History of the Memphis Walks
By Harold Goodwin, Community Spiritual Director
The Memphis Emmaus Community is the result of a dream brought to Memphis from Nashville in 1982 by Maxie and Jerry Dunnam.
In the Spring of 1982, Maxie Dunnam came to Memphis and took the position of Sr. Pastor and spiritual leader at Christ United Methodist Church. He and Jerry had dreams for that congregation that included the spiritual renewal tool called, "The Walk to Emmaus".
At about the same time, Harold and Dot Goodwin were hungering for a spiritual renewal in their lives and in the life of the congregation they were serving. The Goodwins learned of the Walk to Emmaus when they were in Kansas City, MO in May of 1982.
Upon returning to Memphis, they were instructed by the Upper Room in Nashville to contact Maxie and Jerry Dunnam, who were in the process of sending pilgrims to Nashville, Birmingham, and Myrtle Beach, SC. After spending two hours in Maxie's office discussing the dreams and visions of Emmaus for Memphis, Maxie exclaimed to Harold and Dot, "It's providential that you came at this time seeking the renewal experience called Emmaus, for it is by design an ecumenical tool to bring about spiritual renewal to individuals - and through them the spiritual renewal of their congregations, their communities, and the world".
The remaining months of 1982 were spent sending men and women to existing Emmaus Communities.
A steering committee was appointed in the fall of 1982. This Committee, co chaired by Jackson Moore and Paula Bourland, was assigned the task of (1) finding an appropriate retreat center, and (2) deciding on annual dates for walks, as well as numerous logistical concerns.
By the spring of 1983, we were ready for Memphis Emmaus Walk #1. It was held at The Country Place retreat center in Moscow, TN.
Memphis Emmaus Walk #1 included clergy from the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the Roman Catholic Church. From the very beginning wisdom and spiritual discernment were key elements in the formation of this ecumenical community.
Key clergy leaders in the early years were Maxie Dunnam, Mark Metheny, Harold Goodwin, Berkley Poole, and Cecil Kirk. Key lay leaders were Jerry Dunnam, Dot Goodwin, Tom and Dee Dyer, Jackson and Betty Moore, Don and Paula Bourland, Hank and Ruth Ann Shelton, Boyd and Trudy Rhodes, Janet and Mike Sheehan, and Kem and Norma Wilson. Through the years we have had outstanding persons to serve as chairman of the Emmaus Board and Community Lay Directors.
Some 5000 or more lives have been changed for the better as a result of the Memphis Emmaus Community. Nearly twenty different denominational groups have been brought together to celebrate God's amazing grace (Catholic, Church of Christ, Cumberland Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical, Missionary Baptist, Non Denominational, Presbyterian U.S.A., Southern Baptist, United Methodist). Over seventy different clergy persons have provided spiritual leadership for weekend Emmaus walks (male, female, Caucasian, African American). Over 134 different congregations have participated in the weekend Emmaus walks since walk number one in 1983!
We continue to strive to maintain the purpose of the Walk to Emmaus, "for development of strong Christian leaders".