Good Friday brings Lansing churches, community together

Nearly 200 participate in “Stations of the Cross” prayer walk along Ridge Road

by Melanie Jongsma

Good Friday
From left: Pastor Michael Eberly (First Baptist Church), Rev. John Holyer (Trinity Lutheran Church), Pastor Leroy Childress (Grace Church), Rev. David Price (First United Methodist Church), and Father Bill McFarlane (St. Ann’s Catholic Church) prepare to lead Lansing residents in a Good Friday observance of the Stations of the Cross, down Ridge Road. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
LANSING, Ill. (March 30, 2018) – By noon on Good Friday, the clouds had cleared, and bright skies blessed the nearly 200 people gathered in the parking lot of St. Ann’s Catholic Church. The second annual Good Friday prayer walk drew parishioners from a variety of faith backgrounds as well as a few whose spiritual path is less defined.

After an opening prayer, the pilgrimage headed south on Chicago Avenue, then west on Ridge Road, and finally north on Glen Terrace, pausing on the lawn of Trinity Lutheran Church before going inside for a “Bidding Prayer” service. Along the way, the congregants and the curious stopped 14 times for Scripture readings marking significant events in Jesus’ path to the cross.

Good Friday
Pastor Leroy Childress (gray cap) of Grace Church reads the Scripture and prayer at the First Station of the Cross. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Traditions

Observing the Stations of the Cross is more familiar to the Catholic tradition, though in recent years Protestant congregations have taken up the practice. By physically involving themselves in a remembrance of the events of Good Friday, church members find new meaning in the familiar texts.

Community

It was Rev. John Holyer of Trinity Lutheran Church who introduced the idea to Lansing last year and made it an outdoor, community event. Having developed a friendship through their membership in the Lansing Ministerial Association, Holyer and St. Ann’s Father Bill McFarlane worked together on the details. Pastor Michael Eberly of First Baptist Church, who had never done the Stations of the Cross, also participated. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he remembers about last year’s walk. “I was really encouraged by the amount of participation last year—from passersby who seemed to be interested in what was going on, and from the Lansing Police Department, who were very helpful in making the event possible.” This year Sgt. Gabe Barajas organized the police escort, leading the procession with flashing lights while two other patrol vehicles shepherded the flock from the rear.

Good Friday
In the parking lot before beginning the service, Rev. John Holyer and Sgt. Gabe Barajas discuss the route. Lansing police provided an escort for the Good Friday prayer walk, which involved nearly 200 participants following the Scriptural Way of the Cross, from Chicago Avenue to Glen Terrace, along Ridge Road. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Participation

There are variations on the traditional Stations of the Cross, and at different points in history, 7, 12, 14, and occasionally 15 stations have been observed. The forms used often include a mix of Biblical and extra-Biblical accounts. For Lansing’s Good Friday walk, Holyer and McFarlane used the Scriptural Way of the Cross, which observes 14 stations that have a Biblical foundation. Participants were given a small booklet as a guide for their journey, with the Scripture texts, prayers, and responses printed.

Though many Stations of the Cross observances use images to depict the events of Christ’s passion, Lansing’s community observance relied solely on the reading of the Word to convey the Way of the Cross. At each station along Ridge Road, one of the participating ministers read the Scripture text and prayer, and the crowd prayed in response: “Lord Jesus, help us walk in your steps.”

Good Friday
Rev. David Price (foreground) takes a turn leading one of the Stations of the Cross. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Joining Holyer, McFarlane, and Eberly this year were Rev. David Price from First United Methodist Church and Pastor Leroy Childress from Grace Church. All Lansing churches were invited to participate, but Holy Week responsibilities can make new traditions difficult to add to a minister’s schedule.

Participation was not limited to church adherents however. Keimon Crayton had come to Lansing to visit his mother. She wasn’t home, so he stepped outside and happened to see the crowd, the cross, and the police escort—and he decided to join the throng. “I truly think that I was meant to be here,” he said.

Good Friday
Keimon Crayton (plaid coat) saw the crowd and decided to join. “I truly think that I was meant to be here,” he said. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Whether or not participants identify with a particular religious tradition, Pastor Eberly believes it can have meaning. “We’re all asking who Jesus is,” he said. “Different faiths answer that question differently. I would say that even non-Christians would get something out of this.”

Good Friday
The cross was carried along the route by members of Trinity and St. Ann’s—Luke Martinson, Charlie Gray, Jack Roe, Ted Gray, Tom Mosley, and Tom Graves. At each station, they positioned the cross upright for the Scripture reading and prayers, then shouldered it again to lead the pilgrims to the next station. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Good Friday
The crowd followed the cross down Ridge Road, from Chicago Avenue to Glen Terrace, with Lansing police directing traffic around them. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Good Friday
At the end of the prayer walk, participants were invited into Trinity Lutheran Church for a special “Bidding Prayer” service. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Faith

“My goal in doing it,” said Rev. Holyer, “is, one, for people who are Christian to have a very solemn observance of what for us is the most important event in history. It’s a very moving experience and spiritually enriching. For those who are already believers, this can deepen or strengthen their faith.”

The Tellez family—John, John, and Yoly—are pictured here with the palm branches and prayer guides they received at the beginning of the walk. The Good Friday prayer walk has spiritual meaning for them, but they also appreciate the way it brought both the religious community and the Lansing community together. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Tellez family agrees. Members of St. Ann, they followed the procession all the way to Trinity Lutheran, where they took a moment to pray at the cross before quietly leaving.

They participated because the observance affirms their Christian belief and their Catholic traditions. But they left with an extra blessing: “It’s nice to see the community—and the religious community—come together,” said Yoly Tellez.

Her husband John added, “Yes, we need that in this time.”

Good Friday
The pilgrimage ended with a prayer service in the sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church, led by Rev. Holyer. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
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