For Christians all over the world, Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of all, on a hill called Golgotha (Place of the Skull).
A pair of traditional community events slated in downtown Defiance will once again bring together area clergy on Good Friday for a community ecumenical service and the 31st annual Outdoor Stations of the Cross.
The community Good Friday service will be held in half-hour segments from noon-3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 400 Wayne Ave., Defiance, followed immediately by the outdoor Stations of the Cross (Procesion del “Via Crucis”) outside of St. Mary Catholic Church, 715 Jefferson Ave., at 3 p.m.
Both events are sponsored and supported by area clergy and churches.
This will be the second community Good Friday service for Pastor John Schlicher of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (UMC), who was saddened when last year’s service was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had such loss during this past year, in so many areas of our lives, and after more than a year into this pandemic, people hunger for community,” said Schlicher. “A year ago, nobody really had any idea it would be more than a year before we could really come back together, so to have this opportunity now, to gather together as a community on Good Friday, it’s almost like a rebirth.
“In my heart, there’s a great deal of excitement about being able to be back together to worship,” continued Schlicher. “On Good Friday, we can come together as a community to remember the events of that day and the sacrifice that was made for us by Jesus. Those of us taking part in the Good Friday service are privileged to help provide a deep spiritual connection to our Lord.”
The community service features pastors from several churches representing many worship styles. This year’s theme is once again, The Seven Last Words of Christ, and each half-hour segment will explore a phrase spoken by Jesus during his time nailed to the cross.
“It’s always good when the community can come together for worship,” began Pastor Ann Wasson, “meeting, praying and singing with our neighbors builds up the body of Christ. Good Friday, which comes from God’s Friday, is when Jesus takes the journey to the cross. His death and resurrection are the center of his ministry. So for a variety of faith expressions to gather around the cross, is a sign we are looking to be the church of one faith and one baptism.”
The scripture for the noon-12:30 p.m. segment is “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:32-38. Giving the sermon will be Schlicher of St. Paul’s UMC.
The scripture for the 12:30-1 p.m. segment is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-49. Giving the sermon will be Pastor Jim Brehler of St. John United Church of Christ.
The scripture for the 1-1:30 p.m. segment is, “Woman, behold your son!” “Behold your mother!” John 19:23-27. Giving the sermon will be Wasson of First Presbyterian Church.
The scripture for the 1:30-2 p.m. segment is, “I thirst.” John 19:28-29. Giving the sermon will be Pastor Mo Dunn of Ayersville UMC/Trinity UMC.
The scripture for the 2-2:30 p.m. segment is, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43. Giving the sermon will be Pastor Nico Kinner of Pulaski/Evansport/Stryker UMC.
The scripture for the 2:30-3 p.m. segment is, “It is finished.” Luke 23:46-49. Giving the sermon will be Pastor Dave Brobston of St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Due to the pandemic, a total of 200 people will be able to worship in person, 100 in the sanctuary of church and 100 in the fellowship hall of the church via livestream.
The wearing of masks is mandatory, as is proper social distancing. For those who are unable to attend in person, the entire service will be livestreamed at youtube.com/channel/UC-dalvtVyJub4EDH52z4xJA.
Money collected during the offering at the Good Friday ecumenical service will benefit Ravens Care of Defiance (email@example.com).
“The cross is such a key symbol of Christianity ... what other religion has had its leader die for them?” asked Dunn. “It’s a reminder of our depravity, the spectacle of our human sin ... that’s what it cost for our ransom, for Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice in our place.
“We were the ones who deserved to be crucified, we are the ones who sinned, but Romans 5:8 says all we need to know about Good Friday: ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,’” added Dunn. “That’s why we observe Good Friday.”
Following the community Good Friday service, the Outdoor Stations of the Cross will begin at St. Mary Catholic Church on Jefferson Avenue.
Participants will make a short trip west to St. Paul Lutheran Church on Arabella Street, move to Thurston Street past the municipal court building, and end at St. John Catholic Church on Jackson Avenue.
There will be 14 stops on the way to read scripture and pray in remembrance of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Of the 14 stops, seven will be read and spoken in Spanish.
“Everyone is welcome to join us in following in the footsteps of Christ,” said Deacon Jeff Mayer of St. Mary Catholic Church. “This journey will take us from the time he was condemned to die, until his death. This journey will mirror the pilgrim walk of Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. This is a special way for the community to come together and remember the day Christ died for all of us.”
Due to the pandemic, only one person will carry a cross this year, and attendees are asked to wear masks and to maintain social distance.
“We can begin to be appreciative of being able to get out and participate in events that are more familiar to us, and it’s important for us to be aware of the suffering of others, which is the point of the Stations of the Cross, the suffering that was offered for us (by Jesus) on Good Friday,” added Mayer.