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Variation on Stations of the Cross

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St. John’s to offer Good Friday service from a woman’s perspective

By John Barnhart

    St. John’s Episcopal Church will observe Good Friday with the Stations of the Cross. This follows Jesus as He carries His cross to Calvary, His crucifixion and death. During this service, people physically follow Jesus moving to 14 stations in the sanctuary.

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    This year will be different. Instead of the traditional Episcopalian liturgy, 14 women, one at each station, will speak from the perspective of women who Jesus had contact with during His earthly ministry.
    The stations, plus three meditations that precede them, come from a book by Katie Sherrod called “Women of the Passion, a Journey to the Cross.”
    The Rev. Wilson Brown, St. John’s rector, notes that writing something like this takes conjecture.
    “But Katie Sherrod has done a good job of imagining what it would be like to be that person,” Brown said.
    Some of the women — Mary Magdalene and Mary, Jesus’ mother, are mentioned in the Gospels as being present at the Crucifixion. Others, such as the woman who had a hemorrhage for 12 years before Jesus healed her aren’t mentioned as being there. One is a woman who only encountered Jesus in a dream. The Gospel according to St. Matthew records that, as Jesus stood trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, Pilate’s wife sent him a message stating that she had a nightmare concerning Jesus and warned her husband to have nothing to do with Him.
    In one case, the existence of the woman is a matter of conjecture. This is the wife of  Simon of Cyrene. Simon is the man who was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross. None of the Gospels mention his wife, but it’s virtually a sure thing that he was married. Did his wife accompany him on the long journey from Cyrene, located in what today is Libya, to Jerusalem for the Passover?
    The 14 stations are preceded by meditations from the perspective of three women, one being Pilate’s wife. Another of the three is the servant girl at Caiaphas’ home who calls attention to the fact that Peter, who had come into the courtyard, was one of Jesus’ disciples.
    Pat Rieley and Renée Vest, both of whom have multiple job descriptions at the church, brought this program to St. John’s. Rieley said that she heard about it being done at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke.
    “I heard good things about it,” she said.
    Rieley and Vest worked to put the program together here. Rieley said the work was their Lenten discipline.
     Brown said that the stations  and  meditations will be in a liturgical setting with prayers at the beginning and end.
    The Good Friday service begins  at 7 p.m. and  all are welcome.  An Episcopalian Good Friday service is a solemn meditation. The altar has been stripped the previous evening and the cross has been veiled in black. There is no Eucharist (Communion) at  a Good Friday service.