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Following in Jesus’ Footsteps
Tragic journey recreated

by Janet Nesler

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The clicking of horses’ hooves beat against the road as an occasional sunray reflected off the shining armor of the guard.  The hill was steep where a young man, wearing a crown of thorns, struggled beneath the load of a cross while his life changed forever.

For the fourth year, in a cold drizzly rain, Biblical history came to life on Good Friday, as the junior and senior youth group of Wheelersburg United Methodist Church re-enacted the journey of Jesus carrying the cross.  The group traveled from the church in Wheelersburg to the center of town to Wagner’s Hill, representing Calvary, where the towering cross was erected and displayed for Easter sunrise services.  The re-enactment has become a recognized annual event in the area.

Dramatic in bright costumes made by member of the Wheelersburg church, children of all ages walked behind the cross.  Some of the costumes date back as far as 50 years, created for previous pageants.

Those worn by the young people portraying Jesus and the two Roman soldiers were in a theatrical company in Cincinnati, originally work in the musical “Jesus Christ, Super Star.”  The crown of thorns was made by Don Bolander in 1965.

To prepare spiritually for carrying the cross, the youth participated in the Lenten church services and on Friday, just before the procession, they knelt at the alter in the sanctuary and took communion together in remembrance of the event they were about to reenact.

“The youth of the church give the community a chance to be a witness to a part of Easter drama,” said Karen Cremeans, youth director.  “For some this will be the only Easter message they will see.  It gives our youth a chance to be a witness to our faith.”

The cross used in the procession was constructed and built by Ray Kennard and the Senior High youth group in 1993.  The 200 lb cross is a replica of the Biblical one, and was originally designed 21 years ago by Sheri and Ray Kennard at the Charlton City United Methodist Church in Maine.  Closely represents the Roman cross on which Jesus was crucified.  This enormous creation is approximately 15 feet, 6 inches in height with a cross beam of 7 feet, 6 inches.

Portraying Jesus was Jim Martin a student at Wheelersburg High School and the president of the youth group.

Before carrying the cross to portray Jesus, he said he saw the act as a way to share his faith by telling people why Jesus died for them.  After the journey was completed, he said, “It made me really appreciate what Jesus did for me.”

“The annual trek is as rooted in Biblical history as the cross itself,” Cremeans said.

“When you go back into church history, most people couldn’t read or write, until the 13th century.  So how did ministers tell the story of Jesus?  It was done through pageants.”

“I wanted to bring the story and the New Testament alive to these kids that are so brilliant with Nintendo’s and all the competition with the TV and super movies that blow people up.  How do you compete with that?”

“We thought maybe a pageant would bring things to life for these kids.  We found out the first time we had a reenactment that people in the community who didn’t attend church said seeing these kids carry the cross was the only Easter they would see.  So it served a purpose in the community and the youth were able to contribute in a great way.”

The 12 disciples who helped bear the weight of the great cross were portrayed by John Lapp, Will Wood, Pete Martin, Michael Peters, James Bays, Brian Fate, Dustin Woodrum, Joe Hayden, Brett Baker and Jason Maple.

Suzanne Welch of Portsmouth, who with Arron Wood portrayed Roman guards in full battlement armor, rode her magnificent Arabian horse.

Others taking part in the reenactment included Ginny Stillwell, as Jesus mother Mary; and Erica Brown, Salome.  Also participating were members of the church youth groups and children of shining Light Station, an after-school youth program for children from pre-school to sixth grade.

Senior High youth directors are Karen and Chris Cremeans and the Junior High youth directors are Tina & Eric Brown and Beth and Mike Fite.  Mary McQuay and Karen Cremeans are directors of Shining Light Station.  June Stroth was designer for most of the costumes made by Wheelersburg church.

After the procession, a Good Friday service was conducted on the hill while the massive cross was being lowered to the ground at its crest.  The proclamation of the passion story was read from scriptures, several hymns were sung and the Rev. Brad Martin, the church’s minister, delivered the Easter message.

As a project, members of the youth group crafted lapel pins made from spikes with bows of purple ribbon, symbolizing Christ’s robe, bearing the word “Forgiven” down the front.  These were given to those who witnessed the re-enactment at the top of the hill.


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