The Stations of the Cross is a devotional exercise that is observed on Good Friday by many Christian churches. The practice has its origins in the era of the Crusades, when pilgrims trod the Via Dolorosa through the streets of Jerusalem, re-tracing Jesus’ steps on the path to Calvary.
The West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square, in Philadelphia, has for the past few years combined its own observance of this venerable spiritual practice with more modern multimedia representations of the fourteen “stations”, created by congregation members and local artists. Service attendees gather at the church for a brief time of reflection, and then process to the neighboring park to view the artists’ work and hear further reflections on the meaning of each work by its creator.
This simple yet moving service reintroduces to the worship experience the historical element of outdoor movement from station to station, while delivering modern interpretations of Christ’s passion and death, in the context of an inner city neighborhood. Attendees are both witnesses to, and witnessing for, Christ’s presence in the neighborhood.
Here are a selection of the fourteen stations, along with the reflections of the artists that created each piece.
Jesus is Condemned to Death – Oil on wood/rock – Ann Minich
“The piece is about a violence; being attacked, knocked over, violated; I imagine that Jesus in his humanity experienced all those feelings and more when he heard the sentence of death. There is an image of a shroud/cloud in the painting, prefiguring his death and time in the tomb.
“The journey that Jesus took that fateful day is one that we all share and experience in our own life and in all aspects of that life, over and over again in the present day and will continue into the future. I am honored to participate in this fine event. I feel very welcomed into this community.”
His First Fall – Mixed media installation – Gilbert Gonzalez
“Jesus, the cross you have been carrying is very heavy. You are becoming weak, and almost ready to faint, and you fall down. Nobody seems to want to help you. The soldiers are interested in getting home, so they yell at you and try to get up up and moving again.
“My installation is a crime scene. White chalk outlines a body, red paint represents blood and yellow caution tape marks the spot where Jesus fell. What happened to Jesus was a crime committed by police. It was a police action that determined the outcome.
“What is the difference of what was done to Jesus by police and what police do to us today? Do you think he would be tried for his crime or shot by a cop?
Don’t blind yourself from the truth – Jesus fell because we failed him just like we are failing our children today!”
Jesus Meets His Mother – Cast plaster, screenprint on linen – Marie Elcin
“The open hand is a gesture of both help and helplessness, but also a gesture of prayer and supplication. I imagine how Mary must feel as she watches her son be persecuted and her desire but inability to help him or take away his pain. A lifeline traces our palms, supposedly foretelling our fate – like Jesus’ fate was foretold from the very beginning. A Lifeline is also a rope tossed out to save someone. Thus this piece combines the helpful/helpless hand and a lifeline with text from the gospel outlining the story of Mary and Jesus from manger to cross.”
“Christ speaks: this seventh step, my other self, is the one that tests your will.
From this fall, learn to persevere in doing good.
The time will come when all your efforts seem to fail and you will think, ‘I can’t go on.’
Then turn to me, my heavy laden one, and I will give you rest. Trust me and carry on.”
He is Stripped of His Garments – Paint on canvas – Keinalyse Medina
“I think at that moment he has accepted his sacrifice but needs strength. He is at peace with what he has to do and is ready to face it, despite the pain and agony, for a larger purpose.”
His Crucifixion – Mixed media installation – Yvonne Cintron
“My inspiration is Spring and the wonder of rebirth. This installation was built in stages, starting with the lantern used to symbolize the heart and light of Jesus, which continues to shine upon the world.
“The cross, covered in newspaper clippings and urban decay, symbolizes the very pain and suffering experienced daily by humanity, ultimately leading to our death. God through Jesus, in human form experienced that same death. However, death was not the final word.
“The flowers blooming in spring symbolize Rebirth – God’s gift given to the world. Stay hopeful…God lives here, too. In our city – in its beauty and even in its blight. In our hearts – in the good and in our times of trouble.”