What’s an Ultreya? part 2

In my last post, I wrote about what an ultreya is— in this post I’ll address what we actually do at an ultreya. Often the ultreya starts with some snacks (what would a Lutheran gathering be without food???). Then there is some singing. You may get a chance to hear (or request) your favorite weekend song. There are announcements about upcoming weekends and other matters of concern to the community. Then we have a speaker.

The speaker is someone who attended a weekend and is asked to share his or her struggles and successes in walking with Christ. The talk lasts about 15 minutes, and may deal with some aspect of piety, study or action (these are issues we discuss in our renewal groups). Hearing about what and how another Christian is doing helps me to make progress in my own faith walk and reminds me that I am not alone.

After the talks, the participants break into smaller groups and share a discussion question related to the talk. If a pastor is present, the meeting may end with communion and a brief worship service. Often we close with a circle prayer. Everyone is welcome to share their prayer concerns out loud, or silently in their hearts.

The ultreya gives me a sense of joy as I experience God’s presence and the love of a Christian community. It helps me to put my problems into perspective, and I feel peaceful, resting in God’s hand.

For more about Christian community see these posts:

John Stott on the Christian Community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer — What it Means to be in Christ as a Community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Community of Saints

What’s an Ultreya?

Recently my husband and I served on a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend. The purpose of the retreat is to encourage participants to stay connected in small groups called reunion or renewal groups. There are also meetings of the larger community, and these are called ultreyas.

Via de Cristo has its roots in the Catholic Cursillo movement which originated in Spain during the 1940’s. The word ultreya is an archaic Spanish word used by Catholic pilgrims who visited the Shrine of St. James. This shrine was high up on a mountaintop, and the pilgrims had to climb to reach it, a tiring task. “Ultreya” was the word they shouted to encourage each other to keep going as they climbed, and it means to “persevere upward.”

The ultreya has been called “the reunion of the reunion groups.” It is a place to reconnect with others from your weekend. Like the renewal group, it is not a womb into which we retreat, but a springboard where we go to be energized in order to better live out our ideal to evangelize the world.

If you think of your spiritual life as a banquet, then the ultreya is a fast food stop along the way. It should never replace attending worship services at your church, or the renewal group meetings. Those are your steady meals. It shouldn’t become a duty or burden that interferes with your normal life. But now and then you need a little extra refreshment. Some comfort food. I attended my Via de Cristo weekend in 1990 and the ultreya offers a way to meet many friends I have made while serving on teams.

For the content of an ultreya stay tuned for my next post …..

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:

Cursillo/ViaDeCristo/3day weekends

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

This past Saturday I attended an ultreya.  If you’re not familiar with this term, you can go to my previous  post Persevere Upward.  At an ultreya there is fellowship among those who have attended a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend, and normally LOTS of singing.  One of the songs we sang on Saturday has been in my head ever since — Lord I Lift Your Name on High.

This song is the best known work of composer Rick Founds, and from 1997-2003, the most used song in American churches.  Founds reports that on a particular day, during his devotional time, God impressed upon his heart the cyclic nature of Christ’s redemptive work.  He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to his Father.  He journeyed from the cross to the grave, paying our debt to God in full.  Then he rose from the dead and went back to heaven, completing the cycle of salvation.  Rick picked up his guitar and the song came very quickly.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord:

for His name alone is excellent;

His glory is above the earth and heaven.”

~Psalm 148:13

You’ve probably heard it before (it’s been orbiting the world for a while now), but like me, you’ll enjoy it again.  It’s certainly appropriate for the Thanksgiving season!




Persevere Upward

The Via de Cristo community has monthly gatherings which are called ultreyas.  Ultreya is an archaic Spanish word once used by pilgrims in Spain as they ascended the steep steps up to the Shrine of St. James.  It means to “persevere upward” and was called out to encourage others to keep going.  At an ultreya there is singing, food (we are Lutherans, after all) and time to share our experiences in walking with the Lord.

In a sense, we’re all pilgrims in this Christian journey.  The way can get difficult.  There are plenty of distractions, disappointments, detours and even spots that seem like dead ends.  It’s good to know we’re not alone.  It’s good to have someone lend a helping hand, listen, or just call out “you can make it.”  It’s good to have someone who will carry your burdens for a while, someone who will pause to give you directions, someone who will pray with you and for you.

That’s why Christ gave us the church.  Most of us couldn’t persevere alone.  Companions on the journey lift our spirits;  they keep us on the right path;  they help us accomplish our goals.  Don’t be a lone ranger Christian — find a community and persevere upward.

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up!”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10