August as scheduled.
With these thoughts in mind, I assembled a new committee to evaluate how we might modify the conduct of a walk, embracing gathering protocols of social distancing, wearing of masks, etc. A number of good suggestions were identified and addressed in depth. And while these ideas would provide us with the opportunity to have a walk, they inhibited the experience that is a walk. Therein lies the greatest question, how do we host the event and simultaneously provide for the experience while complying with the restrictions and guidelines of protecting the pilgrims and the teams from the spread of Covid-19.
To that end, I have petitioned the Board to consider postponing both the Men’s and Women’s Walks scheduled for this year into next year, 2021. In a meeting conducted this past Thursday, June 25th, the Board took up the question. A number of issues were discussed, including but not limited to the impact of yet another delay, problems with planning for the pilgrims as well as team members, and health concerns/cancellations of participants. I also shared with the Board members the communication I have received from the Upper Room and Lay Directors of other Communities.
The Upper Room Spiritual Director and I discussed the experience of a Walk versus the event. He agreed with me that anything that detracts from the experience of being on top of the mountain with the Holy Spirit is not a good thing. The Walk is not about hosting an event but rather providing the opportunity to experience growth in our relationship with our Lord and Savior. He recommended that we evaluate our ability to provide for such an experience, using wisdom and sound judgment while complying with all national, state, and local directives. Communication from other Community Lay Directors was that we are all concerned with whether or not we should hold Walks amidst the confusion and concerns associated with the spread of Covid-19. My take was that most if not all of the other Lay Directors are waiting to follow suit once one of us takes the step to cancel Walks for this year. Most had already postponed their walks at least once this year.
I also shared with the Board discussions that have been held with the management of the Eagle’s Wings Retreat Center. This has been a unique year for them as well. Only one group (8 people) has used the retreat center this year and the rest of the year has groups all considering further postponements and/or cancellations of their respective events. Because they understand that this is a year like no other, they will not impose any cancellation fees or deposit forfeitures on any organization that elects to opt out of a scheduled event(s).
With all this and more before the Board, we have passed a motion to cancel this year’s walks and to postpone them into next year. The Board also agreed to number the Men’s Walk as 2020 and the Women’s Walk as 2021. We will continue to number future Walks in sequence going forward. Walk Lay Directors Matt Schuessler and Paula Mays-Hall will remain in place.
This decision does not mean that our year is over as a Community. There is much we can do for the good of the organization. The Board remains dedicated to the needs of the Community. Feel free to reach out to any of us for information or to share your concerns. The goals of the Emmaus movement remain constant, to share the love of Jesus and to develop leaders for our churches and community. Our service to God remains our greatest commandment. While we may not be able to gather together as a Community, we can continue to meet in our 4th Day Groups. I strongly encourage you to do so. These small groups remain the backbone of the Emmaus Community movement. If you are comfortable gathering together, please do so. If you would rather spend time together via Facetime, Zoom or other electronic means, do that as well. The worst thing to do is to do nothing because that is just the platform the enemy looks for to spread his evil ways. Trust in our God. He has control of all that is happening. Remain vigilant in his service, reach out to those who need help, a kind word, or a favor. His greatest commandments call on us to Love Him and to Love One Another. He is with us, ALWAYS!
May the peace and love of our Lord be with you all during the days to come. As ever, I remain your humble servant.
Community Lay Director
Heartland of Texas Emmaus Community