An Opportunity to be Enlightened: Local Good Friday Service and Walking the Stations of the Cross

jesus death on cross

“These events are a great opportunity for people to be enlightened. Too many people get three hours off on Good Friday and don’t do anything about it. If they come to these events it could change their lives. God is trying to show us that we need to be ready for Christ’s return. This is still history in the making and people can still be a part of that history, it’s not too late.”

Apostle O. Michael Smith of Believer’s Church International, Defiance, Ohio

Every year, a handful of Defiance area mainline Protestant, Catholic, and ecumenical Evangelical churches get together for a community Good Friday service. This year’s service will be held from noon-3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Immediately following the service, Christians will gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the annual Stations of the Cross walk. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind paywall):

There will be 14 stops on the way, to read scripture and pray in remembrance of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Of the 14 stops, seven will be read and spoken in Spanish.

Father Eric Mueller of St. John Catholic Church had this to say about stations of the cross walk:

Good Friday truly is good, because Christ died for us on the cross and rose on Easter, giving us the gift of salvation that he freely offers to us. To celebrate as a Christian community with the Outdoor Stations of the Cross, we realize that our faith is such that we can take it out to the streets and be a witness to everyone, that we do believe in his death and resurrection.

The Stations of the Cross is a pilgrimage. For those of us who can’t go to the Holy Land, we walk here so we can recount the steps that Jesus took. This walk is a chance to be together with people from our community, and with Jesus, to not only understand his suffering, but to also understand the great love he has for us.

Christians doing Christian stuff on Good Friday…no big deal. What I find amusing is the notion that these events are some sort of statement affirming Christian unity. Most Defiance area churches do not participate in these events. Many local churches don’t even believe Catholics are Christian. Some Baptist churches not only consign Catholics to hell, they also doubt the Christianity of people attending liberal or mainline churches.

Father Muller thinks walking the Stations of the Cross is taking their Christian faith out to the streets as a public witness of belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I hate to break it to Muller, most people don’t give a shit. Many local businesses give employees Good Friday off or allow them to attend Good Friday services. Despite this, most locals — who are overwhelmingly Christian — will not be in attendance at either of the Good Friday events.

Apostle Smith thinks if people attend these events their lives could be changed. After all, Jesus is coming soon! What will be said that hasn’t been said countless times before? There’s not one person in Defiance County who hasn’t heard some version of the Christian gospel. Everyone knows who Christians say Jesus is and what supposedly happened to him 2,000 years ago. They know all they need to know, yet, come noon tomorrow most local residents will be busy living life, preparing for the REAL meaning of Easter — the Easter bunny, eggs, chocolate, and other candies. What Smith and his fellow religionists fail to understand is that, yes, people are becoming more enlightened, but this enlightenment is leading them away from, not towards organized religion. Despite all the religious pontificating from Republican presidential candidates that suggests otherwise, American Christianity is in decline — especially among millennials. There will come a day in the not too distant future that Good Friday services and walking the Stations of the Cross will be little more than relics of a bygone era.

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7 Comments

  1. J.D. Matthews

    I used to participate in all of these sorts of events. The words “mental masturbation” come to mind…

    Reply
  2. Karen the rock whisperer

    Every Good Friday growing up, as soon as I could read well (which was pretty damn young), I was told to get on my knees and pray a long, rambling prayer printed on a worn piece of fancy paper, and I think I had to repeat it a couple of times. It was essentially a lamentation about the agony of the crucifixion. My mother also had a long list of things I wasn’t supposed to do between noon and 3 pm, like playing, singing, playing the piano, or even speaking in a loud voice. I usually found a comfortable corner and read a book, while my mother came by to shoot dirty looks at me periodically for my impiety.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t believe, I just didn’t see the point. Prayers, I was taught, were a conversation with God, or Jesus, or one of the saints. This wasn’t a conversation, it was repeating stuff about a really nasty episode in Jesus’ life. I already knew about it, I wasn’t learning anything from praying this lamentation, and I really didn’t see the point of belaboring it year after year after year. If I’d been getting new insights about Jesus’ execution, that would be welcomed. But this was flogging a dead horse.

    Reply
  3. KatieS

    LCMS Lutherans would never participate because if they participate, that means they approve of other denominations. Other denominations don’t know correct doctrine.
    We can’t have that.
    I still can’t believe I spent so much of my life with those kinds of thoughts. ugh

    Reply
  4. Troy

    It would be interesting if Christians used it as an opportunity to protest capital punishment. Not gonna happen.
    If you want a good crucifixion-resurrection movie may I recommend Conan the Barbarian (the Ah-nold version, not the disappointing new version)
    Let this be contemplated on the tree of woe…Crucify him.
    I, told the wizard, I’d pay the gods!

    Reply
  5. Monty

    Make no mistake….Many of those who have Good Friday off or get off early that day will be at the local bar. I’m not judging, just an observation…..

    Reply
  6. Matt Martin

    Heh. The Stations. I remember those.

    One of them if I remember correctly was about St. Veronica mopping the face of Christ on his journey. Catholic (and presumably Orthodox) tradition holds that miraculously a perfect image of his visage was transferred onto the cloth. This spawned the Cult of the Holy Face which continues to this day. Religious congregations and communities are devoted to it.

    “Cult” has a particular meaning in Catholic tradition which has for devout bead-swingers none of the negative connotations it holds for the rest of us. For example those Catholics who adhere strongly to all that weird Mary stuff are said to be adherents of the ‘Marian Cult’ which is greatly esteemed.

    Reply
  7. Ed Whitney

    My church holds Good Friday services at 8 pm. After the liturgy the flowers are collected and we proceed to site of a recent death by gunfire (in the United States this never means a long trip) and place the flowers while reciting a prayer and singing a hymn, then departing in silence. After dark in a usually downscale neighborhood people may take notice that one of their community is being remembered. Not a bad way to end the day and to recall that Good Friday happens every day in a fallen world.

    Reply

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