Emmaus Gatherings Draw More Than 225 Participants

Participants at the Emmaus Gathering held at the Diocesan Ministry Center in Tonawanda. photo:  Twila Smith

Last week, more than 225 people from across the region participated in the Emmaus Gatherings, a series of five meetings designed to invite participation in the development of the partnership’s mission strategy.

“This was amazing,” said Cheryl Wild of Epiphany, Grove City, and Memorial Church of Our Father, Foxburg. “I felt connected with people because we were actually working toward some goals — mutual goals — that we could maybe implement in our own churches and the dioceses in general.  And it’s actual work, not just pie in the sky or airy fairy stuff — it’s solid ideas and solid ways we can implement these things.”

Participants in the gatherings received their charge from Bishop Sean and began their work by reflecting on the Road to Emmaus passage from Luke on which he preached at diocesan convention in October. Table group facilitators led discussions designed to generate innovative ideas about mission opportunities across the region. Participants used colored adhesive dots to show support for their favorite suggestions.

“All of us who gathered embodied Advent hope for the future of our partnership and our longing to contribute to God’s mission in our region,” said the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, canon for strategic change on the bishop’s staff, who led the group that designed the meeting and served as facilitator. “Together, we listened for God’s vision for us and for our region.”

The Rev. Jon Lavelle of St John’s Grace, Buffalo, at an Emmaus Gathering. photo: Danielle Bane

To the Rev. Luke Fodor, rector of St. Luke’s, Jamestown, which hosted the first gathering, the meetings were an early indication that the partnership’s potential can be realized.

“One of the strongest points to justify the partnership of our two dioceses was the opportunity to refresh our mindsets and conversations by finding new conversation partners with the intent of better coordinating and expanding our missional outreach,” he said. “As I met new colleagues in ministry through serious and joyful conversation, I can say that Jesus was present with us and more importantly, that he is the Word that is guiding our conversation and future action.”

This month, the standing committees and councils of both dioceses will authorize a mission strategy planning committee to receive the ideas generated at the Emmaus Gatherings, said Bishop Sean. The committee, which will report regularly to the people of the partnership, will be charged with developing a plan for increasing the partnership’s capacity for mission across the region.

“We are seeking to turn our highest aspirations and deepest convictions about ministry into gospel objectives and goals,” Bishop Sean said. “Our agenda is to transform our communities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”