This morning I walked around downtown for an hour with 30-40 other people from church. We drew looks from people as we went. Some were looks of shock, others surprise, confusion, and anger. A small number of people joined us more shouted mocking things from their car windows as they drove by. We were surrounded by the press at all times: at least two television stations and two newspapers were represented. I was interviewed.
So what were we doing to solicit all of these very mixed reactions? We were taking turns at carrying a 15 foot long wooden cross, stopping periodically to read passages from the gospels and Isaiah pertaining to the Passion of Jesus.
I read aloud a selection about how Jesus was mocked and beaten whilst standing on the corner of Government and Humboldt, kitty-corner to the tourist information centre. Despite using a megaphone, I was all but drowned out by the vehicles roaring by at 9:30am. Half past nine in the morning on Good Friday and downtown was already abuzz with traffic. No wonder we got so many confused looks. More frequently, we drew looks of anger from store keepers and we paused infront of their shop waiting for the light to turn. I wonder how many people actually knew the reason why they had a day off of work? As one of my fellow walkers said to me “Christians need to get out of the four walls of their buildings and be visible in the community more often.” Indeed.
I had an opportunity to carry the cross for a the last few blocks of our walk. I wasn’t going to but they needed someone to finish it up (sort of like Simon of Cyrene?) and the previously mentioned fellow-walker told me it was a moving experience. So I took the cross. I wasn’t anticipating it to feel as strange as it did. With a cross over one shoulder, I had limited mobility as it was difficult to turn around and see if the group was even still following me. I was all alone with a big hunk of wood on my shoulder. I felt more at the centre of things than I have in a long time: exposed. While I would not presume to compare my experience to that of Jesus’ in carrying his cross, I can understand a little more of how it felt. In those last two and a half blocks that I carried the cross I was isolated and alone. There was no one in my field of vision save the photographers that followed us relentlessly and all I could do was look ahead and focus on the destination.
This is the 23rd year that Christ Church has done this, but this year was one of the lowest turn outs yet. I wonder what this says about our priorities when there are more people shopping on Good Friday morning than there are at church.