Public procession marks journey of Christ

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Apr. 26, 2011
Sister Maryann Guertin, SSJ, carries the cross along Braodway during Good Friday's Public Way of the Cross. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Sister Maryann Guertin, SSJ, carries the cross along Braodway during Good Friday's Public Way of the Cross. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The crowd of people on Chelsea Parade, chatting softly, suddenly fell silent. Children romping at the far end of the park stopped throwing their flying disc and hushed their dog. A microphone was turned on, and a large, plain wooden cross lying on the ground was lifted high into the air.

So began the April 22 installment of a decades-old Norwich Good Friday tradition, the Public Way of the Cross. In observance of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on Good Friday, about 120 people walked in slow procession down Broadway in the shadow of a wooden cross.

The procession commemorated the central event of the Christian faith, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. The cross was carried by a series of clergy members and others from many Christian denominations – Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Methodist and Greek Orthodox.

People of diverse races and ages, from babies to senior citizens, joined together in song and prayer for the event. They walked accompanied by the dirge-like beat of a drum, stopping at intervals along the way to recall events along the path Jesus took to his execution site on Mount Calvary.

“We have heard [Jesus’] words about the necessity of taking up our own crosses each day and walking in his footsteps,” said the Rev. Grzegorz Jednaki at the eighth station, at which Simon the Cyrenian helped Jesus carry his cross. “What is our response? Must we be pressed to carry our crosses, be they big or small, or do we accept them willingly?”

The Public Way of the Cross was initially an outdoor observance of the Catholic Stations of the Cross, spearheaded by the Norwich Diocese’s then-bishop Daniel Reilly and the St. Patrick Cathedral parish. Over the years, ministers and church-goers from other Christian denominations were invited to participate, and the 14 stations, based on Catholic tradition, were modified slightly to more closely follow the Gospel accounts of Christ’s crucifixion.

Songs from many Christian traditions, from “Stabat Mater” (sorrowful mother) to “Amazing Grace” and “Were You There?” punctuated the procession. The last station, the burial of Jesus, was recalled on the steps of the Central Baptist Church in the heart of Norwich.

The Rev. Nancy Morrow, the pastor of Central Baptist, told the crowd that their witness of Christian unity was a powerful statement.

“Here we are declaring that none of our differences matter – our faith in Jesus Christ is what matters,” she said. “We are waiting to be united with our brothers and sisters around the world for the amazing news that death and grief do not last forever.”

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