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Good Friday 2008 Stations of the Cross

Good Friday 2008 Stations of the Cross

    There were seven of them this Good Friday, not the fourteen before which a devout Catholic meditates on the suffering of Christ.  But we were an ecumenical group, very ecumenical, singing hymns from the sixth century to the twentieth, in buildings big and small, spanning more than a hundred years of Christian witness in the Asylum Hill neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut.  Herewith is a photo report of a Journey of the Passion, a walk behind a shouldered cross through the city streets, making seven stops along the way for  fifteen minutes of worship in each of the participating churches.

    The three hour walk began on Sigourney Street, a major thoroughfare, at Trinity Episcopal Church, with a dramatic in-the-round reenactment of Jesus' betrayal.

    The next stop on our short pilgrimage was just around the corner and down Farmington Avenue, The Cathedral of St. Joseph, where the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hartford sits.  The rector, Msgr. John McCarthy, preached on Good Friday as a day of paradox. The cantor sang "Were You There."

    A walk through the churchyard brought us to Asylum Avenue and the brownstone, blue-doored house of God that Twichell built.  The Rev. Joseph Twichell was Mark Twain's good friend whose travels together in Europe are reported in Twain's "Innocents Abroad."  The associate pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Peter Grandy, preached about his namesake, the apostle, who, for all his erring as a disciple, continued to forge ahead and try again to be true to his master.

    One short block to the west stands Asylum Avenue Baptist Church, the fourth stop in our Journey of the Passion.  Pastor Carolyn Bell explained the Roman and Jewish practices which informed the crucifixion.  

    Another short walk of one long and two short blocks and we were greeted effusively at the door by participants of the Glory Chapel ministry.  The audio system amplified the music to wedding reception levels.  The most affecting (for me, anyway) moment in worship this day was the "Liturgical Dance" by a young woman who, at first glance, seemed in stature (think Mary Lou Retton) to be better suited for gymnastics; but she was graceful beyond all expectation.

    We then embarked on the longest trek of the whole Journey, maybe a half mile, to Grace Lutheran Church.  Pastor Eva Reque Steege, whose husband I had met some forty years ago at his father's church in Queens near Forest Park, preached on the three last words of Jesus to be found only in the Gospel according to John, which, the Gospel, was this year's Scriptural theme.

    The last "station of the cross" this Good Friday was the beautiful Byzantine building of Immanuel Congregational Church (UCC), at the corner of Woodland and Farmington Avenues, across the street from Mark Twain House.  The associate pastor, Nancy Allen, reflecting on the tomb of Jesus, invited us to embrace the "black hole" of loss, suffering, and sorrow.

    The Journey was over... until next year.  But my traveling companion and I had another church to visit, this one by personal invitation from Music Director Christa Rakich, St. Mark the Evangelist Church, West Hartford. Good Friday evening the church choir presented a concert entitled "Behold the Lamb of God."  A string quartet provided accompaniment. Compositions by eight composers filled the program.  Seven of them were known, very well-known, to me.  But it was the one I didn't know and don't remember hearing before, F. W. Wadely, who provided the (for me) most deeply touching anthem.  This concert was a fitting and joyful end to a long Good Friday of church-going.

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