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The History of Via de Cristo in South Carolina


Led and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, Pastor Joe Holt who had attended Cursillo in Atlanta, Georgia, and Pastor David Birnbaum who, along with his wife Mary, had been active in the Cursillo Movement in Michigan called together a meeting with other interested persons in South Carolina to discuss the organization of a Via de Cristo movement in South Carolina. Both pastors had recently moved to South Carolina from other states.

On February 24, 1990, a second meeting of this group came together in the executive dining room at the Lutheran Southern Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Joining the group from Western North Carolina were David and Randy Pope who offered the assistance of the Western North Carolina Via de Cristo. They loaned a copy of the North Carolina constitution to South Carolina to use as a model.

This group voted to form a secretariat immediately with the official name of South Carolina Via de Cristo; it would consist of three spiritual directors and twelve laypersons. Those serving were:

  • President - Randy Heffron
  • Treasurer - John Greene
  • Secretary - Mary Birnbaum
  • Pre-Weekend - Gail and Steve Stuart
  • Post-Weekend - John Greene with assistants Jane Bailey and Carole Ann Green
  • Food/Kitchen - Robin Heffron
  • Spiritual Directors - Pastors Joe Holt, David Birnbaum, and Steve Bailey

Unfilled positions were Leadership, Communications, National Delegate, and Palanca Chairpersons.

Tentative dates were set for the first weekends to be held in the fall of 1990 and the spring of 1991 at Kinard Retreat Center near Leesville, S. C. As time progressed, the others joined the core group and began to wrestle with such things as costs and funding, team guidelines, team applications, etc.

At the June meeting, Weekend Guidelines and Rector(a) manuals were handed out to all secretariat members who were asked to take them home and go through them to make sure the material was acceptable. Bernie Campbell and David Birnbaum were to begin working on the Constitution.

North Carolina was asked to provide the first team along with qualified South Carolina people serving wherever possible. Team meetings would tentatively begin in September of 1990 with Phil Bender appointed as rector.

The group decided to schedule a meeting with the South Carolina Bishop in order to inform him of the proceedings. Those who volunteered to attend that meeting included the three pastors along with Randy Heffron, John Greene, Ray Ramsburg, and Mary Birnbaum.

At the next secretariat meeting, Dave Birnbaum reported that the constitution committee would be doing further research before drafting a constitution for South Carolina. Hopefully, this would be ready by September. Pastor Bailey announced that he had accepted a call from another state. This would necessitate replacing him as a spiritual director. Other unfilled positions were National Delegate, Palanca Coordinator, and Weekend Chairperson (Jane Bailey's position).

The following is a quote from the September minutes, "A group of eleven came from North Carolina to be a part of our meeting today. Their presence coming into the room was a very spiritual experience. It was as if the Holy Spirit had descended upon us, with His support." The weekend dates for South Carolina # 1 were set as follows: Men's, February 7-10, 1991; Women's, February 21-24, 1991.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, South Carolina did hold its first weekends in February 1991. While Western North Carolina people comprised the majority of both teams, some of the South Carolinians who served on SC VdC 1 were Pastors Bob Thompson, Keith Cook, John Yost, Joe Holt, and David Birnbaum. Pastor George Kahl, who has since served on numerous South Carolina weekends, served as Head Spiritual Director for the Men's weekend. Other names included John Green, Jerry Bode, Wayne Lomax, Randy Heffron, Bernie Campbell, Roy Butler (now Pastor Roy), Steve Stuart, Mary Birnbaum, Carol Ann Green, Gail Stuart, Olivia Lomax, Kathy Campbell, Becky Lynch, Nadine Thompson, and Melveta Bode. The cost of the weekend was $85 per person.

South Carolina officially became a member of the National Lutheran Secretariat by signing the National Constitution on March 16, 1991. Pastor Joe Holt made a motion to have the secretariat cover airfare for up to three delegates to the National Convention held July 26-28 in Texas. Steve Stuart seconded. Bernie Campbell and Mary Birnbaum were elected as delegates. Pastor David Birnbaum was the clergy representative.

South Carolina became a member of the National Lutheran Secretariat on March 16, 1991, and participated in its first national convention held July 26-28 in Texas. Lay delegates were Bernie Campbell and Mary Birnbaum, and our clergy delegate was Pastor David Birnbaum.

During the years immediately following, four weekends were held each year: two men's and two women's. For the first few years, Western North Carolina helped staff the teams along with South Carolina cursillistas and cursillistas transplanted from other areas. Weekends were held at Camp Kinard - SC Lutheran Retreat Center located in Batesburg-Leesville.

Weekends were moved to the D. Moody Gunter Camp and Retreat Center located in Batesburg-Leesville. A coed weekend was added in 2000.

2007 - September - The South Carolina Hearts On Fire - Teens Encounter Christ movement donated a custom wooden box for our cross.

First weekend at the Coastal Retreat Center - SC Lutheran Retreat Center located in Isle of Palms was held in October of 2012. There were 25 pilgrims with 5 deferred to the next weekend.