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Matthew Caminer

An excellent appraisal Chris, and one that puts the previous discussion thread into perspective.

I have one proviso: that in celbrating the power and effectiveness of the weekend, we always remind ourselves that the Cursillo weekend is only a means to an end, and is never an end in itself.

I know this is not always a popular line to take, but it is not for nothing that there's that phrase "Fourth Day first".


An interesting assessment -- and I can see why many people find the combination of withdrawal, prayerfulness, discussion and care very powerful.

I can even see why allowing (forcing?) people to take on a child-like role can provoke some people into a place of healing (and others into rage).

But isn't it interesting that one of the things that we are trying to move away from in the church is any vision of clergy that is 'paternalistic', and any view of the laity that encourages people to avoid growth into adult roles, and yet is precisely the parent/child (carer/ cared for?) aspect of Cursillo that you suggest is so helpful.

Maybe some clergy react badly to Cursillo because on the surface it seems to speak of the kind of paternalism that clergy often get accused of. And maybe the truth is (for clergy and for Cursillo) that sometimes parent-child roles are OK, so long as the imbalance is offered as a temporary space for growth rather than a permanent state of being.

If the imbalance is an essential (and essentially good) part of the dynamic of Cursillo, what training to group leaders get in dealing with the ‘transference’ and ‘projection’ that are likely to occur?


I'm slightly puzzled by these last remarks/questions. The weekends are essentially lay-led; there are 3 clergy in a team of 18/19, so they don't dominate, if that is what is coming over. And though I used the expression "child-like", I feel it is actually something which grows within the participants as they relax - and ties in with the idea of "becom(ing) as a little child".
Leaders are carefully selected, pass on experience to new leaders at team meetings, and are at all times encouraged not to attempt to deal with situations beyond their ken but to pass problems on to the SAs.


And another thing ..(!) .. All team members on a weekend were themselves participants at one time and benefited to such an extent that many of them have "grown" beyond anything they might once have thought possible. You only need to witness the demeanour of new Cursillistas at the end of a weekend to know that their confidence as Christians has already begun to bloom.


Sorry, Chris. I guess I wasn't clear. I know Cursillo is mainly lay led, and that everyone has 'been through the system' first.

What I was trying to say is that something you suggest is valuable about the dynamic in Cursillo is something that we have become wary of in the church -- a dynamic in which there is a sharp separation (for however long) between the leaders and the led.

Maybe that means Cursillo offers somthing that the church doesn't right now. But if that's so, there's an interesting discussion in there about when and why such divisions are helpful.

The question about training was 'innocent' too. I know you are carefully prepared. I wondered, though, if your training specifically deals with the issues that are likely to arise if people are encouraged into a child-like state. I know mine didn't, to any extent.


Yes to any discussion about about parity/divisions - but perhaps someone else would care to join in?
There's always face-to-face...!


I am glad Chris found the recent Cursillo weekend worked so well. Certainly this post has mentioned positives.

However, I am surprised by one or two things. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lay people go on Christian retreats and conferences. So this is not as unusual as Chris seems to think. Many others have had experience of Bible study groups, many without clergy. These do happen in Scotland.

The assumption appears to be made that those who have gone on retreats/conferences generally found them valuable. I beg to doubt that that is universal. Many are, but others are not. They are a mixed bag.

Today I talked with a "clergy spouse" about freedom to talk in security about things of the Spirit. In her experience this was not so easy to find, and is found more through friendships than structures. So not all clergy have known that security.

So I wonder how far the clergy/lay distinction in Chris's post holds up.

Matthew Caminer

I hope people don't mind me joining in this discussion even though I moved away from Scotland over four years ago. The fact is that this is one of the most interesting discussion areas about Cursillo and I am keen to be involved and to learn from others. More to follow on this topic therefore!

Matthew Caminer

Lots of points come out of this discussion thread...

I agree, with Morag, that retreats, anything from quiet days at one extreme, through parish weekends and themed retreats, all the way to the 30 Day Exercises are really quite common, for laity as well as clergy. And of course some work for people and some don't, often for no apparent reason. If more work than don't then it's something to celebrate. That is not remotely related to Cursillo, except of course that Cursillo falls into this vast and varied assortment of events available to people. (Remember my bit about "one among many tools in the tool-kit" in the last thread?)

What I think one could say about Cursillo is that taking time and prayer helping people to understand what the weekend is all about, is likely to help them to decide whether to go in the first place, and to put into perspective any parts that they don't like in the mix of activities on the weekend.

And here's a paradox: since the weekend is only a means to an end, not an end in itself, we should only be encouraging people to go on the weekends if they have an interest in and an intention to become involved in what Cursillo has to offer afterwards. Perversely, though, we have gently to accept that quite a lot of people, having experienced the weekend, decide that the rest of it isn't for them. And that's got to be OK.

As to 'childish v childlike' I have always enjoyed the distinction, and can see where Chris is coming from and largely agree with him. However I can also see that, from outside, either expression may give rise to suspicion of coercion, manipulation and much else, so we need to be careful with the words we use. I'm not sure that the clergy:laity thing is part of this... we can all place expectations on people, whoever they are.

So... I don't know about anyone else, but my experience of church dynamics is that they are almost infinitely varied. In some there is almost unspoken collusion that there will be a parent/children relationship between the clergy and the congregation; in others, it is demanded of the clergy, but they don't want it; in others it seems to be demanded of the congregations, but they don't want it. Bottom line: we all different, and have to learn how to live with each other and if possible talk about it. Again, nothing unique about that in Cursillo.

And so to the opportunity to share in confidence and in safety...

I suspect, though with little experience to prove it, that many clergy, while being on the receiving end of people's confidences, whether sacramentally or otherwise, may be almost screaming out for someone they can talk to about day to day frustrations: and members of their congregations are of course the last people they can generally do that with unless they are exceptionally fortunate. I have experienced, both in Scotland and now in Oxford Diocese, belonging to reunion groups of which clergy were members, and because they belonged to other churches and because we had over time built up a feeling of trust, they did find that Cursillo offered the opportunity to be more open than perhaps they could in many other situations. I suspect that lay people are rather more fortunate in having such opportunities. Of course I don't claim any exclusivity about this for Cursillo, but simply say it is there and available, as in many other initiatives.

So where does this leave me? Still totally committed to Cursillo as my way principal way of sharing, learning and developing within my congregation and others, but acknowledging (again!) that it is "one tool among many" and not to be elevated any further than that, however exuberant we may feel about its value for ourselves.

Having said which, I would still join Chris and others in saying "give it a try", and if participation in the weekend itself feels daunting or creates suspicion, then feel encouraged to experience the other facets of Cursillo that continue into everyday life.


Matthew, let me say now that I'm delighted to see you in this discussion. I also have to tell you that in fact I'm not the "he" you envisage, but the "she" whom you were kind enough to drive all the way from Kinnoull to the Dunoon ferry after my weekend 6 years ago - so hello, and thank you again!

Matthew Caminer

Whoops! Never thought of you as a "Chris" somehow! Nice to be in touch. Keep up all the good work


I reinvented myself for online purposes - it's sometimes good to be gender-neutral!
Return next week for news of this weekend's singing workshop on Cumbrae ....

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