Diary of Emmaus by h5t8I9

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									Diary of Emmaus

Well it all started at 7:30 a.m., when I realized I needed to be in the Frankfurt airport,
which is exactly 400 miles away, by 2:30 p.m. Fortunately everything was laid out, if not
packed, and so I threw it all in a suitcase and gym bag, grabbed the stuff from the office
and threw it all in the car. Of course I was low on transmission fluid and had no petrol,
but by 8:00 I was in a British Petroleum station (the only one’s selling automatic
transmission fluid). I got a tank of gas, a liter of transmission fluid, and a diet coke. And
then I drove like mad. In Austria that means roughly 80 miles an hour, and what with
construction zones and a traffic jam I crossed the Danube river into Germany at 11:30. It
was also time for a pit stop, so I pulled in to top up the tank and buy lunch: in this case a
bag of BBQ potato chips, a chocolate bar, another diet coke, and a cup of espresso. Then
off! In Germany you can do 90 mph most of the time. Or I could. There is no speed limit
in the left lane, so folks with good cars do 110. Despite construction zones I felt good
enough that at 2:00 I decided to take another break and get gas, as well as a soft pretzel
and iced tea. Of course I had no idea where the airport in Frankfurt was, but almost
always there are signs on the highway. In this case about 20 miles out (not long after I
stopped) a plane came over me on its way to land, and from that point onward finding the
airport was just a matter of following the airplanes. In the end I was parked and in the
terminal 10 minutes after my fellow team members arrival time, and they were delayed
15 minutes. So I had time to find a bank machine and get cash and realize that the arrival
halls at Frankfurt are as crummy as I remember the departure lounges. (All built in the
late 1960’s, when no one thought how much air traffic there would be.)

I picked up Muriel, Pete, and Sue. Muriel I had met two years ago. She, and the others,
are quintessentially English, of different sorts. Muriel is rather tall and in good shape,
with graying hair cut straight and short – practical and not particularly unattractive or
attractive. Could be a nun. Doesn’t talk much and doesn’t naturally smile, but absolutely
sweet when spoken to. Ruddy faced, and it turns out she’d spent the last month hiking
and camping in Alaska and Alberta with her son. Husband died a year ago exactly and
she’s glad to be with friends. Sue had coke bottle bottom glasses and buck teeth, with hair
a shade of brown than only a man would create to hide the gray. She is from Plymouth,
and this was her first ride in an airplane ever. Indeed going to London to catch it was by
itself her biggest expedition in years. She was absolutely bubbling despite having gotten
up at 3 a.m. to catch the train to London. Peter is a bachelor and retired physicist with
tweed jacket and horn-rimmed glasses to match – could be any Nobel prize winner from
the 1960’s. He had with him detailed maps of the region (in case he had to hire a car) and
naturally became navigator. He was as talkative as Muriel was silent and gave a minute
by minute rundown of where we were and what to expect in the next kilometer while
briefing me on the Walk to Emmaus in England interspersed with quotations from “New
Scientist”, a weekly version of Scientific American. Soon enough we were off the
highway and driving through the beautiful Tauber valley, past orchards and farms, till we
got to the center.

More on that later, its time for breakfast.
The St. Michaels Training Center is a Catholic owned institution, but most of its work is
pretty secular. The “old” building is a substantial 200 year old structure made from the
maroon sandstone so characteristic of this part of Germany. The interior has been
completely redone and is incredibly modern and well done. My room, to my delight, is
actually a suite. A big “office” area with a nice desk in one corner, sofa and chair with
coffee table in another, and a bar and cabinets on one wall. A small bedroom with a
single bed is attached, and attached to that a good-sized toilette and shower. All tastefully
done in natural light woods and shades of a dark bluey green. Somebody must expect me
to do some work to deserve this.

It took only a moment to find our rooms and leave our things, then join those who had
already arrived for coffee before dinner. A good group. Another couple from England
who were on the last walk (John and Sheila), are also active in Cursillo. Last Brit is Sue
2, who was zapped by the Holy Spirit a couple of years ago on a walk and caught fire like
dry straw on a hot august day. Took a bit of work to keep her under control. Last is Alan,
Brit whose worked with the Swiss so long he’s forgotten his own language. Quiet and
clearly skilled at making sure that no one gets left out of a conversation. Then Americans.
Bob – a high energy American who wants to be both self-effacing and run everything.
Lorrie, American woman married to German pastor who is also pretty high energy. And
Klaus, a German software engineer who with Bob and Lorrie makes up the music team. I
like Klaus, because he’s not a great musician but is absolutely confident that he’s got
something to contribute in the background. And because he is newly married and still
very excited about it. The Germans are Ute, and pleasant neat middle aged woman with a
small voice that seems always on the verge of becoming emotional. Ute (2), an enormous
woman past retirement who was a professional physicist and professor in East Germany,
now giving her time and her half-dozen chins to the work of the Lord. Gerda, “I’m just
another German girl.” Who is pushing 60 with her gray hair up in red poodle pins,
spandex pants and a candy stripped blouse cut like a mans shirt, white socks and tennis
shoes. It works better than it sounds. Hans Peter, who makes working models of
industrial building equipment. Paul, retired from the manufacture of swiss chocolate, hard
of hearing with poor English, but an excellent angel and sweet man. Rudiger, who is
another engineer prone to wearing ill-matched suits for informal occasions and very
lovely and heartfelt in his talks and table leadership. Birgit, a young woman of enormous
enthusiasm who dresses all in black all the time with earrings the size of light fixtures and
just as flashy. She brings a wealth of sympathy because there is no problem anyone else
has that she hasn’t created for herself in the last 5 years. (1 husband, 2 live-in boy friends,
the last of which abandoned her with his two children from a previous marriage. She
teaches in a school for the mentally handicapped.) The Willie, who is a short, dapper
older man with slicked back gray hair, a trim moustache. He speaks English correctly and
slowly, and saves his opinions until they are needed. What he says is worth hearing, but
he doesn’t push it. And last Will, (who arrived late) a tall good-looking American loner
who lives in Dresden and does many things. He seems to want to get to know you, but his
own identity seems really slippery and after you’ve talked to him an hour you feel like
you’re still not sure you know anything. Charming eyes that take in a lot more than they
reveal. Looks like a spook to me but says he is a personal financial consultant. In
Dresden? Elizabeth, the lay director, is a medical doctor who retired 30 years ago to raise
children and now finds it impossible to get back into it, so she uses her skills for ministry
in a hospice and with families of cancer patients. Soft-spoken, fluent in German, and
always gets her way in the end. One of the team got a bit assertive that it was always the
custom in their Emmaus movement to sing a certain song before each talk and “don’t you
think we should perhaps. . .” Elizabeth turned it into a 5 minute discussion on different
customs in England, Germany, and the U.S. and finally said, “so, I believe that’s that and
we’re off to lunch” and only half an hour later did we realize that the whole song thing
had been pushed gently off the table into a rubbish bin.

Now I’m off to the next team meeting. . . .

Meeting over. We heard three talks in all. All had really good points, and none really
problematic. Main thing is getting people to speak slowly (since we have non-English
speakers). I gave my talk and got some constructive suggestions, but generally all very
positive. Well, it’s a good talk, what can I say. Went through the schedule. I’m getting
nervous about carrying the spiritual director load by myself until Friday Night. Now
we’re all supposed to relax, but I think I’ll be at work on the worship services for the next
couple of days. . .

Oh yes, got a chance to take a longer walk. Behind the house is a little farm! Imagine that
the house is at the bottom of a little shallow valley, so that the back looks up this very
nice gentle hill. Directly behind the house is a flower garden. Then behind this is a very
large herb garden, now a bit late season of course. It is surrounded by an apple and pear
orchard, the fruit from which we have with every meal. Then behind it on the left are
woods, and on the right what is now a neatly plowed field, but which was three kinds of
grain – all of which are used in the house cooking. A perfect little farm like a story book!
And just lovely when the sun is out and clouds cast moving shadows across it. Too bad
from here on out there won’t be much time for the outdoors!

Off to dinner.

After dinner we had another team meeting. Practiced singing De Colores and Los
Mananas. Bob is making his fellow musicians nervous he’s so into making sure every
detail is worked out and practiced. High need for attention. Spent an hour with Elizabeth
and John going over worship. Closing will be tricky, because we have a time squeeze and
different German traditions. I THINK I know what is going to happen – as long as I don’t
look at the manual. And of course Sonya (not yet here) is a wild card. Oh yes, found out
I’ll do communion in German for those who come Saturday night. Should be fun, but I
need to read over the service. Heard that Hetti, who was a pilgrim two years ago, cannot
come as a table leader. Really very sad. A lovely older Dutch woman (never guess her
age) with a real love for the Indonesians in Holland, and many many stresses over dealing
with people of a different culture. But her arthritis makes it too difficult to travel and
work for a week.

Made me think what an odd community we are. People from all over Europe, with very
different backgrounds and experiences. Drawn together by one common thing, and that
not all that very common. Really Emmaus in the end is just another name for a
commitment that others share in an experience of Christ.

Then the nametag crisis. I made tags with the word “table leader” for table leaders. This
is supposed to be a surprise. So I’m making new table leader tags with the help of Klaus
and his cool color printer, my laptop, and other high tech stuff. His enthusiasm for
perfection is matched only by my desire to go to bed. But we’ll get there. . .Tomorrow I
hope.

In the meantime I’ll just finish up a glass of wine and head for dreamland. Big day
tomorrow!

Well it has begun. The day started rather slowly. I got up and exercised, showered, and
mostly worked on polishing my talks and finishing the nametags. Breakfast was leisurely.
Team meeting to cover the schedule, and exceptions. The cracks in our solidarity are
becoming obvious, but not fatal. Sheila clearly has definite ideas about how to do things,
and is more interested in pointing out problems than suggesting solutions. The kind of
woman who is convinced that no one else has seen so clearly as she what is going on. But
a good heart and Elizabeth can cope. Bob is way over the top with his need to know and
control all aspects of music – and this bumps up against Lorrie’s ego – in part because
Bob isn’t much of a musician and she is a real pro. This one has been given me to deal
with, so I’m playing an active role in keeping them working together, mostly in the guise
of being in charge of worship anyway. And Elizabeth knows Bob already.

After the team meeting had our first communion – which was lovely in the very nice
chapel. And saw the cross that was made for the weekend by Birgit. It is made of silvered
barb-wire with ivy wound around it, and sitting in a plane crystal vase. It is really very
stunning and thought provoking. Then lunch, and for me a bit of free time. I checked my
car, got umbrellas (it was raining) for those meeting people at the station or car park, and
then took a nice long walk to and through town. What a beautiful little town! Most of the
newer buildings (less than 300 years old) are made of the kind of dark rose sandstone. Its
not that attractive a color, but the effective is nice. Others are plastered. The old center
(about 800 to 1000 years) has buildings made of huge oak beams supporting plastered
baked earth walls. A pedestrian mall runs right through town. I didn’t take time to shop,
but there were plenty of cafes, clothing stores, boutiques, etc. I did stop into a local
grocery to buy supplies for Sunday night. Those of us staying over will have a little party
so I got two bottles of wine (a Bordeaux and a Cabernet from the Rothschild winery), and
some snacks. Already the food here is getting to me. BORING! Should have bought a
bottle of chili sauce.

Then it was 4:30, and time to await the pilgrims! By 5 or so they began to arrive. A very
interesting mix: Felix from Ghana, short, stout, loud. Kofi his friend who is thin and quiet
and doesn’t have much English, but leads the music at the Ghana church. Clarence, their
pastor, with gray hair and dignity to spare. Then Anje and Vera, German women from
our English congregation in Hamburg. Young professionals who are committed and love
a challenge. Vivian and Keng Tang – a Singaporean couple from the same church who
are quiet, polite, and ready to be serious. Chris and Pam are Americans living in the
Netherlands. Very pleasant. She was obviously moved by the movie “In Remembrance”.
Naseem is a Dutch woman of Indonesian descent who loves hair dressing and children.
Barbara, my church member, is a questioner of all things but seems ready to give herself
to the experience, and needs it. Needs the time to find answers to real questions about her
future. Raymond, husband of a team member, is an engineer gone to marketing and who
seems as quiet as his wife is outgoing. Equally quiet is Marcia, an American rapidly
getting stuck in Switzerland. Two folks are still missing. The mysterious Cosmos, a
Nigerian from Greece, and Clarence’s wife who had to come late because of a work
problem. Africans don’t get cut much slack by employers. Just looking at them I’d guess
that some team members are coming with more serious life issues than they are.

So we had the introductions, and then the movie, and the closing prayers and they are off
to bed! Team meeting was okay, and now we’re off to bed. The meeting room looks
great, everything is in order, and sure enough there was agape on my pillow when I came
to the room. Monika and her angels are clearly at work. I volunteered to do coffee, so
alarm is set for 5:30. Good night!

Well, its now the end of the first full day. Quite a day, as they always are. The opening
communion went very well, and the musicians seem to be getting the measure of one
another and learning to work together. Amazing how well the table groups are working
together, and all the talks have been lovely. Peter’s was, to me, particularly good – and
complimented by his obviously strong feelings about work with prisoners. Great news
was that Sonya, my fellow spiritual director, arrived at noon. Looked a bit frazzled from
24 hours on a plane for the group photo, but was much more together by the time she
gave her talk on Justifying Grace. After she finished we were supposed to sit down and
get things coordinated for Saturday, but it turns out the evening would be dominated by
crisis intervention. Isaac, an African from Stuttgart, discovered that the guy taking his
place at work wasn’t going to do it. Since this was an informal arrangement he’ll lose his
job if he doesn’t show up. So he and I spent some quality time together making sure we
had explored all options, and while others prayed I, and Klaus, burned up the phone lines
to Stuttgart looking for help. No joy. Watched some really fun presentations of group
projects, then went back to work on Isaac’s problems. Finally at 11:00, after the team
meeting, he and I talked again. Two options. 1. is I call the guy in charge at the hospital
and explain that he cannot make it, and it isn’t his fault. 2. he goes to work, but cannot
return to the retreat. We both felt terrible, and prayed about it. In the end he felt he had to
go back. The boss would fire him even if I called. Anyway tomorrow at 6 I’ll call his
friend who was supposed to take his place and lean on him hard. If that doesn’t work we
drive him to the train station at 6:30.

It has been interesting working with Germans, and good practice to move between
German and English quickly. The “angel language” is German, and so we tend to move
to it when they have a serious issue. Which isn’t bad for me, since I have to conduct the
Saturday evening worship in German for the visitors. It’s a funny feeling, you know, to
have that beginning feeling of being at home in a different language. Not only to speak,
but for others to accept you by speaking to you in their own language. Maybe that is a
good way to look at Pentecost. Not only that the disciples spoke in a foreign tongue, but
that they were accepted.

Lots of other things have been on my mind today. It’s a pilgrimage always even for the
team. . . .But the wake up comes in 5 hours. Time for bed.. .

Saturday highlights:

Wake up. 5:30 once more to make coffee and exercise. Most of my attention was focused
on dying moments. Where I had an insight that helped me make sense of it. I reminded
the men of experiences where “I wish I was dead”, either because of having hurt someone
badly, or being wounded deeply, or just being terribly embarrassed. These, I explained,
are “dying moments”, and that Jesus died exactly for these, so that we would never need
to wish we were dead. Seemed to work well for at least some. . . the music by Klaus and
Bob was truly awful. Neither can sing and the guitar was out of tune. But that worked
too, because in a group of men we could all identify. Their lack of talent only showed
their sincerity more. Anyway it was a rather moving experience for some, and a real
breakthrough for one who sought me out to pray for a long time afterwards.

The afternoon talks seemed to fly by. I prayed for Bob’s talk, and had a very moving time
of prayer myself as he gave his talk. Seemed to go all over the place as I really just
poured some things out before God. Right after I went to the main sanctuary to meet the
visitors for candlelight. This was a big challenge, as I would do the service for Holy
Communion for them entirely in German. And really it was great. Not that I spoke so
flawlessly (plenty of mistakes) but that it created such a good tie between our two
communities. And it was so moving to have these strangers come and pray for our
pilgrims and us.

Then of course the pilgrims came in, and we spent the next 45 minutes in prayer. Lorrie,
the one musician who can sing, did different songs interspersed with silence. I’m not sure
what it means to say “it worked”, but clearly people felt ministered to, and many prayed
at the altar, or with each other. One woman was deeply moved and went out with Sonya.
Finally I gathered everyone in a circle and we sang Jesus, Jesus. Then something great
happened. We were holding hands, and I asked Elizabeth the lay director to lead us to the
agape feast. So she led us out in a long line holding hands. She didn’t really say “this is
what we’d do”, we just did it. Anyway the halls were beautifully decorated and everyone
just laughed and had a great time walking in a great long line holding hands.

At the feast we had a chance to share more, of course, and Muriel asked if I would talk to
her the next day. (see later) Finally the pilgrims went to bed and Sonya and I went to plan
the morning worship services. I don’t know if I’ve said much about Sonya. She is about
15 years older than I, and is now a D.S. in Wyoming. She was here in Germany for 10
years, and I’ve known her since we came. The best thing to say is that she and I work
really well together. On Saturday we did the means of grace talk together as a dialogue. It
was virtually unrehearsed and went down great. We don’t agree on some things, and her
style of spirituality (very catholic) isn’t mine, but it works. Anyway after working on
songs for an hour I finally hit the sack at 12:30, after making sure the team was finished
with the cleanup. And of course up at 5:30 to make coffee. La Mananas was a hoot, of
course, and Sunday morning was just super. Probably the most moving part for me was
talking to Muriel. She came to me and said that she felt she needed to say thank you to
God for the way in which her husband passed away the year before. They had been
married 30 years. As she told me about herself she said that she had been painfully shy in
the university, and that he was shy as well. For a long time he followed her around. Then
finally he began talking to her as she walked along, or at lunch or dinner. He would ask
questions and she would answer only “yes” or “no”. Finally after he’d know her 6 weeks
he asked her to marry him. She told me that in all that time the only words she spoken to
him were “yes” and “no” and she just answered “yes” without thinking about it. So there
they were. He was an Anglican priest. She teaches special ed. Anyway we went and sat in
the chapel and for about half an hour she just told me about how he had died of cancer,
how they had grown close as he was dying, how he had made peace with their 4 sons,
with his own death, and with his church. She really had it all worked out by herself. That
we all have to die, and the God had granted him the kind of death a Christian man wants
to have. But she didn’t know how to say thank you. So I basically said, “Muriel, repeat
after me.” And then I just said, “thank you Lord for . . . .” and repeated what she had told
me earlier. She repeated after me. I closed by thanking God that he was writing on a new
page in the story of her life. She said amen. And she thanked me, although Lord knows
what for. We talked a little more, and then went back to work. I just felt tremendously
privileged to be able to hear her story and her faith.

That’s kind of the way it’s been all weekend. People thanking me when it is I who have
received something from them.

At closing worship the Africans danced and everyone had a great time. Sonya did almost
all the service since I had done all the earlier ones. Great time. Then we had lunch and
said our goodbyes.

Time for bed for me as well. A long drive tomorrow.

(Or not so long

								
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