Johnstown Independent

Community honors Christ's walk in annual Way of the Cross


Deacon Bill Andrews of the Church of the Ascension in Johnstown has witnessed the emotion the most solemn day on the Christian calendar can create.

"I've personally observed people on their porches see us and come out and join us," he said.

In Johnstown and many other communities, Christians commemorated Good Friday by walking the "Way of the Cross." The tradition is in remembrance of Christ's final hours by carrying a cross and stopping more than a dozen times to reflect upon the meaning of the crucifixion.

"Unless you relate to Christ's death, you don't understand the victory of Easter," said the Rev. John Wallace, pastor of Johnstown United Methodist Church. "People don't say a lot, but it's a positive time and a very meaningful event."

The walk began at the Johnstown village-offices building and proceeded down state Route 37, with 14 stops along the way. Each of the stops, or stations, recalls the suffering and death of Christ as he carried the cross to Calvary.

The procession paused frequently for readings, hymns and silent reflection.

The tradition began with St. Francis of Assisi and spread throughout the Roman Catholic Church during medieval times. Since then, other faiths have adhered to the practice.

Members of the Church of the Ascension, Johnstown United Methodist Church, Faith Fellowship and Youth for Christ carried the cross. Also participating were members of Miller Memorial United Methodist Church and Johnstown Presbyterian Church.

"It is a way for us to call attention to the sacrifice this person Jesus made for us," Andrews said. "He took it upon himself to rid all the sin of the world. It is an emotional time because you're experiencing in some way what one person was doing for the rest of us."

The 14 stations originated as pictures and sculptures depicting the scenes that include when Jesus was condemned to death, stripped of his garments and nailed to the cross.

Most Roman Catholic churches contain "Stations of the Cross," typically placed along the walls of the main body of the church. In most churches, they are small plaques with reliefs or paintings.

Mel Gibson's 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, follows the stations of the cross. The 14th and last station symbolizes Jesus being laid in the tomb.

"We prepare to celebrate new life," Wallace said. "The resurrection is who we are."