Christ’s journey to the cross is so deeply familiar to Christians that it’s easy to become numb to its unspeakable violence and suffering as well as the beauty of the tender moments. For centuries, members of several faith traditions have returned to the central beliefs of Christianity by contemplating the individual steps to Calvary with the help of visual or verbal reminders, called “stations of the cross” or “the way of the cross.” This year, Crozet Christians will have several opportunities to observe this solemn ritual safely, and in community with other people of faith.
Rev. Msgr. Timothy Keeney, the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, explained the tradition of commemorating the stations, beginning in ancient times. “Pilgrims would travel to the Holy Land and retrace the steps of Jesus,” he said. “We know this by accounts going back to the third century.” As it became too dangerous to travel to Jerusalem, the observance moved inside the sanctuaries of Christian churches. Visual representations of Christ’s passion, whether in stained glass, wood carvings, statuary or paintings, were installed around the perimeter of many churches, and meditating on each step became a meaningful part of Holy Week.
Everyone, no matter their denomination, is invited to join a unique outdoor procession sponsored by four Crozet churches––Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, Crozet Baptist Church, Tabor Presbyterian Church and Holy Cross Anglican Church––on Good Friday. As the community winds through downtown Crozet, people from the four churches will commemorate the stations with periodic readings, honoring each step of Christ’s journey. For this event, organized during the waning days of the pandemic, a cross will be the central symbol of the pilgrimage, and each stop will include a scripture reading, a call and response, and a brief musical refrain. Organizers said there will be handouts and a QR code that will make further information accessible on phones.
Keeney said the crucifixion as well as Peter’s denial of Jesus are stations that have a vivid meaning for him, as he’s visited the sites in the Holy Land where both events took place. These events are mentioned in all four of the canonical gospels. Some of the other events in the traditional stations, like Jesus falling three times and Veronica wiping his face with her veil, are not mentioned in scripture, but have been passed down through the ages. That’s not to dismiss them, Keeney said, as they have a long oral and written tradition outside scripture.
For the joint Crozet observance, the churches will use a version of the stations from Pope John Paul II, now a Catholic saint, completely based on the accounts of the gospels. It’s available on the Our Lady of the Rosary website, along with images, readings, and prayers. It differs from the traditional version (which itself has variations) and adds the Resurrection as the 15th station.
Talking about the interdenominational nature of the procession, Keeney said he’d had positive experiences in joining with other churches when he served in Williamsburg. Also, he pointed to the ongoing arrangement with Crozet Baptist, where members of the Catholic community share the sanctuary for services pending construction of the Our Lady of the Rosary church building.
Rev. David Collyer, pastor of Crozet Baptist Church, noted his church has had a role in interdenominational cooperation for more than fifty years, with community worship, combined fellowship for seniors, and partnerships like its “Share the Blessings” ministry and other projects for families in need.
“Unlike many Baptist churches, Crozet Baptist recognizes and participates fully in the cycles and seasons of the church year,” Collyer said. “We see these special holy days and celebrations as opportunities to teach our congregants about the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus.” He added that visual symbols can help in the church’s mission: “They are one more way for the truths of our faith to seep into our lives.”
Christ’s suffering and death, chosen intentionally, is a deep mystery, Collyer said. “It deserves our time and attention as we seek to understand its meaning for our lives and for our world. We hope that by highlighting Jesus’ passion, people will understand what God was willing to do to heal and repair our lives and our society.”
The procession will begin at 3 p.m. April 2 at the Blue Goose building, 1186 Crozet Avenue. Organizers invite everyone to park nearby (parking is limited behind the Blue Goose) and be ready to proceed promptly at 3.
At Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood, the public is invited for a contemplative walk along the Ted Caplow Trail. The trail is available in every season, but the church has added some special markers for those wanting to observe the Stations of the Cross as Easter approaches. The “stations” on this trail are natural markings. For instance, for the second station (Jesus takes up his cross), the instructions are to look for a heavy log. For each of the three times Jesus falls, there’s an invitation to find a place to sit and rest in silence. On this trail, there are 14 stations for adults and nine for children. The instructions are on the church’s website, and can be printed out in advance, or referenced from the internet at each stop. The online guide includes scriptural readings, some questions for further reflection, and a prayer for each stop. To allow its parishioners as well as the entire community to observe the stations of the cross, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ivy will display them outside the church. Pastor Justin McIntosh will lead the observance on Good Friday at 9:30 a.m., and the public is welcome to visit any time between then and 11:30, when they’ll be removed for the Good Friday service to begin at noon. Debbie Scott, director of adult formation, spirituality and services for St. Paul’s, said the stations were created locally, by New City Arts, and two of the artists, Elizabeth Wharton and Elizabeth Bunin, are members of St. Paul’s congregation. Wharton’s work depicts the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and Bunin’s image is of Peter denying Jesus.
For those who want to observe the stations of the cross at home, there’s another resource. Tim Worley, pastor of the three churches that make up the Monacan Trail Cooperative (Batesville UMC, Mt. Olivet UMC, and Trinity UMC in the Batesville-Red Hill-North Garden area) has put together a visual pilgrimage, using voices and reflections from people of the three churches, and a walk around the Mt. Olivet church grounds. The pilgrimage stops at the stations marked by the stirring paintings of James Tissot, a 19th-century French painter who spent the last part of his life painting Biblical events, and whose work is collected at the Brooklyn Museum.
Traditional or Biblical?
The traditional stations of the cross include some haunting images of Jesus. He stumbles and falls multiple times. A kind woman wipes the sweat and blood from his face with her veil. However, as hard as you might look, you’d find only eight of the 14 stations recounted in the Bible. The scripture-based version starts earlier in the passion of Jesus, incorporating the events leading up to his appearance before Pontius Pilate (his sorrow in Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, and his denial by Peter) and adding the Resurrection. Both versions offer many opportunities for contemplation. Find the scriptural version on Our Lady of the Rosary website, olrcrozet.org; and the traditional stations on the Emmanuel Episcopal website, emmanuelgreenwood.org.
Besides the stations of the cross at Emmanuel Episcopal, above, the church offers parking lot services at 12 noon on Good Friday, and 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday. An Easter egg hunt will follow the Easter Sunday service. For details, go to the website at Emmanuelgreenwood.org.
Holy Cross Episcopal Church has a new addition to help anyone in need of food assistance. The newly-installed food pantry box is located on the church grounds at 2523 Craigs Store Rd., Batesville. The box is stocked with non-perishables. All are welcome to take whatever is needed.
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Greenwood has welcomed a new pastor. Fr. Charles Sanderson comes to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church from the Ukrainian parish of Bel Air, Maryland, where he served many years as Deacon. He has a doctorate from the University of Maryland. He and his wife Melania, a Maryland native, have four sons. Fr. Anderson replaces Fr. Robert Holet, the founding pastor, who retired last year.