Steamboat residents take part in Good Friday ritual

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As rain turned to hail, about 20 men, women and children pulled their raincoats tighter and followed a man with a large wooden cross from the Steamboat Springs School District offices to the nearby LIFT-UP Food Bank.

The Good Friday ritual is Steamboat's annual interpretation of the Stations of the Cross -- a worldwide church tradition wherein Christians remember 14 places along the route from Jesus' trial to his tomb.

In Jerusalem, the stations include the place where Simon helped Jesus carry the cross, the place where Jesus fell and the place where Jesus was nailed to the tree. Christians follow the route as a pilgrimage on Good Friday and as a reminder of their beliefs.

"When Jewish people gather for Passover to remember being freed in Egypt, they say 'when I was a slave' and 'God led us out of bondage,'" said Larry Oman, pastor of the United Methodist Church. "So there's that sense in religious ritual where it becomes contemporary. Through this walk, Good Friday is a part of our living experience. It's not just looking back."

In Steamboat, the "stations" have been redefined as places that evoke the spirit of Jesus' life.

They stopped at the LIFT-UP Thrift Store as a symbol of Christ's ministry to the poor. They stopped at the Steamboat Springs School District building as a symbol of Christ's identification with children and at the food bank to symbolize Christ's dedication to the hungry.

The Stations of the Cross has been organized by the Steamboat Springs Ministerial Association for more than a decade and is open to all denominations.

Steamboat's pilgrims met at the United Methodist Church at noon, despite the cold and pouring rain.

"This is nothing compared to what our Lord went through," Louise McLeod said. "We can handle a little rain."

Fellow pilgrim Jack Rapp agreed. "It's Good Friday, the day our Lord died for us. There's no reason why we wouldn't partake in this."

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