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Ecumenism on foot: Seven denominations join in walking Stations of the Cross in Culpeper

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Updated 4/10/17 at 4 p.m.

Passersby in Culpeper witnessed an unusual event April 8. Nearly 250 people of different races, ages and faiths followed a 1.4-mile ecumenical Way of the Cross between various churches. For some, it may have been their first time inside some of the Christian churches. This and seeing the churches and community come together were a draw for many. 

Michael Watts, a deacon candidate in the Arlington Diocese, originated the idea for the ecumenical Stations of the Cross in a conversation with Kate Costa, pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church, the church next to Epiphany Catholic School, where he is the president of the advisory council.

“We talked about this year being the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation,” he said. “We started (planning) with the Lutheran church and then tried to expand it to others.”

The procession began at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church where Father Kevin B. Walsh, pastor of Precious Blood Church, offered a welcome prayer in Spanish. Each participating Culpeper church hosted a station that included a Scripture reading, prayers and song. The scriptural stations used were based on ones by St. Pope John Paul II on Good Friday in 1991. In addition to Precious Blood, stations were presented in Spanish by Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha.

Members of the Knights of Columbus John J. Cempre Council acted as crossing guards at the major intersections as people moved from one church to another. A wooden cross, provided by His Village Church, was carried by different volunteers.

Joanna Madorma, a parishioner of Precious Blood Church, said the stations are a “beautiful witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus said we need to be one and we’re being one today in our praise and our glory.”

Aruna Ratnavibhushana, a parishioner at Culpeper Presbyterian Church, said it was meaningful and appropriate to walk with the cross through the town. Fellow parishioner, Charla Reynolds, said part of the draw for her was the ecumenical component.

“The ecumenical message is we each have our own worship styles, but we are all proclaiming the same redemption through the cross,” Watts said. “Despite our painful divisions we are all focused on the cross particularly at this time of the year.”

After the 13th station, people were invited to hammer nails into a wooden cross outside the church before moving on to the last station at Culpeper United Methodist Church.

Participants included St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Novum Baptist Church, Epiphany Catholic School, Precious Blood Church, Culpeper Presbyterian Church, Reformation Lutheran Church, His Village, Antioch Baptist Church, Culpeper Baptist Church, Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha and Culpeper United Methodist Church.

“I feel very blessed to live in a country that still allows us to do this,” said Diane McFarland, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017