Denominational divides bridged at area cross walk

Saturday, March 22, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Four youths carried the cross Friday in the Way of the Cross Walk through downtown Cape Girardeau.

Too often in today's Christian churches, the Rev. Bob Towner believes, denominational unity at times is lacking.

But for two hours Friday in downtown Cape Girardeau, about 90 people from throughout the area crossed that denominational divide by participating in the Way of the Cross Walk. Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists and Presbyterians were among those who gathered to commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

"It's important for the community to witness that we all are about serving the same Lord," said Towner of the Way of the Cross, which was started in 2001. "When it comes down to it, we're not in competition. After all, Jesus called us to be as one."

Participants in the cross walk gathered in front of Old St. Vincent's Church at 12:15 p.m., the same time that Towner said Christ was nailed to the cross. After a brief greeting and prayer from Towner, the crowd began a 2.5-mile journey to 14 stations of the cross.

Traditionally, stations have been depicted inside Catholic churches. Towner said the walk is a way to bring the stations from inside the church building into the neighborhood streets of Cape Girardeau.

"It's been a new experience for both Protestants and Catholics," Towner said. "For Protestants, it's been new to participate in the stations of the cross. And for Catholics, it's been new for them to take that similar experience outside and use a cross instead of mosaics."

Each station — which included the Main Street clock, Cape Girardeau police station and the Salvation Army — was designed to explain what happened to Christ during his 2.5-mile walk to the hill of Golgotha on the day he was crucified. Three days later, Towner said, Christ rose from the tomb. That day will be celebrated by Christians throughout the world this Easter Sunday.

Events depicted at each station included the three times Christ fell to the ground, Jesus' encounter with women from the town of Jerusalem, his death on the cross and Jesus' placement in a tomb after his crucifixion.

At each station, a minister or other volunteer recited scripture and prayer.

"It's important for we Christians to get together each Good Friday and walk the different stations of the cross," said the Rev. Paul Kabo, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Cape Girardeau. "Our Lord and Savior walked through his community, so it's important for us to do the same in ours. As we do that, we are able to take the time to walk through our community and remember what Jesus did for us."

Volunteers carried a wooden cross from station to station. Those volunteers included a father and his two grade-school sons, three women of various ages and four teenagers.

"The whole richness of the event grows each year for me," Towner said. "Each year I look forward to reuniting with fellow ministers and Christians while welcoming those who are new to this cross walk."

For Paulette Hamm, the crosswalk reminded her of the unity she believes Christ's love can bring forth.

"This event reminds me of the unity that is brought about for those of us who believe in Christ, no matter what denomination we belong to," said Hamm, a member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church in New Hamburg, Mo.

Joshua Smith echoed the thought.

"It's wonderful that we can all come together for a day like this," said Smith, a first-time participant and youth pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. "For those of us who are Christians, we are all part of one body. And because we are united, we have one purpose as followers of Christ, which is to serve him."

Jean Bollinger said the afternoon provided a chance to reflect on Christ's death.

"Events like these help me to stop my day-to-day activities, take a breath, and think about what happened on this day nearly 2,000 years ago," said Bollinger, a member at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau.

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