By Keysha Drexel
On Good Friday, members of Homewood churches will follow volunteers carrying a 7-foot wooden cross down Oxmoor Road in the annual Way of the Cross procession to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.
As the procession stops at four different Homewood churches for scripture readings, those gathered will not only be publicly stating their faith, they will also be demonstrating their unity, event organizers said.
“It is a statement to the power of the cross and the importance of setting aside theological differences,” said the Rev. Dan Dahl, pastor of Shades Valley Lutheran Church.
The Way of the Cross procession on April 18 will mark the 21st year members of different Christian traditions in Homewood have come together in one faith to remember what happened on Good Friday so long ago.
The procession will begin with scripture reading in the amphitheater at Homewood Park on Friday, April 18, at 2 p.m.
The procession along Oxmoor Road includes stops at Trinity United Methodist Church, All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Dawson Memorial Baptist Church. It concludes at Edgewood Presbyterian Church. Other participating congregations include Bethel AME Church, Dawson Hispanic Congregation, Friendship Baptist, Homewood Cumberland Presbyterian, Oakmont United Methodist, Second Presbyterian, Shades Valley Lutheran and Union Missionary Baptist Church.
For those who have trouble walking, Edgewood Presbyterian’s sanctuary will be open throughout the procession, said the Rev. Catherine Oliver, the church’s transitional pastor.
“I fell and badly broke my leg at the end of November. I was on a walker and everything, and it got me to thinking about the people who want to participate in the procession but might not be able to, so we will go through the same scriptures here at our church and we’ll have music, and it will be another way to gather the body of Christ,” she said.
The procession observes the Stations of the Cross, in which liturgical churches reflect on the suffering of Jesus as he carried his cross to Golgotha in Jerusalem, where he was crucified in about 33 A.D. by Roman soldiers.
To pause and reflect on that suffering is a crucial part of the Easter season, said the Rev. Jack Alvey of All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
“It’s easy to be distracted by the commercialization of Easter and even in the church, we can get distracted by the good news of Easter and we can forget to talk about the part of Easter where Jesus had to die,” Alvey said.
But without Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, Alvey said, there would be no forgiveness and no hope for a new life.
“Before we really experience a new way of living, we have to die,” Alvey said. “You can’t have Easter without the cross, and if we don’t honor and remember that suffering by participating in events like the Way of the Cross procession, we cheapen Easter.”
Oliver said she, too, believes the Way of the Cross serves as a powerful reminder of Jesus’ suffering.
“We gloss over the suffering and the death part of it sometimes,” Oliver said. “So many people wear crosses shining with diamonds around their necks and what they’re really wearing is a symbol of a violent death, and this procession is a way to remember that.”
Dahl said since becoming pastor at Shades Valley Lutheran in the early 2000s, he has incorporated ways of remembering Jesus’ suffering into the church’s Holy Week services.
He has given his congregation mason nails during the Ash Wednesday service and then on Good Friday, they are given the opportunity to hammer the nails into the cross as a symbolic reminder of what the season leading up to Easter is all about.
“Jesus didn’t jump from Palm Sunday to Easter. We need to remember that he really did die on the cross. The Way of the Cross gives us pause to remember the true cost of grace,” Dahl said.
Dahl said the Way of the Cross procession also reminds him that he is not just a representative of his congregation.
“It helps me to remember that I’m part of the body of Christ in Homewood and that together, we are walking the walk that Jesus walked and bearing the cross that He asked us to bear,” he said. “We’re bearing the burden of one another, and we walk in one step, in unison. It’s quite the day.”
Dahl said the churches of Homewood also get together each year for joint services on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
“That’s just another way for us to show our solidarity and to focus on what unites us–the knowledge that Jesus loves each and every one of us and died for our sins,” he said.
Oliver said she hopes the Way of the Cross procession spurs more discussion and gatherings between members of the different churches in Homewood.
“We have to talk about how we, as followers of Christ, carry this throughout the year and stay united as believers,” she said.
Alvey said he thinks more Christians are looking for ways to work together.
“I think there’s a general consensus among churches today that says we have a lot of things in common and that if we work together, we can do a lot of positive things in the world in terms of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
And the promise offered in that gospel, Alvey said, is something the Way of the Cross procession makes him think about each year.
“For me, in a lot of ways, the Way of the Cross (procession) is a reminder that God meets us exactly where we are in our brokenness and weakness. That’s the core of the gospel for me,” Alvey said. “It’s not about making yourself better or perfect so that God will love you or notice you. It’s about God meeting us at the foot of the cross. That’s where Jesus’ love will make us whole and complete.”
Those who would like to participate in the Way of the Cross procession can meet at the Homewood Park amphitheater at 2 p.m. on Good Friday or join the procession anywhere along the route. Shuttle service from Edgewood Presbyterian, where the procession ends, back to Homewood Park will be available.
In recent years, some 200 to 300 people have participated in the Way of the Cross procession in Homewood.