Locals embrace their faith

Clergy, parishioners honor Christian traditions

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— Parishioners and clergy took turns early Friday afternoon embracing the wooden symbol that represents the foundation of their faith.

Through the streets of downtown Steamboat Springs, they carried a cross in remembrance of the man who bore his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago.

About 40 adults and children made their way down Lincoln Avenue and adjoining streets in a Stations of the Cross procession to mark Good Friday.

The Steamboat Springs Ministerial Association, which includes churches in the area, first organized the ecumenical walk several years ago.

This year's walk put a new twist on the usual procession.

Stations of the Cross chronicle moments in Jesus Christ's journey to Calvary, where he was crucified.

Tim Selby, associate pastor at the Steamboat Springs United Methodist Church, and Peggy Mulvihill, youth pastor at Holy Name Catholic Church, rewrote the traditional liturgy for the community and the people who work in the community.

"It ties it into reality and everyday situations, where there is suffering in the world," Mulvihill said.

People in the procession stopped to pray, read and sing at 14 sites, which included the LIFT-UP Food Bank, school district administration office, courthouse, fire and police departments and a local bank.

Each site represented ministries of caring and compassion in the community, connected by their concern for people in need, said the Rev. Larry Oman of the Steamboat Springs United Methodist Church.

The group began its journey in the sanctuary of the Methodist Church, where people examined their own lives and prayed that they might welcome people of all faiths and ethnicities.

At the administration building, people prayed for children in the community, educators and those who worked on the behalf of children who had no voice.

At the fire department, people prayed for fire and rescue personnel who risk their lives for the safety of others.

They prayed for the women's shelter at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, because the address of the shelter is kept in secret.

Previous Stations of the Cross processions offered general readings about the suffering of Christ and never stopped at planned locations.

Friday's procession related the suffering of Christ on the day he was crucified with real needs in the community, Selby said.

"It's an attempt to bring the suffering of Christ to our times," said the Rev. George Schroeder of Holy Name Catholic Church.

The 14 different Stations of the Cross, Schroeder said, exposed people to the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering of Christ.

"It's getting out of the safety of the church and into the streets," Schroeder said. "It really is a witness in itself."

Several youngsters accompanied their parents on the walk.

Debbie Wolf, a parishioner at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, wanted her two children, 18 and 12, to share in her experience.

The visual image of a cross being carried through town helped the younger people in the crowd better understand what happened to Christ on his way to Calvary, Wolf said.

"It's getting the feeling of what he actually went through," she said.

Erin Kissane, a parishioner at Holy Name Catholic Church, brought her three children, ages 1, 5 and 7, with her.

The children asked many questions about what they saw.

"It helped them to picture Christ walking with the cross and how sad that was," Kissane said.

The tradition of people bearing the cross on their backs through town dates back to the fifth century, said the Rev. David Henderson of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

People still carry the cross through the streets of Jerusalem today, he said.

On the streets of Steamboat Springs, several cars honked as they passed the procession. Some casual observers acknowledged the long train of people. Others averted their eyes.

Good Friday does not hold the same significance in American society as Easter Sunday, Oman said.

"I would say culturally we do not take much note," Oman said. "But you would not have anything to celebrate on Easter if you did not have the crucifixion."

People in the procession realized the significance of their short journey through the downtown area, Mulvihill said.

It made more sense for them to use the opportunity to pray specifically for their community, she said.

Although many of the people in the procession did not carry the cross, she said, they still stood close enough to the visual image to be struck by the suffering of Jesus Christ.

"When you walk that close to the cross, you really have to look inside yourself," she said. "You end up embracing the moment.

"It's very real for me."

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