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“Taking the altar into the world” on Good Friday: Bishop Beckwith to join congregations’ Stations of the Cross processions

Jersey City Stations of the Cross
Nina Nicholson, Director of Communications

On Good Friday, April 18, Bishop Mark Beckwith will participate in two public Stations of the Cross processions as four congregations “take the altar into the world” to focus attention on issues that challenge or enliven their communities.

At 9:30 a.m. the clergy and members of the three Jersey City congregations – St. Paul’s in Bergen, Church of the Incarnation and Grace Church Van Vorst – will start at the intersection of Clinton and Bergen Avenues and visit fourteen street corners that have been the sites of violent crimes. At 3 p.m. Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge will hold a procession to locations in their two communities where they feel Christ is present, both in need and in hope.

The Rev. Tom Murphy, Rector of St. Paul's in Bergen, said, "Laurie Wurm [the Rector of Grace Church Van Vorst] and I were tossing around ideas last summer about how we could go out together into our communities, and Good Friday came up as an idea." The two priests contacted the Jersey City Police Department, with whom they’ve developed a relationship, and asked them to identify locations of recent violent crimes in Jersey City.

Murphy said they were gratified by the Police Department's enthusiastic response. "From the first time Laurie and I approached them about it, they’ve been on board." The fourteen locations identified by the police include the sites of murders and violent assaults. Noting that some police officers will process with the churches, Murphy said, "Violence in the community grieves them too, and they need to express that."

Gail Blache-Gill, the Minister of Music at both St. Paul's and Incarnation, is working with Grace Van Vorst’s music leader, Colin Britt, to organize a combined choir. Other members of the three congregations will take turns carrying a cross from station to station in Jersey City. At each station, Bishop Beckwith will read a prayer.

“We also have a good number of non-Episcopal Jersey City churches involved - Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and non-denominational Christian,” said Murphy.

“The idea of ‘Stations of the Cross’ was really foreign to some denominations,” he said, “but once I explained it and its connection to violence in community, they were interested.”

The Rev. Diana Wilcox said she was taken by the idea of a public Stations of the Cross even before she was called as Rector of Christ Church in Bloomfield/Glen Ridge, after hearing Bishop Beckwith speak about it. “I emailed him and said, ‘If I am blessed to stay in this diocese, I’m in!” she said.

Noting that the boundary between the towns of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge literally runs through Christ Church’s high altar, Wilcox described the two communities as very different. “Glen Ridge is more upper-middle class,” she said, “and Bloomfield is more urban and more economically diverse.”

Starting at Christ Church’s newly restored labyrinth – “which symbolizes how we can sometimes feel lost,” Wilcox said – Bishop Beckwith will lead a procession that alternates between places representing pain or need, including an unemployment office, an empty storefront and the Glen Ridge Train Station 9/11 Memorial, and places where residents are working together to create hope, such as the Bloomfield Public Library, a nursery school and a food bank run by the local Presbyterian Church. At each station, someone will read an explanation of the location’s significance. The procession will end back at Christ Church and conclude with a Taizé chant.

Two stations in Christ Church, Bloomfield/Glen Ridge's Stations of the Cross.
Two of the stations included in Christ Church, Bloomfield/Glen Ridge's procession include an empty storefront
and the 9/11 memorial at the Glen Ridge Train Station. DIANA WILCOX PHOTOS

As in Jersey City, Christ Church has invited members of other denominations in the Bloomfield and Glen Ridge communities to join them.

“This is the first time this has ever been done in this area, and it is our hope that the experience will help us all to focus on community engagement, diversity, justice, and hope,” Wilcox said.

Bishop Beckwith will also participate in the traditional Ecumenical Good Friday Walk on Broad Street in Newark, beginning at 12 noon at House of Prayer with the Service of the Seven Last Words. At about 1:40 p.m. the procession should arrive at Trinity & St. Philip's Cathedral where the fourth word: "I Thirst" will be proclaimed and Bishop Beckwith will offer a reflection. The walk will end at Grace Church, Newark. The other area churches taking part are the Goodwill Rescue Mission, North Reformed Church, First Baptist Peddie Memorial and Old First Presbyterian Church.

The following congregations in the Diocese of Newark are also holding public Good Friday processions, many of them ecumenical events with neighboring churches of other denominations:

  • St. Peter's, Clifton
    An Ecumenical Stations of the Cross will begin at 12 noon at the corner of Washington and Main Avenues in Clifton, and proceed to St. Peter’s.
  • All Saints', Leonia
    The six Christian churches in Leonia have walked together on Good Friday since the late 1960s. Starting at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and following a large wooden cross, the 100+ walkers proceed to All Saints', The Presbyterian Church of Leonia, the Leonia United Methodist Church, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church and end at St. John’s R.C. Church, in a procession which encompasses Leonia’s three-block downtown.
  • Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Montvoille & Lincoln Park
    Good Shepherd Episcopal Church is joining the First Reformed Church and St. Joseph's Parish, both of Lincoln Park, for a Cross Walk. The Walk will start at 12 noon at First Reformed Church, 60 Chapel Hill Road. After a brief service the Walk will continue to St. Joseph's Parish, 210 Comly Road, for a second service. The group will then walk to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church for a third service. The walk will then return to First Reformed Church where women from all three churches will offer a conclusion to the Good Friday services.
  • Church of the Redeemer, Morristown
    Beginning at 7 PM Church of the Redeemer will do a contemporary Stations of the Cross as a procession through Morristown, stopping for reading and reflection at some of the many community ministries. Stations will include the Zufall Clinic (a free medical clinic), the area by the Morristown train station (a gathering place for day laborers) and Homeless Solutions (a Morristown organization helping find housing for over 30 years).
  • St. Gregory's, Parsippany
    An Ecumenical Good Friday Liturgy and procession with the Cross will begins at 1 PM at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church. At approximately 1:30 PM worshippers will begin the procession with the cross along South Beverwyck Road to the United Methodist Church. There will be stations along the way for prayer, emulating the stops that Jesus made on the way to his crucifixion. The Commemoration will conclude with a final prayer service and a time for reflection at the Parsippany United Methodist Church.
  • St. Paul’s, Paterson
    St. Paul's Church, 451 Van Houten Street will have an outdoor Stations of the Cross from 12 noon - 3 PM. The stations are public institutions and churches that are making a difference in peoples' lives. At every other station lay members will read seven meditations on Jesus' seven last words from the Cross.
  • Church of the Atonement, Tenafly
    The Tenafly Good Friday walk starts at Church of the Atonement at 1 PM. Following a large wooden cross, the worshippers walk through the entire downtown Tenafly area, to the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and ending at the Lutheran church at about 2:30 PM. This event usually has about 100 people in attendance.