(Photo: Nina Nicholson)
A group of New Jersey churches held a Stations of the Cross procession with each stop being put at a scene of a violent crime.
Last week, the churches held the processional with about 80 people participating in Jersey City on Good Friday.
Grace Church Rector the Rev. Laurie Wurm told The Christian Post that a major reason for the procession was the parallel drawn between the condition of the streets of Jersey City and the passion of Good Friday.
"We see the connection between brutality in the streets of Jersey City and the brutality that Jesus witnessed against in his own death on the cross," said Wurm.
"In His crucifixion He exposed our violence to one another, which includes our silence and therefore complicity with violence. The church is called to witness to another way. We hope this is a first step."
Wurm, who created the liturgy for the Stations of the Cross processional, added that "Jersey City has a lot of violent crime."
"Poverty is also a form of violence, which is an even bigger problem the faith communities in Jersey City are called to witness to and act upon," said Wurm. "We can work together to take the Gospel into the street and we can think about what it means practically to love our neighbors as ourselves in Jersey City."
The Rev. Tom Murphy, rector at St. Paul's Church, told CP that the idea for the procession came last summer when talking with Grace Church Van Vorst's rector about community outreach.
"We liked the idea of an outdoor Stations of the Cross especially focused on violence in our community. We quickly decided that each station should be at a place where there had been an act of violence," said Murphy.
Before the event, Murphy and Wurm discussed the concept with the Jersey City Police Department.
"Laurie and I reached out to Officer Doris Johnson, the Community Relations Officer for the JCPD west District. She arranged a meeting with Capt. Michael Kelly, who commands the West District," said Murphy. "They both loved the idea from the start and could not have been more supportive. Officer Johnson came up with 14 recent violent crimes in a relatively compact area and created the route for us. The final task was reaching out to other faith communities to participate."
Churches organizing the event were St. Paul's Church in Bergen, Church of the Incarnation, and Grace Church Van Vorst, all of whom belong to The Episcopal Church. Other churches involved in the processional included Old Bergen Reformed Church, Christ United Methodist Church, St. John's Lutheran Church, Metropolitan AME Zion Church, and the Open Door Worship Center.
The Stations of the Cross practice marks out the series of events that took place on the day Jesus Christ was crucified and is usually a meditative practice often done on Good Friday.
The stations begin with when Jesus was condemned to die, then through various events on the way to Golgotha, and concludes with His burial in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea.
The procession began in the morning of Good Friday, with volunteers taking turns carrying a wooden cross at the front of the procession.
At each station, traditional liturgy was spoken as well as a description of the violent crime that took place at that location. For each stop, a nail was hammered into the cross.
Prominent attendees included New Jersey State Assemblyman Charles Mainor and Bishop Mark Beckwith, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.
Carol Harrison-Arnold, a warden at the Church of the Incarnation, told CP that awareness was an important goal of the procession.
"Crime is so prevalent that many are desensitized by its existence. This procession reminded us that many victims of violent acts should not suffer or die unnoticed," said Harrison-Arnold. "Bringing attention to the existence of crime, not letting it go unnoticed, remembering the victims, and that we are all God's children is a start. We need to make our presence known in the community and assist in meaningful ways to teach that there is as an alternative to violence."