By Stanley Campbell
I usually spend Easter Sunday at St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church, where I grew up. My Mom still sings in the choir. They use incense, which I like, for it takes me back to my childhood. I find it a good way to commemorate Christ’s resurrection. I’ve shared this before.
The story of Easter begins with Good Friday, when Jesus was “strung up” by the authorities. They did not like Jesus’ preachings on peace and poverty. He was a troublemaker and had to be silenced. But evil cannot conquer good. Thank God!
On Good Friday, Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) sponsors the Walk for Justice, which commemorates the crucifixion by dragging a heavy wooden cross through the city.
The walk starts at 9 a.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 412 N. Church St., and goes to 14 places where we stop and say a prayer. This is in the Catholic tradition. They called the procession the Stations of the Cross.
Our walk starts at Shelter Care Ministries, where people suffering from mental handicaps go to share a bowl of soup and some loving care. After a short reading, we pick up our 10-foot, 75-pound wooden cross and process over to the bus station, where we say a prayer for more mass transit in the city (walking does that to people—turns them into liberals).
After this station, it’s a quick hike to Janet Wattles, which serves the mental health of the community. We’ll remember our friend, and their former director, Frank Ware. The fourth station is the site of the new jail, where we will pray that Winnebago County will put more money into rehabilitation than it is putting into steel and concrete.
From there, it’s a long walk to the Federal Building, where we have much to say: a prayer for the immigrants and to stop the many wars, and for good leadership and a fair use of our tax dollars. Impossible prayers. Then, a quick step across the street to the Public Safety Building, where we pray for justice, and then another long walk to the Illinois State “Zeke Giorgi” Building. There, we ask that the state “not gamble with its citizens.” We say a prayer at the Rock River, the News Tower, and we stop on the bridge to pray for a less divided city.
At the 11th station, we are behind the Luther Center, and at the 12th station, which commemorates Jesus’ dying on the cross, we find ourselves in front of the veterans statue—the one where all the soldiers look like they are giving the peace sign (I asked sculptor Gene Horvath about that. He just smiled slyly). There, we say a prayer for the soldiers in foreign lands who are placed in harm’s way, and those who fought in our wars. This is my most moving station, for me. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War, and I really do pray for peace (or at least no more stupid little wars).
Then, it’s a short step to the Rockford Public Library, where we pray for the staff and the people who use that place of learning. And finally, we end the walk at Beattie Park, where we say a prayer among one of Rockford’s more sacred sites, the Native American mounds.
I enjoy the walk as well as the prayers, rain or shine. I hope you find a place to share some prayers this Eastertide. It’s a good time to reflect on one’s life, to seek forgiveness, or at least reconciliation, and to prepare oneself for the ultimate that life has to offer, which is our death. May we see a resurrection!
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the April 20-26, 2011, issue