Good Friday rites unite Christians of many flocks

April 10, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

In Towson, clergy and flocks of seven Christian traditions came together to pray and sing at a three-hour Good Friday service beside the Gothic windows of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Under the dome of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church on St. Paul Street in North Baltimore, Lutherans and Episcopalians joined Methodists of several congregations -- and gays joined straights -- for preaching, music and meditations on forgiveness, loneliness, commitment and victory.

And along trash-strewn, noisy, heavily trafficked Edmondson Avenue on Baltimore's southwestern edge, Roman Catholics and Protestants marched together behind a cross, stopping for prayers at a boarded-up car dealership, a public library, a high school, two liquor stores and a cemetery.

For many Marylanders, yesterday was a Good Friday that disregarded denominational, stylistic, cultural and racial differences to focus on a central, shared fact of Christianity: the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

A light afternoon rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of about 75 worshipers from five churches in the Edmondson Avenue corridor for their innovative outdoor service.

Members of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian, Second English Lutheran, St. Bartholomew's Episcopal and St. Bernardine's and St. William of York Catholic congregations raised their umbrellas and stepped lightly over discarded garbage as they approached a street corner known for its drug-dealing.

"We walk the way of your cross, O Lord," they repeated with the Rev. Edward Miller of St. Bernardine's.

On their sixth pause, the marching church members recalled Jesus brought before Pontius Pilate as they stood under a sign at Edmondson and Loudon avenues advertising "package goods, beer and liquors, cocktail mixes." They circled their tall portable cross, constructed of wood, nails and barbed wire, to hear Father Miller say, "We've talked of the city that reads. Another side of this city is the city that bleeds.

"The drug culture does its business here. Brothers and sisters are wounded on this corner. But there is a way out: Jesus Christ."

In front of a medical center, the group stopped to join the Rev. Edward Keefer Jr. of Second English Lutheran Church as he prayed to God that "somehow we might be instruments of relief" for victims of illness and violence. "Give to those who suffer a confidence in your presence," they asked.

The marchers were not ignored by those they passed or by those who passed them. From the steps of a Church of God, some of its members smiled and waved encouragement. A car with Virginia tags stopped and a young woman asked politely, "What's going on?"

When told it was a Good Friday procession, she asked, "Which denomination?" On hearing that many were involved, she said, "Oh, that's a great idea. Happy Easter!"

In front of a lottery outlet, the group planted its cross near a sign that read, "Sister Rita. Reader and Adviser." There, Mr. Keefer preached, "When hope runs out, the need for a savior is critical. . . . But what seems a relief can become an addiction, can be slavery, can be a worse master."

Gathered before the deteriorating, boarded-up building that was an Oldsmobile dealership in better times, the marchers heard the Rev. Thomas Kryder-Reid, rector of St. Bartholomew's, call it "a symbol of economic ravages."

But in the parking lot of the Edmondson Village Shopping Center, Father Kryder-Reid's message was one of concern for those not able to share the goods of the marketplace.

As the worshipers had set out from the Hunting Ridge church, its pastor, the Rev. Anita Hendrix, set the theme for the mile-long march: "We will walk together in common witness to our faith and to our neighborhood. As Christians, we are called from our comfortable pews to be the church in the world, to meet the streets. . . . May we of different denominations be knit together."

Such a knitting together took place at Baltimore's Lovely Lane and at Trinity in Towson, as at many churches in the area. At Trinity Episcopal Church, the Rev. Robert Albright, a Roman Catholic priest, told the congregation that the Christ of Good Friday "is the energy that brings order out of chaos."

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