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The times are twisted. The church is in disarray and without clear direction. It is wracked by divisions between groups of clergy, between groups of laity, and between clergy and laity. A divisive war has just ended. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is commonplace, as is sexual promiscuity. Disbelief in the basic tenants of Christianity is more common than belief. Even worse, a major portion of the population is simply indifferent toward Christianity. Many church members have little idea of what it means to follow Christ, much less to experience his presence and love. Here, and now?

No. The place is Spain. The time is immediately after the end of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The church is the Roman Catholic Church, or what is left of it after severe persecution during the Civil War.
Slowly and uncertainly a renewal movement evolved, primarily due to the efforts of lay men and women. Early activities involved various conferences, youth movements and a massive pilgrimage to Santiago, a historic goal of pilgrimages in medieval times. A common element of those activities was short courses (in Spanish, cursillos) in the basic aspects of being a Christian.

Ultimately, in January 1949 the essentials of the various renewal efforts were distilled into a three-day retreat held on the island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain. The principle organizer and lay leader of the event was Dr. Eduardo Bonin. Father Juan Capo was the spiritual director. Bishop Juan Hervas gave both permission for and encouragement of the weekend. (Dr. Bonin continued to be active in the leadership of Catholic Cursillo for many years.)
Out of these events in Spain grew a worldwide movement called Cursillos de Christiandad, or Short Courses in Christianity. The movement spread throughout the Roman Catholic denomination, first to South and Central America and later to the United States. In 1985 the Catholic Church estimated that over three and one-half million people had attended Cursillos.

The first Cursillo in the United States was held in Waco, Texas in May 1957, through the efforts of two Spanish airmen who were training there with the U.S. Air Force. From Texas, Spanish-speaking Cursillo weekends spread throughout the southwest and into New York and Ohio. The first English-speaking Catholic Cursillo was held in San Angelo, Texas in 1961. As of 1985, the Catholic Church estimated that 600,000 people in the United States had “made” a Cursillo weekend.

Since coming to the United States, the Cursillo movement has been adopted by Protestants and adapted to the extent necessary to reflect their theology. It is now active in several Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. The first Episcopalian Cursillo was held in Iowa in 1970. Later, Methodists adopted an ecumenical version of Cursillo, calling it Walk to Emmaus. (A substantial number of Presbyterians have attended Emmaus weekends, in many cases before the establishment of Presbyterian Cursillo.)

Today, the Cursillo movement is active in many nations and among people of many Christian denominations. In all its expressions and denominations, Cursillo has disregarded issues that sometime divide Christians and has remained true to one purpose: to renew and refresh those who follow Jesus; to remind them of His great love, grace and joy; and to send them back to their environments--churches, homes and work places--inspired to transform them for Christ. Continuing renewal is encouraged through small groups, service as staff members at Cursillo weekends, and periodic gatherings of persons who have attended Cursillos and their guests.
Presbyterians in Charleston, South Carolina were introduced to Cursillo by Episcopalian friends in the early 1980s. With the assistance of the Charleston Episcopal Cursillo Community, Presbyterian Cursillo No. 1 took place in late 1985 on Seabrook Island near Charleston. In 1988-89, Fred Keith, a Presbyterian pastor, prepared the present Presbyterian Cursillo Manual as his doctoral dissertation, conforming the content of the weekend to Presbyterian theology and doctrine. In 1990, the Charleston Presbytery formed the first Presbyterian Cursillo organization, using the name “Cursillo” under a licensing agreement with the Catholic Cursillo organization.

Presbyterian Cursillo has since spread to Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas. In Texas, there are active Cursillo communities in Houston, Austin, North Texas (principally Greater Dallas and Longview), and the Palo Duro Presbytery of West Texas. A national council was formed in 1993 to help develop Presbyterian Cursillo as a renewal opportunity throughout the denomination.

The establishment of each Cursillo community followed a similar pattern. Individuals from a city or region attended Cursillos in other locations until a core group had been established in their own locality. A Cursillo weekend was then held by a staff comprised of persons from the core group, together with experienced people from a sponsoring community. Subsequent Cursillos were staffed by persons from the new community, with minimal guidance from the sponsoring community during early weekends.
The Houston Presbyterian Cursillo Community, sponsored by the Oklahoma Community, held its first Cursillo in February 1997. Like other Cursillo communities, it is lay led and operates under an elected council. It is guided in all spiritual respects by ordained Presbyterian ministers.

By February of 2012 it conducted 64 Cursillo weekends attended by over 2000 Presbyterians, including members of some 80 churches.
In 2011, the Houston Presbyterian Cursillo Community desired to move to more ecumenical weekends and become a Pilgrimage Community. A Houston Pilgrimage weekend is the same as the Cursillo weekends, except that participating is no longer limited to members of the Presbyterian denomination. Three Pilgrimage weekends are scheduled each year, generally in February, April, and October. All adult Christians are invited to attend Pilgrimage and to experience renewal.