ST. GEORGE — An annual Easter event that typically draws hundreds of Christians from across the St. George area returned in a much more modest capacity this year. The Stations of the Cross was held inside the Saint George Catholic Church and shared online, rather than in-person.
Held on Friday, the “Ecumenical Way of the Cross,” also known as the “Stations of the Cross,” is observed by Roman Catholics the world over. In St. George, it has become an interfaith event shared among area Christians.
In previous years, the Stations of the Cross would start in the Sandtown Park on Bluff Street in St. George, then run down Diagonal Street toward the Saint George Catholic Church. Along the way, the crowd stops at 15 stations, each representing an aspect of the walk Jesus Christ took on his way through Jerusalem to his crucifixion and resurrection.
As the crowd progressed, one or more individuals would also carry a cross with them amid the crowd as the hymn, “Were You There,” was sung.
That was how the Way of the Cross was conducted in 2019 and many years before then. The 2020 event was canceled due the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not wanting to miss out on observing the event a second year, a way was found to still observe the Easter tradition in the wake of the pandemic.
“We were unable to do it (last year) because we were still very uncertain about COVID and its ramifications,” Father David Bittmenn said. “We would have preferred to be outside, but we understand, so we do what we can do.”
This year’s Way of the Cross involved pastors and faithful from the area’s various Christian churches standing beneath wooden plaques hung high on the walls of the chapel inside the Catholic church that depicted the scenes, or stations along Jesus’ walk to the cross.
A brief description of what was happening at each particular station was given, accompanied by verses of scripture and lines sung from the hymn, “Lord, Let Me Walk.”
- A handful of individuals were sitting in the pews as the event got underway. They bowed their heads or knelt in silent prayer as each station was visited along the church’s walls with each reading given and hymn sung. All the while, the Stations of the Cross was also live-streamed over Facebook.
“I’m just pleased that several members of the faith community were with us – it really brightens my heart,” Bittmenn said. “I’m really happy we have a vibrant faith community of all sorts down here in St. George.”
The Ways of the Cross is said to have its origins among the early Christians who persisted in Jerusalem and retraced the last steps of Jesus as a way to “celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ,” Bittmenn said.
Christians would also make pilgrimages to Jerusalem for this purpose until circumstances of history made that prospect harder and harder, he said.
“One of the solutions to that was the devotion to the Stations of the Cross,” Bittmenn said. “People go to their church and they would make the way of Christ, remembering certain events that took place along the way. So we gather together to do that, especially now, as we gather together for Good Friday when the passion and the death of Christ is forefront on the minds of Christians.”
Among the pastors who participated in this year’s Stations of the Cross was Rev. Jimi Kestin, of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship. He said he and others were grateful they were able to hold the event this year, even if in a different capacity.
“We are so grateful to be gathered together to do it this year,” Kestin said. “I was so happy with Father Dave and the Catholic Church wanting to make sure that we gathered together for this Good Friday as we’re coming to the end of a very, very long year since this thing (pandemic) has started… With the promise of a new day dawning, where we will be able to communicate with each other in public again and enjoy our normal lives, what a wonderful way to get that started on Good Friday.”
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