Left Justified: The Jerusalem Chain Saw Massacre

Torture and crucifixion: a horrible way to die. And Mel Gibson’s movie portrays what Jesus went through to save our sorry souls. Unfortunately, the $400 million he’s making off the movie will most likely not clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or get anyone out of jail free.

Christians usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming from their ornate cathedrals to do any good for the poor in this world. I should know—I’m a Christian, and it’s hard to get me to share my lunch money. As a reminder to help the poor, I walk in the Good Friday Walk for Justice every year, starting at 9 a.m., which this year starts from Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 412 N. Church St.

The “Way of the Cross” began during the Middle Ages, when people would make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Some of the trips were fraught with danger, especially as political unrest increased. The Catholic Church decided those who wished to show their devotion to the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) could do so at particular sites in their own churches. Originally, there was a wide variety of “stations,” or stops, along the way, but the number was finally set at 14. Some of the Stations of the Cross, such as Veronica’s veil, and the three falls of Christ, are not scriptural but are part of legend and tradition. Most others, though, have roots in the Bible.

Rockford Urban Ministries and Rockford Pax Christi (the Catholic peace movement—they always have to have their own organizations) started walking the streets of Rockford in 1985. “We take this walk out of the church and move it into the community as a symbol of our commitment to put our faith into action,” said Karen Johnston, then Rockford Pax Christi leader, at the first walk.

The initial walk started at the Seton Center, 921 W. State St., and proceeded across the river, ending at SwedishAmerican Hospital. More than 50 people participated. At the end of the walk, we realized we would have to trudge back the five miles, so next year we made it a circular route and shortened it, ending where we had started. The walk now starts and finishes at a local church; different ones have participated.

The 14 stations, or stops, go through downtown, most representing the community’s attempt to help those less fortunate, such as Janet Wattles Center, Luther Center and Allen Chapel. The stops have also included places that need improvement in the city’s compassion—such as the jail and a bank. We also pray for our leaders and the State and Federal buildings, for better communication through the newspaper, and a special prayer at the bridge for east side-west side relations.

The walk takes about an hour and 15 minutes. At the first station, we honor Emmanuel Episcopal’s Shelter Care Ministries, which serves the mentally ill homeless. I’m sure Jesus would want us to help these, the least of His brethren. From there, we will carry our 10-foot, 75 lb. cross to the Rockford Mass Transit terminal and pray for a better transportation system. Then we go to the Janet Wattles Mental Health Center and Allen Chapel, where we celebrate their soup kitchen and commiserate with the breakup between the Christians who could not worship because of race. (The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the early 1800s when the white Methodists would not allow their black brethren to join them for communion.)

Our next stops are at the Federal Building, the Public Safety Building, and the Illinois State Office Building. At all three places, we pray for good government. Then we swing around to the Rock River and pray for a clean environment. We cross the bridge to the Rockford Register Star newspaper office and beg God for decent communications and media.

On the way back, we stop at the middle of State Street Bridge and pray that the divisions that divide the city will be healed. At the Luther Center, our concern is with the elderly. The 12th station is where Jesus dies, and the fitting memorial of the Veterans statue at Mulberry and North Main is where we pray against war and for the soldiers.

Then we go to the Rockford Public Library and finally end up at Beattie Park, where we ask forgiveness for stealing this wonderful land from the Native Americans. From there, it is just a short walk back to Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

We pray that in these times of war in Iraq, strife between Christians and Muslims, misunderstanding between Christians and Jews, and economic hardship at home, you will find peace in Christ, who said, “Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give.” (John 14:27, New English Bible)

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!