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|2362: The Walk
of Witness, London
Worshipper: Dolly Rosa.
The Walk of Witness, London.
Interdenominational: Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Church of
England, in that order.
This service was a Good Friday walk of witness. It wound up
in Westminster Abbey, which has been described here many times
before. This service, however, was not about being centred in
any given space, but about replicating Jesusí walk carrying
his cross. The cross was carried by people from a charity called
Passage, which works to assist (and challenge) homeless
people in London and help them get off the streets.
This was an ecumenical service involving the Methodist, Anglican
and Roman Catholic congregations of the big churches that bookend
the street running from Parliament Square to Londonís Victoria
Station. It was interesting to look at people in the crowd and
try to guess which church they came from, and the nature of
the event gave it a genuine sense of community with Christians
from different denominations. The beneficiary of collections
taken at this service was The Passage, so the entire event was
also a community outreach project. The cross-carriers and others
from The Passage were given a high profile at all the stops.
This is the heartland of London. Every tourist has to see Big
Ben and Buckingham Palace, and the route of the walk was squarely
between them. The street down which we processed is lined with
shops, which were (irritatingly!) open for business on Good
Friday. However, they were by no means busy, and generally the
staff and customers stood in the doorways to watch the procession.
We also passed the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police,
Westminster Town Hall, and other big offices.
The highest ranking was the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop
of Westminster, who walked with us and spoke outside his cathedral.
There were many representatives of the other two denominations,
as well as the Lord Mayor of Westminster Locum Tenens, Councillor
Jan Prendergrast, who gave a greeting at the start. The Revd
Tony Miles of Westminster Methodist Central Hall gave the opening
remarks. The chief executive of The Passage, Mick Clarke, took
part in the procession. Meditations or reflections were given
by the Revd Robert Reiss, Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey; the
Revd Martin Turner, Superintendent Minister of Methodist Central
Hall; Archbishop Nichols; the Revd Mike Rayson, an Australian-born
United Methodist Minister from Illinois, USA; and the Venerable
Dr Janes Hedges, Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey. Others
too numerous to list were involved in readings and intercessory
The date & time:
Good Friday, 6 April 2012, 12.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
The Crucifixion on Victoria Street.
How full was the building?
Itís difficult to count a moving crowd. I was quite far forward
and I certainly couldnít see the end of the procession. When
we arrived at Westminster Abbey, all the seats in the nave were
taken and people were standing (more about that in a moment).
So I would guess a good few hundred took part in the event.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Amazingly, yes. A jolly young woman wearing a stewardís high-visibility
yellow tabard handed me a service sheet when I arrived outside
Was your pew comfortable?
No seating. Walking and standing. I never sat.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was expectant, with people waiting, milling around, taking pictures. The clergy and other worthy dignitaries had an elevated position with a public address system, but they were similarly chatting amongst themselves.
What were the exact opening words of the
Big Ben struck noon. That was the cue for the service to start
with the first hymn, "The Servant King." There had
been some notices beforehand about keeping silence, keeping
to the pace, not running ahead, and things like that. The first
words came after the hymn in the form of the first prayer, led
by Sister Rosalie, chaplain to The Passage.
What books did the congregation use during the
A bespoke 12-page leaflet covered the walk and the Way of the
Cross service in the Abbey at the end, even including the musical
melody for the hymns.
What musical instruments were played?
There was a four-piece brass band for the hymns in front of Methodist Central Hall and Westminster Cathedral (they processed with us). There was a drum beating time for the walking parts, and the organ played in Westminster Abbey at the end.
Did anything distract you?
At one point we had a heckler. He was a born-again Christian
shouting from the sidelines, who accused us of being Ecumenical!
Corrupt! Unrighteous! With friends like that, Christians donít
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was amazingly reverent. We were exhorted to keep silence,
and by and large we did. I heard some muted conversation among
walkers, but really not much. Passers-by, even those whose way
had been blocked from crossing the street, were respectful.
The marshals were handing out flyers explaining our purpose
and people were taking them and looking at them. At the second
service we had the chanted St John Passion plainsong
it was lovely. We also venerated a plain cross sans
corpus. Some went right up to it and touched it, genuflecting
and kissing it. All the clergy did. And I did. And lots of others
Exactly how long was
There were multiple meditations, and I didnít time them. Most
were short and sweet.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 I canít grade this because there were four (five if
you count the short service afterwards), of which most were
good, so I have split it down the middle. Generally, they were
appropriate, dignified and on-message.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The first meditation, at the gathering point, came from the
Revd Robert Reiss, Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey. It was about
the suffering of others on Good Friday, not just Jesus but also
his mother, the beloved disciple, and even the thief who was
given the extraordinary act of forgiveness. The second, in front
of Westminster Cathedral, was given by the Revd Martin Turner,
Superintendent Minister of Methodist Central Hall, who talked
about the ongoing persecution of Christians. We have it easy
in this country compared to some, but we mustnít be complacent
because the current government is working to erode the traditional
bedrock of our faith. Before we moved on, Archbishop Vincent
Nichols gave a reflection on peace, talking about the meaning
of Good Friday (Godís Friday) and how remaking love in the world
is the ongoing work of peacemakers. Back at Westminster Abbey,
the Revd Mike Rayson from the Methodist tradition in Brighton,
Illinois, talked about Maryís agony at the foot of the cross.
And lastly, in the short service called the Way of the Cross
that followed, the Venerable Dr Janes Hedges of Westminster
Abbey talked about the words from the gospel of John: "It
is finished." The total sacrifice made by Jesus may be
complete, she said, but we know this is not the end of the story.
It is only Friday.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
In the Abbey, a soloist named Jagoba Fadrique sang the wonderful
American spiritual "Were you there when they crucified
my Lord?" He sang six verses a cappella, and it
was a total-body goose-pimple experience. I wanted it never
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Some of the events of the day got a little shouty, which always
loses me. And at Westminster Abbey, it seemed as if the few
seats available were all taken by young able-bodied souls, despite
the fact that an announcement had been made about letting those
sit who most needed to. I wasn't the only one who would have
been thankful for a seat but who had to make do with leaning
against a pillar at best.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was another service taking place elsewhere in the Abbey shortly afterwards, a solemn sung Good Friday liturgy. So there was no hanging about. Some people left, and some starting queuing to get into the quire for the next event.
How would you describe the after-service
None. I didnít check the cloisters to see whether the coffee shop was trading, but I would hope not on Good Friday.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 We went inside only one of the three churches. Westminster
Abbey is magnificent Ė I always notice some new statue or memorial
stone or window, something I never saw before.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Oh yes. I love Good Friday and it was wonderful to share it with so many people who obviously felt it important to commemorate it in a big way.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sense of community in the big city.
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