Reading the story of the Crucifixion does not make it
as real as carrying a cross on one's back.
In observance of Good Friday April 2, a group of Christians in Altoona will do just that.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Pastors Evie Madison of the Jaggard Memorial and Fifth Avenue United Methodist congregations and Joe Fleck of Greenwood United Methodist Church will be among those participating in a cross walk that begins at noon April 2 at Greenwood church. Fleck said the walk is open to anyone who wants to participate.
They will begin at Greenwood United Methodist Church about noon and walk about a mile to East End United Methodist Church, where a time of sharing and reflection will be held before returning to Greenwood.
It is the second year for the walk which was initiated by Pastor Joe Fleck of Greenwood United Methodist Church after he found a 6-foot, 40-pound pine cross in storage at the church.
He and his wife, Traci, had been on similar walks when they lived in Mount Union and decided to begin one here.
Five people participated last year, including members of Jaggard Memorial United Methodist Church. Fleck said the churches hope more people will participate this year, noting that about 40 or 50 people take part in the walk in Mount Union.
Evie Madison, pastor at Jaggard Memorial, participated last year and said she was surprised how heavy the cross was when it came her turn to carry it. She said the group went up a slight hill, and it was enough to make the participants realize how difficult it must have been for Jesus to carry the cross up Calvary's hill.
"He had been beaten and flogged. He had to carry his own means of death on his walk. He had to carry something heavy, the thing he was to be executed on," she said. "How hard it must have been, emotionally and physically."
Cheryl Rupp of Altoona and a member of Jaggard Memorial remembers carrying the cross last year.
"It was a very moving moment when it was my turn to put the cross on my shoulder and carry it," she said.
"You can't help but think of Jesus doing the same thing," she said. Yet, she said there was no comparison between the group's walk and Jesus' trip.
"He must have been exhausted," she said. "He was in pain, humiliated and spat on."
Rupp, who plans to also participate in this year's walk, said, "it is important to be public about it. It's not a showy thing. It's an act of grace, an act of thankfulness. It's something I want to be a part of. It makes you understand what Christ did for you on the cross," she said.
Fleck said the walk is a way for the church to be out in the community and let people in the community see the church.
He said last year people came out on their porches to watch or take note driving by in their vehicles.
He said the first time he carried the cross "was a very powerful experience, a very solemn experience and a very moving experience."
Fleck said it gave him a "better understanding of what Jesus sacrificed when he gave his life for my life although it did not compare to the agony he suffered. It drew me closer to the Lord."
Ed Laws, a member of Greenwood United Methodist, concurred.
He said the walk "gave me a new understanding of what he [Jesus] went through."
Traci Fleck has been on three cross walks, including two in Mount Union. She said the walk is meaningful every time she does it.
"In our everyday worship, we don't think about what he did on the cross. But when we put ourselves in that place and time and concentrate on it more, it gives a whole new meaning to it," Traci Fleck said.
The cross walk is only a part of a day that will focus on Christ's death. It includes a breakfast at Jaggard that looks at Jesus' arrest and trial and an evening service at Greenwood on the Crucifixion.
Fleck said the purpose of the walk and the day is to get people to enter into - not just be observant - of the life of Christ.