WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
More than 1,000 people took part in the 34th annual ecumenical Good Friday Way of the Cross through Edmonton's inner city on March 29.
In downtown Edmonton, through the city's urban core, almost 1,000 Christians from various traditions joined to commemorate the day Jesus Christ was crucified.
The annual Outdoor Way of the Cross is an ecumenical prayer event venerating the suffering and death of Jesus. The first such event was held in 1981, and has continued every Good Friday since for 33 years, whether in sunshine, rain or blowing snow.
As part of the Good Friday tradition, people marched and sang hymns, bearing a heavy cross. The two-hour, two-km procession started at 10 a.m. The event, planned by a group of volunteers, is affiliated with the Edmonton and District Council of Churches.
"It is here where we give public witness to our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God whose life, whose death, and whose resurrection has a profound message for our contemporary times," said Linda Winski, pastoral associate with Inner City Pastoral Ministry.
"Jesus' teachings and the values that he lived are reminders for us today how to live in our relationships, our communities, our cities, our nations and in our world."
A few years ago, Winski pondered what was good about Good Friday, the day Christ was put to death. She discovered that good means "of God" so really it is God's Friday, which she finds appropriate.
"God took the worst thing that we humans are capable of, and that is putting his Son to death, and he redeemed it in the resurrection," said Winski. "God loves us, so we come together today to remember that his love lives in each and every one of us, and we are called to live that love in all of our relationships."
Paul Austin, a United Church member, said prayer and worship are usually hidden away within churches, and secluded from daily life.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Yvonne Chiu, executive director of Edmonton Multicultural Health Brokers, lead the prayers at one station on the Outdoor Way of the Cross.
"Just to get out of the confines of the church walls, the church structure, to go out in the streets and worship publicly, I like that," said Austin. "We're bearing witness to God's dynamic presence in the world."
This was his first time at the outdoor event, but enjoyed it enough that he intends to return in future years.
"The topics discussed at the stations are all so pertinent to us even now, and that's what makes it important. The values of the New Testament still connect with us in modern times," said Austin.
Participants focused on how the Gospel values of Jesus are important to individuals and social life today. This was achieved with reflections at each of seven stations. The procession began and ended at the Hope Mission, 9908-106 Ave.
The other stations were ASSIST Community Services, Bissell Centre, Operation Friendship, McCauley School, Boyle-McCauley Health Centre and Ambrose Place.
At the stations, the location's relationship to the theme was explained, a concern presented, Scripture read, prayer offered and voices raised in song.
Each year a theme is chosen, based on Gospel values and rooted in Scripture. Based on Romans 13.9 – to love our neighbour as ourselves – this year's event posed the question, "Who is my neighbour?"
Our neighbours are refugees and newcomers. Neighbours are all those whose freedoms and rights have been refused. Neighbours are the elderly, children and youth, the sick, the homeless and the outcast.
Bob McKeon, who chairs Inner City Pastoral Ministry, said the question "Who is my neighbour?" is addressed in the Good Samaritan story. Speaking at the Boyle-McCauley Health Centre, McKeon said his neighbour is poor, often with serious health concerns, mental illness, addictions and other major life challenges. His neighbour is often far away from family.
"He or she is often homeless, living rough from night to night in overnight shelters and often rejected by the wider society. At this health centre, everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
"The health centre is a key partner in Edmonton's 10-year plan to eliminate chronic homelessness," said McKeon.
Among the many children at the event was Lisa Chidlaw, 11. She said listening to the various speakers at each station was enjoyable and educational.
"I learned a lot. I learned about the poor people in the city, and that not everyone has things go as easy for them as they'd like. Life can be tough, but with Jesus, we can get through tough times," Lisa said.
At the conclusion of the walk, participants went inside Hope Mission to socialize and enjoy refreshments.