CROSBY — A stretch of four miles — walked in about 2 1/2 hours from Deerwood to Crosby — was not your typical walk Friday.
It was a walk where close to 100 people joined in taking turns carrying a wooden cross — about 6-feet long by 4-feet wide — on Good Friday for the “Share in Christ’s Passion!” Cross Walk organized by Larry Hartman.
Hartman said the cross walk has been going on for more than 20 years. He said one year there were 450 people who participated in the walk, but on average about 250 people are part of the event.
Hartman said people of all faiths can participate in the Cross Walk.
“It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or a Lutheran or any other denomination, everyone is welcome,” said Hartman. “Everyone is unique. This is a Christian thing.”
The four-mile stretch began at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Deerwood. Participants of all ages walked to Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, down Highway 6 to Cascade United Methodist Church, then traveling on Highway 210 to Presbyterian Church in Crosby, then through Crosby City Park, down Third Street Southwest to Immanuel Lutheran Church, to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and ending at Assembly of God Church.
Hartman said law enforcement is supportive of the event and has led the crowd in carrying the cross along the four-mile stretch. Hartman’s wife, Peggy, follows the crowd in a vehicle so if anyone wants to rest they can.
Hartman said three crosses are carried on the walk and people can choose how long they want to carry it. Hartman said the churches sometimes will display signs supporting the Cross Walk or will say prayers with the people who are walking.
The most important part of the Cross Walk, Hartman said, is how everyone comes together, no matter what denomination they are, to celebrate the message of the passion of the Christ.
Hartman said that in the late 90s, his friend, Marilyn “Mini” Williams, asked him to help her with a passion of the Christ play with a church youth group. He said they did the play for a year and the following year, he came up with the idea to do the Cross Walk to honor Holy Week and how Jesus had to carry the cross to his crucifixion. He said he wanted the entire community to be involved in the walk.
“People come on the Cross Walk to pray, to talk to others and to recognize the day,” said Hartman. “We do scripture readings on the walk ... and it’s a really cool thing.”
Hartman said shortly after he started the Cross Walk, he found an antique pail of nails and hammers on his front steps that someone had left him. As part of the event, Hartman said he has people say a prayer and then hammer a nail in the cross.
Hartman, who does ministry in the Crow Wing County Jail, said there are about 35 inmates who want to be part of the walk, but can’t.
“I give an extra nail to the children to say a prayer for the inmates and then they nail their nail in the cross for them,” said Hartman. “I have the children do it because they have the strongest prayers.”
Hartman said in the past 20-plus years, there has never been a terrible rain storm or snow storm during the Cross Walk. He said one time it sprinkled and when the walkers went into one of the churches, it then started pouring.
Pastor David Anderson of Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood said, “The walk is a great opportunity for Christians of all churches and denominations to come together for what really matters and what unites us and that is the cross of Jesus Christ. All too often Christians throw out accusations and insults against each other. But Jesus prayed for us that we may be one, sharing in Christ’s passion and taking part in this walk is a great way where we can lift up our togetherness.”
Williams said the “Share in Christ’s Passion!” with carrying the cross is a big deal. Williams said the event has brought churches of all denominations and the people together as one. Williams said people of different religions can argue all day long, but the important thing is what people believe in.