History of United Emmaus Community
Johnson City, Tennessee
The roots of the United Emmaus Community in Johnson City, Tennessee go back to the late 1970's and early 80's to three couples. Jerry Everley, a Methodist minister and pastor of Broad Street Methodist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee and his wife Carolyn, attended an Emmaus walk at the Mountaintop Emmaus Community in Hinton, North Carolina in 1978 (Jerry and Carolyn are now members of the United Emmaus Community). They in turn sponsored another Methodist minister, Ernest Cushman who was Associate Pastor at Munsey Memorial in Johnson City and his wife Julia, to the Walks at Hinton, North Carolina in the Fall of 1981 and Spring of 1982.
After their Walk, the Cushmans had a strong desire to see an Emmaus Community established in Johnson City. They began by sponsoring Lonnie and Grace Sharpe on the first Men's and Women's Walk held at the Cleveland Emmaus Community in Cleveland, Tennessee in the fall 1982 and the spring of 1983. From these three couples many others were sent on Walks to Cleveland, Tn. and several to Hinton, NC until the mailing list in 1986 included seventy-one who had been on Walks. The group called themselves the Johnson City Emmaus Community.
On December l, 1984 the group petitioned the Upper Room to officially recognize the Community. Lonnie Sharpe was listed as the Community Lay Director and Reverend Tom Seay as the Community Spiritual Director. Recognition was denied at that time because they needed a membership of at least sixty members. They again petitioned in June of 1986 and recognition was granted. It was at this time that the Community agreed to change its name from the Johnson City Emmaus Community to the United Emmaus Community. This was done because the community membership included many members in key roles from Kingsport and Bristol as well as Johnson City. It was truly a "united community" of the Tri-Cities.
Also, that summer Gathering dates were established as the fourth Friday of each month with a potluck supper. The first Gatherings were held in private homes. As the Community grew they began holding Gatherings at various churches.
On Friday, October 4, 1985 a dinner was held at Olen and Diane Haynes' home with eleven of the Johnson City Emmaus Community present to begin discussing having their own Walks in Johnson City. Other matters addressed at this dinner meeting included establishing reunion groups, formally organizing the Community, establishing contact with other Communities and establishing a financial base for the Walks. Also, birthed from this meeting was the first Newsletter dated October 5, 1985. It was called The Fourth Day News . The first Newsletter Chairman was Janie Dosser.
In December 1985 a Steering Committee was formed to begin to prepare for Walks in Johnson City. Members serving on this committee included:
Dick and Mary Stuart Edwards
As plans progressed, Sandra Shumaker was elected to serve as Treasurer for the Community during this organizational period. Monies for the Walks came from several sources. A gift of one thousand dollars was given by the Cleveland Emmaus Community. The Community members were each encouraged to give five dollars per month. They also just "passed the hat" at each of the monthly Gatherings for additional offerings.
The first Board was established in 1986. Officers and members included:
Earnest Cushman, Spiritual Director
Lonnie Sharpe, Chairman
Sandra Shumaker, Vice Chairman
Jack Morris, Treasurer
Mary Morris, Registrar
Diane Haynes, Secretary ;
Janie Dosser, Newsletter
Parker Sutherland, Housing
Bud Copp, Community Relations
Nancy Seay, rep. from Fairhaven Meth.
Dick and Mary Stuart Edwards
Alice Ensminger, rep. from Wesley Meth.
They also had organizational help from other Communities. On January 11, 1986, Alan and Jean Rudisill and Ellen Wages came from the Pulaski, Virginia Emmaus Community to spend the weekend helping them learn how to organize a Walk. In March 1987 members from the Cleveland Emmaus Community came and helped them with their overnight run through of the Walk and later that year, served as members on the first teams.
During 1985 and 1986 there was a real push to find eligible candidates to go on Walks. Members continued to sponsor candidates to help increase their numbers so as to have two full teams to serve on the first Walks. These pilgrims went on Walks in Cleveland, Tennessee. In the Fall of 1986 nineteen men and fourteen women went on Walks in Cleveland.
On Friday, March 13, 1987 an overnight rehearsal for the first walk was held at Munsey Memorial Methodist. Talks were rehearsed and each phase of the Walk was discussed.
The weekend of April 2-5, 1987 finally brought fruition of all their hard work and planning. The first Men's Walk was held in Johnson City. Send-Off was held at Wesley Memorial Methodist, the Walk itself was held at Munsey Memorial Methodist, Candlelight was held at Fairhaven Methodist and Closing was held at Wesley. The men slept in the Sunday School rooms, a room upstairs was used for the Conference Room and showers were taken at the swimming pool. Another interesting feature about this first walk is that sixteen inches of snow fell that weekend. Dick Edwards served as the Lay Director and Ernest Cushman and David Ensminger served as the Spiritual Directors.
The first Women's Walk was held a few weeks later on April 30-May 3,1987. It too was held at Munsey. Instead of snow the ladies battled hot weather with no air conditioning. On Saturday evening there was a "black out" of all electricity because of a car wreck. The Talk Summeries had to be finished in the parking lot where, thankfully, there was still enought light to see. The first Lay Director was Julia Cushman. Tom Seay, Dick Looney and Chuck Stark were the Spiritual Directors.
Two more Walks were held that fall at Munsey. The Men's Walk was held September 10-13, 1987 with Lonnie Sharpe serving as Lay Director and Tom Seay and James Walter serving as Spiritual Directors. The Women's Walk was held October 8-11, 1987 with Janie Dosser serving as Lay Director and David Ensminger and Ken Perkins serving as Spiritual Directors.
The Walks for 1988 were moved to Unicoi, Tennessee to the Appalachian Christian Camp. Candlelights were held at Limestone Cove Methodist church. All Walks have continued to be held at the Camp. In the Spring of 1992 Candlelights began being held at Unicoi United Methodist church.
The United Emmaus Community continued to grow and as a result has spawned three other Communities. In 1990 Kingsport began its own community called the Sonrise Emmaus Community. It began as a steering committee authorized by the United Emmaus Board to provide leadership for an additional set of Walks that Winter. This Committee began fulfilling the steps necessary to become an independent Community working in partnership with the United Emmaus Community.
In October of 1990 Emmaus International asked the United Emmaus Board to help form a new Community in the Knoxville area. In the Spring of 1991 the United Emmaus Board put together a team to have Walks in the Knoxville area. In April the first Men's Walk was held with the Women's a month later. From these Walks a Community in Knoxville called the Great Smoky Mountain Emmaus Community was begun.
In October of 1991 The United Emmaus Board began preparations to have Walks in the Abingdon/Southwest Virginia area. In July and August of 1992 Walks were held and from this the Highlands Emmaus Community was begun.
On January 1, 1991 United Emmaus began the tradition of the New Years Day Gathering.
This was an extra Gathering to begin the New Year with Christian fellowship and praises to the Lord for a new year. It was held at Jonesborough United Methodist church. The Community continued this tradition until around 2010.