Walk of Emmaus (contemporary hymns)
I was looking for comfort from God, or Jesus, or the church group assembled for the annual Walk of Emmaus. Our retreat location was about two hours out of town. A tennis camp repurposed as a retreat center. There were courts everywhere throughout the western-styled cabins and gathering buildings. My wife had just asked for divorce.
Whatever I was hoping for, joining this pilgrimage, was unclear. Was I looking for new potential partners? Did I want sympathy? Maybe a repair to my broken heart and the depression heading my way like a black tsunami as I lost most of my time with my two kids. Maybe Jesus could fix my wife’s angry heart. Give her that lovin’ feeling, again.
Upon arrival at the came we were given a piece of paper with our cabin number and a request that we not speak with anyone until dinner time when we would gather together for the opening. I found my bunk, dropped my bags, and walked in silence around the beautiful grounds. I sat in reverent contemplation near the dining hall and watched the slow creek sparkle in the sunset.
And then the contemporary hymns started up and I wanted to run far away. Something about the generic lyrics and tunes, created so “everyone can sing along.” My friend, who had invited me was the band leader. I smiled at him as he acknowledged me. I never told him my secret. I didn’t sing along, however. I also did not bolt.
The three-day weekend began on Friday and ended on Sunday. As we broke into discussion groups I was instantly singled out as a heathen. I was from a Methodist church, not Presbyterian. “Hi, my name is John, and I’m from the reconciling congregation of Trinity Methodist in Austin.”
And that was it. I was signaling more than just my misplaced tribal affiliation. I was also claiming loudly, so everyone at my table could hear, “Gay people are okay in my worldview.” No one said a word. The contemporary drum beat started up again, a signal that our discussion time was done.
On Saturday I tried to break the ice with my table by presenting them with a CD of my new music. The verse-quoting young woman said, “It’s got nothing to do with Jesus.”
“Yes,” I said. “I don’t think I need to shout out my Christian beliefs. The spirituality is in the songs. It’s not about Jesus, it’s more about God.”
I never heard anything from the eight other people at the table. The rest of the retreat I grumbled but kept my opinions to myself. I think my table was happier for it.
Read more Short-Short Stories from John.