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Evans City Community Cross Walk honors Good Friday

The Rev. Brandon Johns of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Evans City prays next to the cross at the Evans City Community Cross Walk on Friday. Four Evans City area churches participated in the annual walk through town commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Gathering Together

Four Evans City and Callery churches gathered together on a bright, windy Friday afternoon to continue a longstanding Easter season tradition — the Community Cross Walk, a procession and prayer service combining members of Crestview United Presbyterian Church, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, St. John’s United Church of Christ and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Starting at noon on Good Friday across the street from St. John’s United Church of Christ, the procession of around 30 people carried a cross to locations in the Evans City area, saying prayers and singing verses of the hymn “Were You There?“ at each spot.

“We feel that it’s an important community witness,” said Brandon Johns, pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. “Christ died not just for me, or my way of believing, but for all of us together, and so if we can proclaim that together, especially in an otherwise divisive world, that’s a pretty special and powerful moment.”

In 2020, the tradition was put on pause due to the pandemic. Last year a version of the procession was held, but exclusively outdoors. This year the congregations were able to return inside at the end of their walk for a prayer service at St. Peter’s.

“The different churches share,” Johns explained. “We rotate every four years which one will host the service after the walk.”

Gregg Hartung, commissioned ruling elder at Crestview United Presbyterian Church, said the churches in the Evans City Ministerium often hold events together.

Kate Johns, 4, center, her sister Anna, 7, left, and cousin Carter, 6, pray with parishioners at the Evans City Community Cross Walk on Good Friday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Lily Johns, 9, center, and her sisters Kate, 4, left, and Anna Johns, 7, help carry a cross with other church members at the Evans City Community Cross Walk on Good Friday. Four Evans City area churches join together for the annual walk. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

“In the fall, when Evans City holds Oktoberfest, we do a small community worship service,” he said. “We try to get people from different (churches) to work together instead of being in their own separate places.”

Tom McMeekin, commissioned ruling elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church, added that the pandemic had put a pause on such events.

“There was a little bit of a time of introspection, where we were not really looking out into the world,” he said.

Pastor Lisa Griffin of St. John’s United Church of Christ said it was nice to be able to be together for the service after two years of modified services.

“Whether you carry (the cross) or journey along, it makes me feel like I am following Christ on that path he walked, so I find a lot of meaning in it,” she said.

Donna Sailer brought her grandson, Connor, to the procession. A member of St. John’s United Church of Christ, she has attended the Cross Walk in past years.

“The churches here do a lot together,” she said.

Tammy Croftcheck of Crestview United Presbyterian Church attended the walk after hearing about it at the church’s Holy Thursday service.

“I think it’s amazing that they’re doing it,” she said. “What’s better than visually recreating something?”

Mark Zoelle,12, left, and Jake Vicheck, 18, carry a cross Friday with other church members at the Evans City Community Cross Walk. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Pastor Brandon Johns of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Evans City prays next to the cross at the Evans City Community Cross Walk on Friday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle