|Church walks in Jesus’ footsteps in neighborhood|
The Rev. Nancy Nichols leads Good Friday services at Broadway Christian
Parish-United Methodist Church in South Bend, Ind. UMNS photos by Barry
By Barry Simmons*
April 9, 2009 | SOUTH BEND, Ind. (UMNS)
The Rev. Nancy Nichols is sporting tennis shoes and a winter coat
under her cleric’s robe. Other church members arriving to attend
Broadway Christian Parish-United Methodist Church’s Good Friday service
are braced for cold weather, too.
“We are here to commemorate the Via Dolorosa, the walk of Jesus from
the point of conviction to the point of death,” explains Nichols.
Many churches observe the tradition of tracing the final footsteps of
Christ, known as the Stations of the Cross, but Broadway members
actually carry a cross to 14 “stations” around their neighborhood.
“During the year, I keep track of what’s happening in the neighborhood,
then design a route around where we need to go,” Nichols says. “At each
of the locations we’ll stop and share a prayer, sing and anoint the
business or place with oil.”
Redeeming the space
Each year, Nichols, who lives in the neighborhood, borrows a
six-foot wooden cross from another church and leads participants along
a circuit that includes a fire station, community college, abandoned
homes and recent crime scenes.
On Friday, April 10, the group stops at the home of Minerva Barnes, a
woman slain recently by her tenant. None of the church members knew
Barnes personally, but a few know her suspected killer.
Church members carry a six-foot
cross to one of 14 local sites.
“We pray for those who committed these murders,” the group reads
together in front of her house. “That they may repent of their actions.”
Then, a member of the group anoints the site by dipping a finger in oil
brought along for the occasion and drawing the sign of the cross.
“We want this to be remembered not as a place where a woman was
murdered, but as a place where children play,” Nichols says, as she
walks to the next station. “We wanted our prayer this year to be a
prayer of redemption for that space.”
“It’s always a walk of hope, but it’s a walk that faces the realities
of the neighborhood,” says Conrad Damien, who has lived in here 40
years and attended every prayer walk since the church began the
tradition in 1991.
“I live in this neighborhood just three blocks from here, so going
through my mind is a reappraisal of the difficulties we continue to
face in this neighborhood – and joys that have happened in the past
Answers to prayers
Among the joys, members say, is a new business that recently
supplanted a used-car lot accused of predatory lending. Two years ago,
the church prayed for its removal.
This year, the group revisited the location to give thanks.
Worshippers pray for neighborhood renewal in front of a vacant house.
“I think the message that no place is beyond the grace of God, no
matter what it may look like, is the most powerful message we could
give,” Nichols says.
“It’s funny how God answers prayer sometimes,” Damien says, as he walks past a stretch of newly renovated homes.
“A couple years ago, we prayed over this lot that was crime-ridden,
full of abandoned houses, drugs, all kinds of bad things. We prayed
that God would bring renewal to the area. Within a year or two, they
bulldozed the homes and put in Ivy Tech Community college. It’s the
best thing that could have happened. It’s brought the area up
economically and cleaned it up a lot, too.”
The group has met every year for 18 years, even in extreme conditions.
Two years ago, Nichols and her group walked the two-mile route braving
a wind chill temperature of 20 below zero.
The group often picks up a few participants along the way. Victor
Henderson joins in during their stop in front of a local business.
“Looks like what Jesus did when He carried His own cross,” Henderson says. “I like that. I’m going to walk with them.”
*Simmons is a freelance producer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or email@example.com.
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