Mark has asked me talk a little bit about Cursillo, and I am pretty sure some of you will be saying ’what on earth is that’. Well the starting point is ‘Cursillo is a movement within the church which provides a method by which we can learn to know, love and follow Jesus better through the use of prayer and study which we hope will lead to action.’
Cursillo started in Spain, hence the Spanish name, following the end of the Spanish Civil War where it was recognised that there was an urgent need to encourage faith in young people and help to change their damaged society. It started with Pilgrimages to St James in Compostella, with short courses (Cursillos) devised to improve the knowledge of faith and to encourage an understanding that our faith needs to be lived out in our daily lives, day by day, and where we are.
From small beginnings the ideas spread and is now active in most of Europe, the Americas, Australia, as well as in parts of Asia and Africa, and versions of this can be found in the Methodist, Roman Catholic and in Free Churches as well as in Anglican churches. In the UK Anglican Cursillo is active in most of our Dioceses. It is a lay led movement, ie someone like me, working closely with a Spiritual Director and can only operate in a Diocese with the consent and support of it’s Bishop. In fact both our Lay leader and Spiritual director are commissioned to carry out their roles by the Bishop.
Cursillo for most starts with a ‘three day weekend’ – a course of study, prayer, fun, worship and fellowship – it is for most an intense, highly charged ‘mountain top’ experience, giving the opportunity to stop, listen and learn about oneselff and perhaps begin to discover individual personal gifts and understand how they can be used for the benefit of others, and how we can be witnesses to Christ in the world outside our church – those places where we spend most of our time – where we work, rest and play if you like.
I attended a Cursillo weekend in 2007 and had the full ‘mountain top’ experience. It was wonderful, beyond words – I felt loved, valued, and knew that I wanted to try to follow Jesus more closely, to put into practice what I was learning. Cursillo itself did not change me, but what it did was wake me up, and open me up to be able to change. On that weekend I came to begin to understand just how much I am loved by God, and also that I do have God-given gifts that need to be used.
A mountain top experience is all very well, but we have to come down to earth, and we have to put into practice in our everyday lives what we have learnt, and do that wherever we find ourselves.
Jesus told his disciples that following him would not be an easy path and Cursillo recognises that trying to put into practice what we have learnt can be hard, so we are encouraged to meet regularly in small groups, known as Group Reunions, to support one another, and to stop and consider what we have been doing – looking at prayer, study and action, and looking at successes and failures. These groups are not discussion groups, or home groups and they are not prayer groups (although a lot of prayer is involved) but are for support and nurturing, and also to encourage a degree of accountability, and to keep us following our chosen path. From time to time there are larger gatherings where Cursillistas from across the diocese come together to encourage one another and share fellowship, and once a year there is a National gathering, with Cursillistas from around the country coming together share fellowship and worship together.
When I completed my Cursillo weekend I was encouraged to consider using A Rule of Life card – its very similar to what Bishop Martin is suggesting in this Year of Vocation. It is for my benefit – its not something I share except with God, but it is a tool I use to help me. It sets out for me what I am aiming to achieve. However to be of use to you it does need to be looked at and reviewed – we all change. I do remember to review mine from time to time and make changes as no-one stands still, and I have kept the old ones – so looking back I can see what has changed, what I have failed to achieve and where I have been more successful. None of the things on my card are earth shattering – all small steps – but steps all the same.
And one last thing that Cursillo has done for me – it has taught ne the value of Prayer. As a lot of you will know I am much more of a ‘Martha’ than a ‘Mary’ – I am a doer, I do rush about, I like to be busy, and I don’t like to have idle minutes. However Cursillo has taught me that finding the Mary in me is my greatest challenge. If I am never still, never listening, how will I ever hear what is wanted of me. I have learnt the value of setting time aside specifically for prayer. Cursillo has taught me to offer everything in prayer, in the quiet, in the stillness and to take time to do this. I often wonder, and with real regret, just how often I have missed a call to do something because I was just too busy to listen. So now I try to listen, and I do sometimes know really clearly that I am spoken to, and now having heard, I do say Yes and try to follow where I am led. In recent years that has led me way outside my comfort zone, having said yes to things I did not think were for me, that I did not have the skills for, and often things which I did not particularly want to do, but I do try to trust and keep going, I try to do what is asked of me, and I realise now that I have always been given the means to carry out what has been asked of me.
Cursillo is not an exclusive club, it is open to all, and our Group reunions are open to anyone who would like to attend. For me Cursillo is a tool to help me try to follow Jesus more closely in all I do, wherever I am. Here in Pagham you may not be aware that there are 15/16 of us involved in Cursillo. I have put our names on the noticeboard and I am sure any one of us would be willing to talk to you if you would like to know more.