First-time participants moved by Witness Walk

Brad Hicks • Mar 29, 2013 at 9:11 PM

ERWIN — Unicoi County resident Debbie Hill said her son, Matthew, had his choice on Good Friday of taking part in an Easter egg hunt or joining others in the annual Witness Walk through downtown Erwin.

She said it was his choice that led the two to take part in their first Witness Walk.

“I really wanted to come because my son is getting to an age where the Easter egg hunts are little bit too young, and he’s getting more serious and more interested in what Easter’s really about,” she said.

For more than 15 years, dozens in the community have gathered each Good Friday in Erwin for the Witness Walk. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Unicoi County Ministerial Association and the Erwin Kiwanis Club, involves attendees carrying a large wooden cross from the Erwin Food Lion store to Centenary United Methodist Church about a mile away to represent the journey Jesus was forced to make as he carried his cross to the place of his crucifixion.

“People are excited about being able to portray what happened many, many years ago when Jesus carried his cross,” said Larry Wiley, pastor at Central Baptist Church. “So this is kind of a commemoration of that great event.”

The walk also includes several stops along the route for local ministers to lead prayers and hymns and recite the last seven words of Jesus from the cross.

“It makes you think a lot about God and what Jesus went through,” first-time attendee Bonnie Gouge said.

Arleen Cooke said she and her husband, Frank, moved from South Carolina to Unicoi County around 15 years ago. For 14 of those years, they have participated in the walk. She said the fact that those of any faith can take part is significant.

“That makes it even more special to me because it’s non-denominational, everybody can join together,” she said.

The Rev. Garland James said he views the walk as more than just a Good Friday tradition.

“I see it as a way for us to demonstrate our faith, our belief and to say to God, ‘God, I want to put feet under what you’ve done for us,’ ” he said.

James said he feels “blessed” to live in an area where events such as the walk are held. Wiley agreed, adding that he is pleased to see the mix of familiar faces and new attendees that came out.

“I think the fact that Unicoi County and Erwin is a small community, it’s a close-knit community, and I think they still have the very strong, conservative, traditional values that many of us hold true, whereas some of the larger areas maybe have gotten away from that,” Wiley said. “There’s just kind of a general love for each other and wanting to hold onto those values.”

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