Story of Emmaus

The Emmaus Movement in the United Methodist Church has its beginning in the Roman Catholic Cursillo. which In Spanish means, “little course", something that is done in a few days rather than in weeks or months. The term Cursillo connotes the idea of intensity, of doing a great deal in very little time.

The leaders of the Catholic Action group called the courses Cursillos, in part because this term is not essentially a religious one, and in Spain, there was a strong laity. Therefore, these courses were designed not to be overly "pious."

Cursillo could not be contained and it continued to flourish. The movement grew to a shared clerical and lay directed movement, which essentially it is today.

In 1956, Cursillo was brought to the United States by two Spanish Air Cadets. The format of the three days and the talks were translated into English in the late 1950's and early '60's. The United Methodist Church began its expression of Cursillo in about 1977 and called it "The Upper Room Cursillo."

By 1984, The Upper Room Emmaus Movement has established communities in forty-four "free-world" communities and in nine correctional institutions. On several occasions, Emmaus communities have cooperated with Kairos, a prison Cursillo-type ministry. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 persons had attended a Walk to Emmaus weekend by 1984.

In the fall of 1984, the Walk to Emmaus was taken to Australia and shared with leaders of the Uniting Church and thus became an international movement.

The Upper Room philosophically is committed to ecumenical efforts. Therefore, although Emmaus is under the jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, it is supported and attended by persons of all denominations.


The GOAL of Emmaus is to make Christian communities possible in neighborhoods, churches, work situations, and all other places where people live the greater part of their lives. It attempts to make it possible for anyone to live a Christian life in a natural way. It attempts to put a renewed meaning and add a boldness to the most important proclamation that anyone ever will make -- " I am a Christian!