Walking the walk

Much discussion at the moment amongst ‘Christians Together in Stirling’ folk about whether to hold a Walk of Witness in the city on Good Friday or not.  In previous years, this ecumenical event has begun with a service at Holy Trinity, followed by a group of people walking behind a large cross, stopping en route for Scripture readings and hymns.

I can understand the motivation:  it it publicly declaring our faith, demonstrating a measure of Christian unity (though only we would know that, I suppose), telling something of the story of the Passion.  

On the other hand, it seems to get slower every year, the readings are probably unintelligible (not to say barely audible) to most passers-by who have no familiarity with the context, and the solemn nature of the day must convey a rather miserable picture of Christianity.  

I suspect that to do these things well, you need a lot more resourcing and planning than we can put in – a full-scale Passion Play might work, but I’m not sure that there is much impact from a straggling line of  Christians who don’t know whether to chat or be silent, to engage with passers-by or just make a procession, to read the Passion or try to convey its  significance for today.

I love the early-morning praise that the same group offers on the Castle Esplanade on Easter morning, and I think it would probably say more to those ‘beyond the Church walls’ than the Good Friday walk.  Somehow, the Passion calls me to inward-looking;  I want to be quiet in church.  The only time I have found it a key time of outreach was when I was a chaplain at Cornton Vale Women’s Prison.  The chapel was full on Good Friday;  largely avoided on Easter Sunday.

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9 Responses to Walking the walk

  1. Eamonn says:

    One model for joint Good Friday witness which I have been involved in is to have the walk, and stop at/in the churches for prayer and readings, culminating in a service at the last stopping-point. Then people could join if they wished, and would have a better chance of hearing and understanding.

  2. We’ve walked on Palm Sunday between the C of S, the Roman Catholic Church and St Mary’s. Although we form a rather straggly line, I think that there is something to be gained from knowing that at one time in the year in this part of Glasgow some kind of witness is made that protestants and catholics can march together.

    That does not stop the local authorities sending rather a lot of people to marshall it. A “Religious Walk” in these parts has connotations that lead the police to turn up in numbers and ask us what tunes the bands will play. (Not that we have any bands at all).

    When I lived in Yorkshire, Good Friday was a big market day and there was the possibility of the church doing something in a busy market place which could be quite effective. “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by” was very real.

  3. alisonpeden says:

    Yes, you have called me back to the ‘kenosis’/emptied aspect of this witness: I was maybe thinking that we should present a ‘powerful’, ‘upbeat’, even ‘successful’ witness to our faith, whereas maybe the very humility of a united but straggly group is closer to the gospel and powerfully counter-cultural in its own right.

  4. Alistair says:

    I do feel a certain awkwardness on the Walk of Witness, but it is the one time when we take our faith out onto the streets. And it seems an entirely appropriate way to mark the day. The crucifixion was a very public affair after all, and the mixture of puzzlement, apathy and occasional hostility we get going down Port Street seems to echo the likely reaction of the crowd back then in Jerusalem.

    By contrast, whilst the Easter morning sunrise service probably comes off better as a piece of evangelism, I find the sudden switch to triumphal certainty a bit difficult to cope with. Singing ‘Thine be the glory’ in a big crowd doesn’t capture the residual confusion of the disciples (still shared by many Christians today) in the face of the resurrection, and the fact that it took days, weeks, possibly even years for the significance of the event to become apparent.

    • alisonpeden says:

      I see what you mean: we are ‘re-enacting’ Good Friday ‘as it happened’, and should expect apathy, hostility etc from ‘the crowd’. But on Easter Sunday, we are ‘re-enacting’, if anything, a post-Pentecost faith. So perhaps we should ask who we are doing all this for: ourselves as an experience, or as witness and outreach?

  5. I used to live in Stirling and carried the cross one year. How I feel about this as a bit of an outsider now is that it felt a bit like when I lived in Gorgie and the Bretheren would stand in a row outside my flat and shout up at the windows (6pm every Sunday as we lived in the same street as the gospel hall). Its a bit like all the posters you see outside churches – saying something at people but not really communicating.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but the church in general needs to become more communicative and that means a two way process. Its interesting that the church does this quite well with people of other faiths but not people of no faith.

    Thats my perception anyway.

  6. alisonpeden says:

    I agree that finding the places to have the conversations we need to have is difficult. Some churches are opening up these conversations in pub or cafe sessions – rather than speaking ‘at’ people, as you well describe it. But do people actually want to have this kind of dialogue? Are they still interested?

  7. The phrase “christian discussion” returns 180 million page results on Google.
    “Spirituality” 208 million.

    The second most searched for term on Google beginning with the word “Christianity” is “Christianity Explored” which is a type of enquirers course like Alpha.

    Most searched phrases on Google beginning with “is Jesus”, in reducing order of search volume:

    Is Jesus God
    Is Jesus real
    Is Jesus a Jew
    Is Jesus the son of God
    Is Jesus Jewish
    Is Jesus black
    Is Jesus the messiah
    Is Jesus gay
    Is Jesus coming back

    Sounds to me like people want answers to those questions.

    The world of blogging and twitter is a place of lively theological discussion and sometimes the correspondents do meet up in real life. I know that I do. On TV, the various christian channels’ most watched programmes are discussions and phone ins.

    I suspect the church is getting, or has been, left behind by the communication revolution. These discussions will take place with or without the churches engagement.

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