New Covenant Emmaus starts in 1994
Christians in this part of the country won’t forget the Palm Sunday weekend of 1994 for a long time. That was when a tornado destroyed the Goshen UMC. Until the day we meet Jesus face to face, we will never know exactly what roles the Lord and Satan each played in that traumatic event, but we all watched in wonder as we saw the Holy Spirit work in the aftermath of the tragedy. Something else happened that weekend, however, that would ultimately affect more lives and produce more personal miracles than a hundred such tornados. About fifty Christians, most of whom did not know each other, met in the auditorium at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, and made a commitment to start a new Emmaus community. At the urging of Marv and Karen Barnett, who had recently moved to Tennessee from Huntsville where they had been very active in the North Alabama Emmaus Community, the Nashville Emmaus Community had agreed to hold two of their walks at Martin Methodist College that summer as an outreach to the start of a new community. And from then on it would be up to us.
The meeting had some notable attendees. Rev Cheri Jones, head of Emmaus International, came down from Nashville. The Lay and Spiritual Directors from the Nashville Community and the Lay Director of the North Alabama Community were there, along with the Lay and Spiritual Directors of the upcoming walks at Martin. We sang songs, prayed together, ate together (started that tradition right away!), listened to a general plan that Marv and Karen had put together, and then enjoyed a time of good fellowship and serious discussion of where and how the Holy Spirit was to lead us. There were several sign-up sheets, and most of us signed up for one task or another. And from that point, the Holy Spirit took off at a dead run and it was all we could do to keep up!
Our steering committee became active immediately, and Rev Russ Cain, of St Andrew Memorial UMC in Pulaski, became out first spiritual director and made St. Andrew our monthly gathering place.
In July we participated in Nashville Walks #83 and #84. About half of the team was from Alabama and half from Tennessee, and most of the pilgrims were from our area. A notable exception was a group of eight ladies from Russia who were visiting the U.S. If I read you the names of the pilgrims on those walks, you would recognize most of them. Not counting the Russian ladies, there were a total of 51 pilgrims on those walks. Of those, eight have gone on to be lay directors of an Emmaus Walk or Kairos or Chrysalis, and four have entered the ministry. Not bad!
In November of 1994, we elected our first Board, and Bob Potter served as our first Community Lay Director. In preparation for our own first two walks, everybody got into the act. Bill Wallace and Bill Cook from Rogersville hand-made the beautiful kneelers that we still use every walk. David Whitlow from Savannah made the beautiful large wooden cross that we use to hang the pilgrim’s crosses on. Kerry Lawrence came up with the winning name for the community, “New Covenant”. Carolyn Turner designed the logo that we would all soon wear on T-shirts and sweatshirts. We talked about incorporating the best of traditions of other communities that we were familiar with. Many made banners and other permanent agape, and supplies began to accumulate in our official storage site – Marv and Karen’s attic. And the Holy Spirit chose Jerry and Joann Wiemers to lead Walks #1 and #2 in June of 1995.
And as they say, the rest is history. New Covenant has now completed many walks, using five different locations. And there have been so many special blessings! We have enjoyed several Fifth Day Celebrations together. Bill and Lagene Wright and the Lawrenceburg folks began a tradition of summer picnics. Terry Smith not only instigated a Galatians Fund to help those in need, but also developed an idea for Praise Singings to take the Emmaus spirit into local churches. We will certainly never forget the afternoon that New Covenant packed a visiting room at Huntsville Hospital to sing to our brother, Woody Wood. And in the fall of 2001, the New Covenant community expanded to the east as we began conducting walks at Camp Maranatha as an outreach to the Scottsboro area.
And there’s one more chapter that cannot be forgotten. Several years ago the Holy Spirit energized Donnie and Shelia Gross, Mike and Trish Brewer, Holley Potts, Pete Lawrence, and a few others to expand New Covenant to include a Chrysalis Community for high-school age youth. There is no way to begin to measure the impact that has had, not only in the hearts of those young Christians, but in our schools, in our society, on the future of our world.
We are honored to have been one of the many who have played a role in the history of this community. It has not always been fun. Because we are human, we have at different times done dumb things and argued and complained. But this community is about love, and that always comes out in the end. And as long as we keep loving each other and listening to the Holy Spirit, New Covenant will continue to serve as a means of grace to many pilgrims for many years to come.
Welcome and De Colores!