For the first time in more than 20 years, the annual Good Friday Cross Walk coordinated by the Westerville Area Ministerial Association will follow a different route for the Easter weekend tradition.
After St. Matthew's Episcopal Church building at 233 S. State St. closed its doors last year, the Cross Walk had to find a new starting location. This year, the walk will begin at 11:45 a.m. Friday, April 18, at First Presbyterian Church, 41 W. College Ave., and will be shorter than past walks that covered two-thirds of a mile.
This year, walkers will head west on College Avenue onto Otterbein's campus, turn north onto Grove Street, east on Main Street and north on State Street before wrapping up at the Church of the Messiah at 51 N. State St.
John Buckles, connection pastor at Heritage Christian Church and WAMA secretary, said he hopes people will still join in the walk despite the altered route.
"It's a cool way to commemorate the meaning of the day and the work of Christ. These commemorations really help bring it home and make it experiential," Buckles said. "You'll see kids in period costumes following behind or centurions or something like that."
If timed right, the conclusion of the walk should come at noon in the middle of the church ceremony, completing a tradition that Buckles says dates back to sometime in the early '80s.
"All those people follow Jesus eventually into the center of the church," Buckles said. "You try to time it close to the top of the hour, and at noon, he comes in and there's a big commotion."
For Buckles, the event highlights the cooperation among organizations that he says is unique to WAMA. He said the ministries working together provide different opportunities than in most communities.
"It's another nice thing for the association," he said. "We really enjoy some really cool and unfortunately rare fellowship and community and support. We do stuff together, and we really have a sweet spirit among our people."
The popularity of the Cross Walk also highlights Westerville's tradition of Christianity, Buckles said.
"There are some real historic religious roots here," he said, noting the Methodist-affiliated Otterbein and the density of churches in the area.
"I could never make it tangible, but I believe part of the quality of life that we enjoy in Westerville can be traced to the spiritual community and cooperation and support of our community," he said.
"I think we experience some favor because we sow really good seeds as a community. When you do that, good things seem to follow."