On a bright, sunny afternoon this past Friday, April 14th, members of the LDS Church joined nearly 200 hundred clergy and lay members of seven local Christian churches for an annual interfaith Good Friday service at Observatory Park in Denver. Following nearly twenty years of observance, the interfaith Stations of the Cross service brought together fellow Christians to recognize the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to Catholic tradition, observing the Stations of the Cross is a practice that dates back to the early 4th century A.D. when Christian pilgrims were first openly able to visit the holy sites of Jerusalem to commemorate the life of Jesus Christ. The Stations of the Cross is a narration of the final hours in the life of Jesus Christ on earth that includes fourteen specific events preceding Christ’s resurrection from His condemnation to death to His placement in the tomb. These specific events include:
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus is given His cross.
3. Jesus falls down for the first time.
4. Jesus meets His mother Mary.
5. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross.
6. Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.
7. Jesus falls down for the second time.
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls down for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of His clothing.
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross – the Crucifixion.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.
13. Jesus’ body is removed from the cross – the Deposition or Lamentation.
14. Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb.
This year, the Stations of the Cross interfaith service, sponsored by the University Hills Clergy Group, involved clergy and lay members from seven local Christian churches, including: Kirk of Bonnie Brae Church, Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, Mountain View Friends Meeting, Hillcrest Christian Church, Salem United Church of Christ, University Park United Methodist Church, and the Denver Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These churches meet regularly for a variety of interfaith exchanges that build community and strengthen Christian ties across sectarian boundaries.
In the spirit of unity and peace, both clergy and lay members participated in prepared comments on each of the respective fourteen stations of the cross. To begin the service, Father Patrick Nolan, lead priest at Most Precious Blood, recognized in his opening prayer that the gathered Christians’ mission is “to bring the world [Christ’s] peace.”
Later, during Father Patrick’s explanation on Peter’s denial of Christ at the 4th Station of the Cross, he emphasized that “when we listen to fear, our faith will tell us who we are not, but not who we are…When you live in faith, you know who you are.” At the 8th Station, a lay member of Most Precious Blood parish later explained how we must try to “slow down, take up the cross of a friend or a stranger, and walk alongside someone who is struggling.” In short, when we help others around us, we are following the example of the Savior Jesus Christ.
As the interfaith representative of the LDS Church in the Denver Stake, Jennie Preece, spoke at the 10th station of the Cross: Jesus is Crucified. Drawing upon Christ’s example of loving and forgiving others even as he hung suffering on the cross, Jennie asked those gathered:
“to follow our Savior’s example and look beyond ourselves. Let us reach out to serve, to love, and to forgive. Let us look at the paintings, at sculptures, at the words in the Gospel, ‘there they crucified Him’ and let us see, literally, specifically, and humbly, how our Savior used His last breaths to speak love.
At the end of the service, after a significant moment of silence to remember the death of Jesus Christ, clergy and members alike greeted and embraced each other with words of peace and gratitude. Both young and old benefited from participating in this interfaith service that focused on the unity that Christ brings into the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Members of the Denver Stake of the LDS Church appreciated the opportunity to recognize the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of the Savior alongside fellow Christians.