Sunday, June 03, 2007

Casting out demons?

I've taken a couple of comments from my post "Fired up" and reproduce them here because I think they deserve wider consideration than they will get tucked away among the comments. They come at the end of a string of criticisms of the Cursillo movement, which, briefly, is a method of rejuvenating tired Christians and firing them with new vigour in believing. It works on the basis of a three-day weekend course, after which participants return to their own churches to continue growing and developing as mature Christians. Most of the criticism comes from clergy - on this blog, and in the church as a whole.

Kenny Macaulay said...

As a member of the clergy who was dragged kicking and screaming to Cursillo, (I was told that I had to go as a condition of my taking up my present post),I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. The problem with so many clergy is that they have already made up their minds about Cursillo, as I had, and approach the whole movement with closed minds at worst, and extreme caution at best. If this movement is so divisive or damaging, it beats me why the College of Bishops and particularly our Primus endorses it, and in fact encourages its growth! Or am I being thick?

Marilyn Shiells said...

Yes...... it's the enthusiasm for Christ that's the important point and not where that enthusiasm comes from. I agree ... that good sponsorship is paramount - but that's why it's necessary to work in partnership - clergy and laity. However that partnership doesn't work when a priest tells his congregation "not to touch Cursillo with a barge pole." This priest had never been to Cursillo so didn't have first hand experience on which to base his argument. A loss for members of that congregation who may have found enthusiasm for Christ through Cursillo. I feel this attitude is more damaging to the church than someone who found Cursillo wasn't for them.

I cannot believe, however, that anyone could come back from Cursillo damaged. Any priest or lay person preaching in a SEC has the potential to damage. We are all open to potential damage from reading the newspapers, watching the TV, surfing the net etc but as, hopefully, responsible adults we can absorb what is presented and make informed choices. Perhaps we shouldn't get out of bed if we want to avoid the risk of being damaged - though, with physio hat on now, that's the worst thing for your back!

I would at this point like to ask critics of the method to look at the people who have found Cursillo to be a useful tool in the church. Ask, as Kenny does, why so many good people endorse it. Ask what the difference is between them and those who criticise. And above all, apply Jesus' own criterion: he that is not against us is for us. And then?

Come and see.


  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Can someone point me to the occasions when the College of Bishops and the Primus have been endorsing Cursillo to anyone who has not been on it. I seem to have missed hearing or reading those endorsements, and I'd like to know more.

  2. The endorsement comes in the first place in the publicity leaflets which are available for churches and interested individuals. I shall try to get hold of some - they are being reprinted at the moment.

  3. Chris, could you just clarify what you mean in your last pargraph? I hope I am misunderstanding it.

    "I would at this point like to ask critics of the method to look at the people who have found Cursillo to be a useful tool in the church. ... Ask what the difference is between them and those who criticise."

  4. It's a question, Kimberly. It's for anyone to anwer as they please. If the answer is "none", my point is made. It might also be made with another answer. Your choice.

    Kelvin: I now have files of the documents to which I refer. Would you like them mailed to you? I might, on the other hand, merely post bits here for all to see.

  5. Anonymous2:28 PM

    On a slightly different note -- and pondering a nagging feeling that a lot of the problems that swirl around cursillo seem to cluster around talk of 'us' and 'them':

    How important is the language of Cursillo?

    Would it be easier for those who had been on Cursillo to share their experience and to use it to nurture the life of the local congregation if they spoke simply of God and the church rather than Ultreas and SAs?

    It would be harder to identify fellow Cursillistas without rainbows and code words. But would that matter?

  6. "How important is the language of Cursillo? "
    It isn't. It's just words - like "cursor" and "hyperlink". Useful to be precise when talking to those who know what you mean; otherwise a distraction.

    "Would it be easier for those who had been on Cursillo to share their experience and to use it to nurture the life of the local congregation if they spoke simply of God and the church?"

    On the whole, they do. No-one mentions the Spanish words other than in a Cursillo context. I'll stop using them altogether, if they offend. Not important. Speaking of God is.

  7. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Oh! What a stushie about nothing! Cursillo is a renewal movement adopted by the Scottish Episcopal Church. It is endorsed by the College of Bishops who even appoint one of their number to be responsible for overseeing Cursillo and all its works. Why villify Cursillistas? (Ooops, sorry, those who have been on a weekend, in plain language) We are dedicated, renewed Christians who get an awful lot in our spiritual lives by attending and passing on the wonderful message of the Gospel to others in an exciting and inspiring way.

    Cursillo has kept this alcoholic sober and sane for a long time.

    We are not a cult. We are not a sect. We are a movement, maybe like the Prayer Book Society, or the Scottish Guild of Servers, but a movement that says to our folk that if you are open to the workings of God and His Holy Spirit, then God might actually use this opportunity to touch your life and rekindle your faith. Now, who would turn their nose up at that, except the insecure or those frightened that they might just be changed or begin to see another outlook on life?

  8. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Here will do, Chris.

    I had no idea that all the bishops had been on Cursillo. I only remember one SEC bishop ever mentioning Cursillo to me, and it did not seem to be an endorsement.

    Cursillo sounds wonderful!

  9. Anonymous10:11 PM

    Well said Kenny!

    Kelvin / Kimberly, if you're going to General Synod next week there will be some Cursillo literature available where coffee is served. I recommend the sermon given by +John Pritchard at the UK Cursillo meeting last September - it's in the British Anglican Cursillo Council magazine (BACC Pages)

  10. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Speaking as one person who has been on Cursillo and served on team, generally I found it to be an uplifting experience, but it certainly brought me to places in my life which I never felt I could face. It brought me to a place of real vulnerabiblity, to brokenness, self destruction but an abandonment to God.
    The only pressure I experienced was that of the Holy Spirit the comforter ..... who takes you ON ... and doesn't leave us on our own or as orphans.
    Many don't want to face that vulnerability alone and Cursillo brought me to that reality. "See, behold I am doing a NEW thing" God has no other means by doing things in a credible way amongst His people than by getting humans to do them. That is where so many people seem to look, to criticise, lay & clergy alike. Remember, point the finger and four more point back at yourself!
    I couldn't have looked at myself in all honesty and truth and moved on without the support of a number of Cursillo paricipants. God does have hands in this world. The power and love of God will NOT be hampered by members of His church - but is fully revealed by being human. Cursillo members are!!
    Is it not true, that this was the way that God first revealed Himself to us - by sending Christ into the world? As someone who was vulnerable? As someone who was open to the will of his Father? As one who resolutely faced His face towards Jerusalem to face death to ensure a fully incarnate presence of God to the world? "But His own knew Him NOT". That's a sad indictment - is it also so for many members of our church - to clergy and laity?
    Despite Cursillo bringing me to places in my life I didn't want to be, I wasn't left to face them alone. Through the work of the spiritual advisers, Lay Rector and Joe Soap, Cursillo presented me again to a life which was free, redeemed (set free) and LOVED!
    Cursillo at worst can only be seen as a catalyst to renewal within the Church and at best a loving
    community which the wider church fails to be! "Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!" That's perfect love of our Saviour Jesus Christ who cast no one away.
    "Have unity amongst you brethren",
    "I am the way the truth and the life, NO ONE can come to the Father except by me" - NOT come to Church, GO to Cursillo, come to Christ.
    Cursillo is but a short course, Christianity and LIFE IN CHRIST is FOREVER. Our resurrection lives have started now - from the moment we first believed. Anyone who comes to Christ by the Church is blessed, anyone who comes to Christ through Cursillo is blessed. He who comes to the reality that they need Christ is Most blessed. Put away such things which cause dissent amongst you and be fully satisfied that it is CHRIST WITHIN YOU which is most important.
    Cursillistas (those who have attended these weekends) are no more 'special' than any other, but have been made ordinary by the work of Christ in order to become special to Him. The invitation is to ALL .. "Come unto me, all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest".
    Don't spend what energy you have worrying and being upset, put it towards some good for Christ, "who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think" How? "According His power within us!!".
    Realise it, grasp it, take hold of His humanity and experience true resurrection power - not in the hands of some grumbly church member or pietistic 'off the wall clergy person.
    Pentecost has come and gone again in our church, to be remebered again next year, but His power to change still remains.
    "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order" may still remain within our Church Order, but often love is in short supply.
    A broken church we may be, as a people or as individual, but anything which the Lord has His hand upon will have that life restored.
    Throughout history, God has worked with remnants, with the 'scrag ends.I'm happy to be such, but am aware of God's love and power to heal through the hands of Cursillo in a church which seemed to forget me and their second commandment to love. Love should remain and not be conditional, the church has forgotten that! Thank God for Cursillo and Praise God for Christ. He who is the most important of all in this marvellous work in gifting it to the Church.
    This has not been an 'action talk' but a holy kick up the rear end as a reminder of whom we serve....
    to quote Marilyn Baker, singer/songwriter, "Do not criticize, don't be unkind, Let the love of Jesus fill your heart and mind. Let Him be seen in all that you do, Let His gentle Spirit flow through you."

  11. Thank you, AHFOC - would make a great Action talk any day! Are you in Scotland? ;-)

  12. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Yes Chris, still within the fold and looking for further leading.
    In the past, during times of revival, such meetings/similar to cursillo were held as home meetings on the west coast. New spiritual zeal and enthusiasm was rekindled in many - waiting on the 'cuirm' falling upon them. 'Cuirm'? A gaelic word meaning a 'sweet drenching in the Spirit of God'. That's simply what Cursillo is! I wish folk wouldn't fight it..... but give into it. God will bring it in a hard or easy way for the individual. Call it what we want and do it in which ever way comes to hand. Be encouraged! How can we be critical about the working of the hand of God. As a denomination maybe we have to learn to bend the knee again. Should we be ashamed of speaking of the mighty love of God?
    MacLean Campbell was thrown out of his parish at Rhu for speaking of the love of God and His universal atonement! Of course, no one is excluded from the love of God, but we can distance ourselves from Him, but He is still staying close and waiting and watching! God never gives up. Better things came for MacLean Campbell and for the church. He had faith, he knew the love. If it had not been for him, the national church would have been far poorer. by his faith in Christ he was spiritually able to kick sand in the faces of those who critisised his methods and message. Your blog was fair - "I would at this point like to ask critics of the method to look at the people who have found Cursillo to be a useful tool in the church. ... Ask what the difference is between them and those who criticise." Maybe there is a case of spiritual blindness, but praise God for our leading Bishops who lead the way so that we are not left as a happy band of stragglers.
    "Knowing Christ and the power of His gospel" was the manifesto cry of St Paul and his relationship with his Lord. It should be the cry of the church as it is for cursillo really. I really do pray that Cursillo, as a catalyst, will allow God to work in our church.Being yet another portal and serving hand that can be physically seen making a difference in our church. Traditional methods have their place but as I said before, behold the NEW thing that I am doing.
    Many are praying for the August cursillo, for the team, for you Christine and all you have gathered round to serve with you. I think of the feeding of the 5 thousand - so many, so little and what a task, but a simple question "Is my little which I have enough?". God will make it so! Keep the good work going and being a witness in faith love service and music. "Blessed are you when others say evil things against you...for you shall be blessed". That is a Be attitude - and a doing one. A happy follower of Christ.

  13. Joining this debate slightly later, I’d like to add my 2 pennorth!
    I think it is important to remember that rather than focusing on trying to provide something new for people who already have some form of rule of life in their lives, there are many of us ordinary folk who until Cursillo had never heard of such a thing.
    My Cursillo was almost 20 years ago and has provided me with a support network which now stretches around the world. I have people who encourage me, who pray for me, who challenge me and who... perish the thought... love me, in ways I would never have dreamt possible. I have learned to trust God in ways I never imagined and to take risks in His name. Risks in loving people I would never have come across in the ordinary scheme of things.
    I have found through my Cursillo experience the courage to be far more open about my faith in all aspects of my life. Cursillo is not for everyone all of the time, but it is definitely for some of us some of the time. Some people put a toe in and never venture any further, some people jump right in and sometimes get things wrong in their enthusiasm, some people remain submerged and some people just float around on the surface… (sorry about the metaphors!). Cursillo always says it should not be divisive and it never tries to be a substitute for ordinary parish life, but sometimes it can show people a different way of doing things, which can refresh in a way that regular Sunday attendance cannot. It can be (to return to the water analogies) the rock in the middle of the stream that churns things up and then allows them to return to smooth flowing water. It should be in the most positive form of the word – subversive – something which interrupts and makes one look again.
    The very fact that it causes so much dialogue has to be a healthy thing, but dialogue should not need to become attack. Cursillo is after all one of the few movements within the church, which encompasses all no matter what their style of worship.
    What Cursillo is trying to do is to refresh tired Christians, not to create new ones. Those refreshed Christians should then be equipped with the tools to go out and be the best witnesses and evangelists they can, by being Christ where they are in the world and by being the person God created them to be.
    The Cursillo statement that “Christ is Counting on You!” should always be tempered with the reminder of ”And I on Him”… after all without Him I can do nothing.
    As for the language, well there is specialised language in most groups ranging from the Brownies to the church, it’s not that unusual and doesn’t really matter. It’s all a part of belonging and group identity. You can call things meetings or services or gatherings and that’s fine, you can call groups - reunions or sixes or patrols or clans or cell groups or families, those are fine too, its just a name.