Erwin and Unicoi county residents take turns carrying a wooden cross during the Good Friday Witness Walk on Friday. (Photos by Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
ERWIN — Last year, Roy Guajardo took part in his first Good Friday Witness Walk as the event gave him the opportunity to come together with other Christians in the community ahead of the Easter holiday.
Guajardo said it was what he took away from participation last year that prompted him to again take part this year.
“We’re all brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We all believe that symbol right there (the cross) means something to all these people, and that’s what I get out of it. I may be Catholic, but we have the same beliefs as far as Jesus Christ.”
The annual walk, co-sponsored by the Unicoi County Ministerial Association and the Erwin Kiwanis Club, took place in Erwin on Friday. For more than 15 years, members of the community from multiple denominations have taken part in the Good Friday event, which involves attendees carrying a large wooden cross from the Erwin Food Lion store on North Main Avenue to Centenary United Methodist Church to represent the journey Jesus was forced to make as he carried his cross to the place of his crucifixion.
“It’s certainly a time of inspiration, personally, and I know it’s a time of inspiration for all of those who participate,” said the Rev. Garland James, ministerial association president. “I get phone calls early, three or four weeks ahead of time, asking if the Good Friday faith walk is on. It’s just a way for us to say, again, ‘Thank you, God, Thank you, Jesus, for what you did for us.’ ”
Several stops are made along the route, at which attendees join together in song and local ministers lead prayers and recite the last seven words of Jesus from the cross.
“People can pause and reflect upon the seven last sayings of Christ as each minister shares a message about that and causes us, I think, to reflect on the significance of what Good Friday really was and the sin that Christ was bearing upon himself,” said Larry Wiley, pastor at Central Baptist Church. “As we reflect upon that, and realize that without that, we would have no forgiveness or no hope of eternal life.”
Following the Witness Walk, first-time participant Kim Frazier said she was impressed by the event.
“It was a good reminder of what Jesus did and went through,” she said.
Lisa Edmondson said Friday marked her third Witness Walk. She said the event provides participants with an opportunity to “pray with the community,” regardless of denomination.
“I just think it’s neat that we can come together with other Christians in our town, and it’s a reminder of what happened to Jesus on Good Friday,” Edmondson said.
James said more than 100 people took part Friday, but he said even non-participants seem to be blessed by the event. As the crowd of participants made its way to Centenary, others gathered on their porches and along the road to watch as the hoisted cross passed by.
“I’m of the opinion that a large, large, large percentage of the people are actually Christians or have accepted Christ,” James said. “A good many of them don’t choose to participate in a community-type service. Yes, they’re believers. They do a lot of great things and, as you see, the streets have been lined. There’s probably close to, I don’t know, 50 people who were alongside the road and a lot of pictures were taken for moments to remember. We’re just thankful to be part of the journey.”
“And even those that were held up in traffic trying to get somewhere else, it spoke to them as well,” Wiley said. “Maybe they weren’t lined up to see it, but it gave a message to them. It was probably something they weren’t prepared for, weren’t looking for, but God works in mysterious ways.”