Emmaus: A new Christian living-learning community

by Annika Bjornson | Staff Writer

Launching in the fall of 2020, the Whitworth Emmaus Scholars program will be an intentional Christian community that focuses on faith, learning, and justice. Led by Derek Taylor, this yearlong program is sponsored by the Storm Family Dean of Spiritual Life endowment. 

 This year, students can apply for the program by December 4. During the 2020–2021 school year, they will live together in two or three theme houses around campus.

The name of the program, Emmaus, comes from Luke chapter 24 when two of Jesus’ followers encounter Jesus, who is disguised as a stranger, while walking toward the village of Emmaus. They take him home to eat a meal together and realize that they are in the presence of Jesus. 

“These four components—caring for the stranger, thinking deeply about the Bible, gathering in community, and then going out to join in the work God’s doing in the world—the Emmaus road story is a great pattern of discipleship because these four components are so beautifully testified,” Taylor said. 

This commitment involves integrating three main components of students’ spirituality: the heart, the head, and the hands. As Emmaus scholars, students will live together, gather weekly for a family meal, and they will commit to a weekly rhythm of prayer, worship, and Scripture reading. 

Throughout the course of the year, students will take two theology courses together that “examine how Christian spirituality motivates us to participate in God’s redeeming love for the broken world” according Emmaus’ webpage on whitworth.edu. 

Emmaus will also partner with the Dornsife Center to do service in the West Central neighborhood and to go on an impact trip together over spring break.

Taylor studied theology and economics at Whitworth before receiving a master’s of divinity. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctorate in theology from Duke University. Before coming to work at Whitworth, he and his wife, Campus Pastor for Discipleship & Residence Hall Lauren Taylor, worked at Hope College in Michigan where Derek Taylor ran a similar Living Learning Community.

Taylor hopes that this community will reflect how the Bible depicts deep, rich Christian community. 

“The rhythm of Christian life is like a beating heart; you gather together to be sent out, and you come back to be sent out. It’s constant movement…I think that’s a good image for what I want Emmaus to be. I think of it is a centered set and not a bounded set…I want to be a community that has a clear center [in Jesus and justice] and from that we go out into other areas of life,” Taylor said.

Forrest Buckner, dean of spiritual life, will be overseeing the program. 

“I think [Emmaus] is an intentional, thoughtful program that helps students make that connection of [personal] faith in Jesus and how that’s lived out for God’s heart for things to be right in the world, which can be named justice,” Buckner said.

Sophomore Ellie DuPont looks forward to applying and get involved. DuPont had a challenging first semester at Whitworth when she was bedridden with a herniated disc, but she sees the program as a unique opportunity for her to connect more with a Christian community.

“I’m really excited about the idea of doing everyday life with other believers,” DuPont said. “I like the idea of incorporating spiritual practice. We live in a society that puts a lot of emphasis on the grace of God…Grace is what should motivate us into discipline and growth for the sake of thanking the God that saved us.

Buckner belives that this program will appeal to, “…any student who is wrestling with how they live out their faith in a complex and messy and often unjust society.”

 “The other piece is students who want intentional Christian community and life together with others who are pursuing Christian faith,” he said.

 Emmaus information sessions will be held on: Thursday, Oct. 10, 4-4:45 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 17, 5:30-6:15 p.m.; Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7-7:45 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 11, 4-4:45 p.m. These sessions will be located in the chapel conference room and there will be free pizza.

Applications will be due online by Dec. 4. To find more information visit https://www.whitworth.edu/emmaus/ or the Emmaus instagram account @whitworthemmaus.

Students can email Taylor at dtaylor@whitworth.edu with questions.