The Walk to Emmaus is an adaptation of the Roman Catholic Cursillo (pronounced cur-SEE-o) Movement, which originated in Spain in 1949. Cursillo de Cristianidad means “little course in Christianity.” The original Cursillo leaders designed the program to empower persons to transform their living and working environments into Christian environments. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Episcopalians and Lutherans, along with several nondenominational groups, such as Tres Dias, began to offer Cursillo. In 1978, The Upper Room of the General Board of Discipleship adapted the program for a primarily Protestant audience and began to offer it under the name The Upper Room Cursillo. In 1981, The Upper Room made further adaptations and changed the name of the program to The Upper Room Walk to Emmaus. In 1984, The Upper Room developed a youth expression of Emmaus called Chrysalis.   

   —from What Is Emmaus? Copyright The Upper Room.


History of Pennyrile Emmaus and Chrysalis 

 The seeds for the Pennyrile Emmaus Community were planted on a hot afternoon in August, 1993, when District Superintendent, Rev. Jim Byrd called together John Freer, member of First United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville, Rev. Coleman Howlett, pastor St, John’s United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville, and Rev. Emil McAdams, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville and asked them to work to form an Emmaus community in the Hopkinsville District. Rev. Byrd had just returned from a meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, with the International Walk to Emmaus Director, Rev. Cherie Jones. Rev. Byrd had been inspired by her to start an Emmaus Community in the Hopkinsville District. Rev. Howlett and John Freer felt impelled by the Spirit to pick up the baton and began to meet regularly and make plans to hold Gatherings in the area.

The first monthly Gathering was held on a cold, wintry evening, January 15, 1994, with thirteen hardy souls gathered at St, John’s United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville, Ky. The Fourth Day speaker was Edna Vaughn of the Upper Room, Nashville, Tennessee. Those present were; Cherie Colley, John and Anita Freer, Rev. Coleman Howlett, Rev. Tammy Smith, Lita Stewart, Dorothy Southall, Duard and Nancy Thurman and Harry, Edna and Jennie Vaughn. Monthly Gatherings continued to be held following this initial meeting.

On August 20, 1994, John and Anita Freer hosted a BBQ at their home to discuss with interested others the starting of a Steering Committee under the auspices of the Upper Room. The group was made up of local Hopkinsville persons who had previously been on CursillosEmmaus Walks, or at the Great Banquet. A Steering Committee was formed and included the following members: Ed and Judy Budias, Buford and Dorothy Dossett, John and Anita Freer, Rev. Dan Griffiths, Gene Hendren, Merrie Simonton, Dorothy Southall, and Al and Betty Warner.The first task of the Steering Committee was to request permission from the  Upper Room to start an EmmausCommunity in the Hopkinsville District. Permission was granted. Monthly Gatherings continued and preparation began for the first Walks to be held. The Community named itself “The Pennyrile Emmaus Community” in order to reflect its area wide constituency. The officers of the original Steering Committee were: Lay Director-John Freer, Spiritual Director-Rev. Dan Griffiths, Secretary/Treasurer-Judy Budias, Agape Chairperson-Dorothy Dossett, and Registrar-Gene Hendren.

In November, 1994, Ed Budias began to publish our community newsletter, “Journeys.” Also in November Reunion groups began. Among the first area Reunion groups were the “Holy Heifers” and “The Early Birds.” Monthly Gatherings continued to be held at various area churches. In January, 1995, Team Training began for Pennyrile Men’s and Women’s Walk #1. Team Training was held at First United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville. It was during Team Training in March 1995, that our large “Miracle Cross” appeared. It was already prepared for hanging of Pilgrims crosses. To this day we do not know where it came from except that it was a gift from the Lord.

Pennyrile Emmaus Men’s Walk #1 was held April 20-23, 1995. The Lay Director for the Walk was John Freer. The Assistant Lay Directors were Ed Budias and Terry Dozer. The Spiritual Director for the Walk was Rev. Bill Bowling. The Walk was held at the Retreat Center, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Princeton, Kentucky.

Pennyrile Emmaus Women’s Walk #1 was held May 4-7, 1995. The Lay Director for the Walk was Anita Freer. The Assistant Lay Directors were Judy Budias and Dorothy Dossett. The Spiritual Director was Rev. Dan Griffiths. The Women’s Walk was also held at the Retreat Center in Princeton.

In September, 1995, the Steering Committee signed a Letter of Agreement with the Upper Room Emmaus Office, Nashville, Tennessee. A set of Walks was held in the Fall, 1995, and sets of Walks in the Spring and Fall have been held each year since.

In January, 1996, the Steering Committee evolved into the working Board of The  Pennyrile Emmaus Community. John Freer was elected as the first Community Lay Director and Rev. Dan Griffiths was elected as the first community Spiritual Director. Other members of the first board were: Ed and Judy Budias, Buford and Dorothy Dossett, Anita Freer, Gene Hendren, Rev. Ken Hughes, Rev. Terry and Carolyn Kisler, Kenny and Betty Rogers, Dorothy Southall, Rev. Don Troutman and Al and Betty Warner.

In January, 1997, the formation of a Chrysalis Steering Committee was approved following several months of consideration concerning the need for Chrysalis in the Pennyrile area. Kenny Rogers was designated as the Chrysalis Steering Committee Board liaison. By June, 1998, all members of the Chrysalis Steering Committee were in place and included: Kris Kelly-Chrysalis Community Lay Director, Sylvia Baker-Noren-Chrysalis Community Spiritual Director. Other Members of the Chrysalis Steering Committee were: Mark Butts, Donna Cottrell, Haley Fishburn, Melissa Hatfield, Jeremy Lee, Richard Mohler, Rev. Steven Neel, Kenny Rogers, Leila West, Lyn Willey, Jessica Cannon, Rev. Tom Eblen, Anita Freer, Kristen Jones, Kevin Lynch, Willie Morgan, Robin Pool, Linda Stiles and Ray Wheeler.

The first Chrysalis Flights were held December 28-30, 1998. The girls met at  St. John United Methodist Churchand the boys at First United Methodist Church with combined meetings being held at St. John. The Lay Director for the girls was Kris Kelly and Kenny Rogers served as the boys Lay Director. The Spiritual Director for the Girls was Rev. Sylvia Baker-Noren and Rev. Larry Busch was the boys Spiritual Director. Upon completion of the first Flights a Chrysalis Board was formed and plans begun to select teams for the next Flights scheduled for May, 1999.