Every year on Good Friday, my parish, St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen, joins its neighbor, Grace United Methodist Church for an ecumenical commemoration of Jesus’ journey from condemnation to death. The procession of the cross begins at Grace United Methodist Church with a prayer service. Then, participants gather outside to walk the walk that Jesus did, stopping six times to reflect upon his acceptance of the cross, meeting his mother, Mary, being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, meeting the women of Jerusalem, being stripped of his garments, and being nailed to the cross.
At each station, a brief reading retells the details of each event. Between the stations, two verses of “Were You There” are sung. The procession ends at St. Joan of Arc, where the cross is laid on its side in front of the church. A second short service closes the event and the congregation gathers downstairs for a light lunch prepared by St. Joan of Arc volunteers.
I was honored to be a part of this moving experience this morning, along with my father. The journey, after all, is one we share with Christ our Lord. With every step I took, I felt closer to Him. I found myself more enlightened with every step I took.
Some of my observations:
· I live two blocks down from my church. The passersby today were more than just people in cars and on bikes, they were my neighbors. They were people I will see again. Some Christians may be reluctant to be so transparent about their faith as to be seen participating in an event like the procession, but I was proud. I’m not ashamed to let my neighbors know my faith, whether or not they agree with my beliefs. In fact, I hope it lets them know they can always expect compassion from me.
· There is scientific research that proves the benefits that exercise has on the mind. Walking, in particular, has a major impact on the quality of our thoughts. Being in motion enabled me to reflect more on how Jesus must have felt carrying the cross, wearing the thorns, saying goodbye, awaiting his fate. I was focused more intently as I listened to the readings and considered deeply the meaning of the words we sang than I normally am.
· We spend so much time riding in cars, worried about what’s going to happen next, that we forget to slow down and process things. Walking changes that. I noticed for the first time today that the daffodils are blooming. They’re the first signs of spring, a symbol of resurrection, and I nearly missed them. The daffodils reminded me that Easter would soon take away the sorrow we were experiencing as we sang “…sometimes it causes me to tremble…”
· One of the most meaningful points of our journey was when a group of children volunteered to carry the cross during our last, and longest, leg. Jesus asked for the children to come to Him, and at that difficult moment, they did. With very little help from adults, they led us to St. Joan of Arc, where many of them attend school. To spend their day off in prayerful service to our Lord, is inspiring.
It was a bit brisk to have my own boys outside, so they stayed with my mom. Next year, when Easter is later, I would love to bring them along.