OCEAN CITY — Starting out just with parishioners from St. John Lutheran Church, the Stations of the Cross procession grew as it worked its way up the Boardwalk on Friday afternoon.
It was just what church Pastor Mark Bruesehoff was hoping for.
“We pick up people along the way. By the time we get to Sixth Street, we’ll count heads again,” Bruesehoff said.
The congregants from the Central Avenue church re-enact the last days of the life of Jesus on the boards every year during Easter weekend. Bruesehoff said it is a way for them to renew their own faith. But Christianity, like all religions, is always hoping to extend its message to others. Bruesehoff said he took advantage of one of the city’s greatest resources — its oceanfront Boardwalk — to do that.
He could not have picked a better day this year. The Good Friday sun was shining, the ocean was calm as a lake, and the boards were packed with strollers eating ice cream cones, pizza and other shore treats.
They couldn’t miss Devin Mulloy, 16, of Egg Harbor Township, as he walked by carrying a heavy wooden cross. Mulloy played Jesus as he stopped at 14 distinct stations that were part of the last hours on Earth of the Christian savior.
“It’s the 14 stations Jesus went to from the beginning of the Passion to the cross, after the Last Supper and Judas betrayed him. These are significant events during the walk, falling and meeting various people along the way,” Bruesehoff said.
At each station, parishioners read from a program Bruesehoff wrote about what happened there. He wrote it about 30 years ago based on information he took from the Bible and the Gospels.
While Boardwalk strollers gather around at each station, parishioners walking from 14th Street to Sixth Street follow the entire program as Jesus meets his mother, Mary, is helped by Simon, comforts women weeping for him, is nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers, and finally dies at Station 11. Of course, the story is not over yet.
“God who created all, who bore the cross, and who dwells in us, be with you all,” is the closing.
By then the group from the church notices plenty of people they don’t know. Some are from other churches, but others they just picked up along the way.
“There are faces I don’t recognize,” said Bruce Rahn, a parishioner from Upper Township who did readings at five stations.
Kelly Mulloy, the mother of the cross-bearer on this day, is surprised at the size of the crowd.
“There’s a good amount from the church, but a lot of people I don’t recognize. Each year this gets bigger and bigger,” Mulloy said.
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