The march of the faithful

Christians mark the traditional day of Jesus' death with annual Good Friday procession in Westminster


More than 200 people marched through downtown Westminster yesterday behind a crude wooden replica of Christ's cross. They walked solemnly, many holding hands, and prayed softly as a lone bagpiper played familiar hymns.

The Good Friday procession, sponsored by the Westminster Ministerium, drew mothers with babies in strollers, pastors from different denominations, senior citizens wrapped in rain jackets against threatening skies and teenagers in sandals and shorts.

"This is a way to remember the hours that Jesus walked to Calvary," said Theresa Greene, towing the youngest of her three children in a wagon. "It is a beautiful, ecumenical thing to walk through downtown to Main Street and stop at different churches to pray. It is a better way to spend the day than TV and shopping malls, and a good learning tool for children.

Christians from many denominations marked Good Friday yesterday, some commemorating the traditional date of Christ's death with prayers before a cross draped in black. Others retraced the path to Calvary by following the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross or meditated on Scripture.

In Westminster, the procession paused frequently to hear pastors preach the message of the Passion of Christ. They sang in unison hymns reflecting the sorrow inherent in Good Friday and the hope that comes with the dawn of Easter.

"This is community communicating the importance of Good Friday and Easter and giving great witness," said the Rev. Larry Steen of Westminster Baptist Church. "Without Good Friday, there would be no Christian faith."

The 17th annual walk began at St. John Roman Catholic Church and wound through side roads to Main Street.

The Rev. John Robbins, St. John's associate pastor, began the opening message by saying, "It is important that we share the burden of the cross across churches and that we share the unity of the cross."

The half-mile trek drew a mix of people.

"I came to give witness and join with everybody in a universal walk of the cross," said 68-year-old Marie Skowronek, who came from Ellicott City to walk with her two sisters.

Katherine Dukehart, 82, of Westminster said she was grateful she could make the walk.

"If you believe, you have to walk the walk with the cross," she said.

Groups took turns carrying the hefty cross - two long logs tied together with thick rope. Several in the crowd bore its dusty imprint on their shoulders and described the experience as emotional. "After a while, your shoulder kind of goes numb," said Steven Muccioli, 13, who carried with the first group and the last. "This is great exercise and a great prayer exercise, too."

On her turn at the head of the cross, Melinda Houston, 39, bore the brunt of the weight. Most of her helpers were young children.

"I didn't mind," Houston said. "I wanted to experience as much as I could of what our Lord went through for us."

The Walk with the Cross in Westminster has become a Good Friday tradition for many families.

"This is the tradition in lots of different faiths, and here there is also a sense of community," said Deanna Ferrell, who walked with her teenage children.

Daughter Katie Ferrell, 14, added, "It is cool to see a whole bunch of Christians here walking together."

A. J. Chase, 12, has a broken toe and trekked the entire route on crutches. "We are all learning to be good Christians," he said.

The procession ended in the garden of St. Paul's United Church of Christ. As he ushered the crowd into the St. Paul's sanctuary, the Rev. Walter W. Peters, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Westminster, said, "We find the Acts of the Apostles between John and Paul. We have enacted the message of the cross in one great fellowship of love."

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