Cross purposes

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Standing on the steps outside Old St. Vincent's Church, Twylla James didn't expect to find herself carrying the wooden cross for the Way of the Cross walk through downtown.

But no one else seemed ready to volunteer on this Good Friday, so she did.

"It's just a moving experience," she said after passing the cross to another volunteer.

As she walked the few paces from the church to the Red House, she shifted the weight of the cross but didn't let it rest on her shoulder. "I'm not sure I would be worthy," she said.

Images of Jesus often depict him carrying the cross on his shoulder as he walked to Golgotha, where the Bible says he was crucified.

Different pairs of volunteers carried the cross between each of the 14 stations.

More than 200 people joined the walk Friday afternoon to commemorate the pilgrimage Christians made as they visited places symbolizing the sites where Jesus spent his last hours in Jerusalem.

"We've been doing this for 1,700 years when people would see the sites of his final week," said the Rev. Bob Towner, rector at Christ Episcopal Church. "We believe he is walking with us today and that's why we're here."

The walk made 14 stops along its route downtown, each of them involving a reading of Scripture and prayer. During the walk, others spent the minutes in meditation and quiet prayer. The three-piece band Hand Picked, which included a bass, guitar and violin, played choruses like "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" and the refrain from the Isaac Watts hymn "Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?" They also played a version of the spiritual "Were You There?" which asks, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Tom Higgins said it's difficult to put into words exactly what he felt as he carried the cross from the Red House to the riverfront.

"I wanted to participate in the walk, and this was a way to do this," he said. "It's a quiet time and a time to reflect on this world and the times we are in."

Good Friday is a day when Christians observe the sacrifice Jesus Christ made by giving his life for the world's sins.

Don Swanner reflected on that as he carried the cross. "I knew what I was doing was nothing compared to what Christ carried," he said.

His wife, Maddie, enjoyed being able to "zero out everything else and just focus on this" as she held up the cross.

Though it looks heavy and burdensome, the cross used in the Good Friday event is actually rather lightweight. It is made of wood, but is hollow and then painted to look aged. The cross is from Centenary United Methodist Church and will be used during the sunrise service at the Riverfront Park on Easter morning.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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