Wednesday, April 04, 2007

We preach the Cross of Christ

The Great Week has begun and so, as a witness to the redemption in Christ, the Christian Churches in Oxford took to the streets in silent demonstration of faith in our salvation through the cross. In a short walk of maybe half a mile, more than 100 people followed a wooden cross through the central shopping street of the city. As the City Rector, Rev. Hugh Lee reminded us in a closing address, it was through just such a street that Christ stumbled, walking his road to Golgotha crowded with shoppers come for the feast.

Walk of Witness

We began our witness with prayers and a hymn in Oxford’s New Road Baptist Church where Rev. Susan Durber of St Columba’s URC recalled the entry of Jesus into the city to shouts of praise. Then, silently following the cross, we began our walk and with it the remembrance of that other procession of Christ ending outside the city walls.

Leading the procession behind the cross, I was conscious of my anxiety in meeting the gaze of the people who stopped, albeit briefly, to watch. Without the benefit of seeing the people who followed me, I felt detached, alone in my witness and afraid. Br Lawrence commented afterwards that it was more nerve-wracking to walk thus than simply to make your way around town in your habit. We were clearly making a statement of faith and so inevitably this brings with it a challenge.

We could see in the faces of the shoppers passing by an uncertainty, even an anxiety, which in some cases resulted in a discourteous remark thrown at us from the sidelines. People no longer know where to place such belief and such witness. The challenge is not so much one of rebuke but that re-stirring of the unknown, the forgotten sense of meaning in life that we would rather not be reminded we have lost.

So, was it a success? Did such a visible witness of faith in Christ preach to, edify or encourage the shoppers? The constant reminder of God’s love for all humanity, shown above all in his cross, is the work of the Christian and in this Week of salvation, to set this once more in the minds of those just heading for a bank holiday weekend is not a bad thing.

Yet more than this, there is one reaction above all that I remember, one response to our walk that perhaps resonates with the meaning of the event in this Passiontide. Above all the hustle and bustle of the crowds moving to and fro, over all the busy sounds indifferent to our silence; I heard the voice of a little girl. ‘Mummy, look! It’s the cross of Jesus…’

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your honest thoughts regarding this action of witnessing to our faith. Reading this will give courage to others who are unsure of making their own outward show of faith.

5/4/07 10:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can identify with what you were saying in this so much. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday Student Cross Oxford Leg set off, walking through Oxford with a cross on our way to Walsingham. It was intimidating, and we received a mixed response from the people who saw us.
In the end though, the experience strengthened my faith, and I think we were a reminder throughout the week to people who saw us of what Easter is actually about.
God bless you all.

15/5/07 12:36 am  

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