Gathering brings together Christians with common goal



It’s not often that an interdenominational group of Christians come together as one group working toward the same goal. Rather than coming together to search for a common ground, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Catholics came together as part of the same ministry.

The third annual Coming Together was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Summerville. There, members of the Cursillo community gathered to share with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Though Cursillo started in the Catholic Church, other denominations and organizations, who have picked up the movement, met in the Lowcountry last week: Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Catholic Cursillo; Via de Cristo (Lutheran); Walk to Emmaus (Methodist); and KAIROS, a prison ministry based on Cursillo.

“God entrusted his Word to us,” said Father Floyd Finch, pastor of St. James Episcopal Church on James Island. “We are called to work to bring our brothers and sisters to Christ, because he is the way, the truth and the life.” Father Finch and his wife are 23-year Cursillistas.

Amid some light ribbing, participants proudly identified with their religion, while acknowledging their common goal as Cursillistas.

“Our goal is not to have Cursillistas everywhere; it is to have living, acting Christians everywhere,” said Ed Rosenlieb, a parishioner of Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Sullivan’s Island and a Cursillista since 1994.

Three years ago the groups decided to meet. They thought that sharing among themselves — their successes and setbacks — would strengthen the movement. While each group tailors Cursillo for their own religion, the purpose is the same.

Father Finch referred to Chapter 17 in John’s Gospel, and, in part, verse 22: “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

“I can’t imagine a more powerful message,” said the pastor.

Catholic Cursillo has two monthly Ultreya meetings in the Charleston area. Cursillistas meet in small weekly groups, which come together for the larger monthly meetings. One participant and Cathedral parishioner said, “It’s really bringing people together.” People are leaving their own cozy communities and joining with their neighbors.

Jack McGovern, a Blessed Sacrament parishioner who helped organize the meeting, gave a talk entitled “The Purpose of the Marine Corps is not to run Boot Camp.” Its meaning is that Cursillo is more than a weekend or even the regular meetings; Cursillistas are called to reach out to those in their environments, whether at work, home or play.

Cursillo is a ministry for leaders.

“The ideal candidate,” McGovern said, “is measured by their effectiveness as leaven in their environment.” In that a candidate is willing to outwardly lead and live a Christian life, sharing with others the joy of Christ.

According to McGovern there are three types of candidates.

First are “ideal leaders.” He described them as humble. “They know that everything they can do or have is a gift from God,” said the Cursillista. They have a strong personality, a good sense of self-control, and are decisive.

“Leaders naturally attract others,” McGovern said.

Second, the “average Christian” is a good candidate. “Those that want to lead a Christian life, but aren’t sure how to do it,” he said.

Lastly, he continued, “There are people who should not go to Cursillo … now.”

He told participants to keep those struggling with their faith in their environments. “Help them get to a place where they will be ready; work to prepare them to be ready.”

Candidates are required to have a sponsor who prepares them for the weekend and helps them live out their Fourth Day. This includes the regular meetings as well as taking the Christian spirit to one’s community.

“Part of being a good candidate is having a good sponsor,” said McGovern. “This is God’s movement not ours. As stewards we have to handle it properly, do our part, and give it back a little better.”

For some the joy is not only in the giving to the community, but also in the strength that builds in one’s personal life.

Gabe and Joan Timpano went to Cursillo after being married 40 years. That was 13 years ago. “You can’t imagine that you’ll get any closer,” said Joan Timpano, who couldn’t describe the awe she felt. She and her husband, parishioners of Precious Blood of Christ on Pawley’s Island, found that they grew closer after 40 years of marriage.

The group at St. Paul’s Episcopal was as diverse as retired folks to a student at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“God told us that no matter what he asks us to do, he’ll provide the tools,” McGovern said. “We don’t have to save the world; we just save one at a time.”