San Juan Bautista takes it to the streets BY JOAN KERN, Correspondent
San Juan Bautista will once again take the Stations of the Cross to the streets at noon on Good Friday in its annual Via Crucis, or Christ's Way of the Cross.
Eric Asso will play Jesus for the first time.
"No one ever plays Jesus twice," he says.
He's taking tips from his brother, Lee, who played Jesus last year, and he's a little worried about carrying the cross.
"I kinda want to get a feel for it before I carry it 1½ hours. I know it's heavy."
The Rev. Allan F. Wolfe, pastor, is worried about the weather because for the last 15 minutes of the walk Asso will be stripped to just a loin cloth and the crown of thorns.
"We could get snow because Easter is early this year," Wolfe says. "We've never had snow, but six or seven years ago we had 50-degree weather. Jesus was shaking."
Wolfe joins the walks but avoids looking at Christ.
"I do not like watching him," he says. "I worry how the young man playing Christ endures the rigors of it, even though he's not beaten up."
The congregation, at 425 S. Duke St., has presented Via Crucis for about 20 years, expanding it when Wolfe became pastor 15 years ago. Performed in Spanish, it is a project of San Juan's children, youth and young adults. Last year, it drew 318 followers.
"It's not only an affirmation of their faith," Wolfe says. "It's a way to have pride in their Spanish culture. … It's an interesting combo of devotion and a communal event. So it's prayerful, but not in the sense of monks praying the rosary in a monastery. It also has a social aspect of the community coming together."
Asso, who has attended San Juan for about five years, also is worried because he is not Hispanic.
"I'm learning (my lines) in Spanish," he says. "My mother will come, even though she only knows a few words in Spanish. It's a little like comedy shows on Spanish TV. You don't need to understand Spanish to watch them."
Glenda Torres, who has attended San Juan since she was 9, has coordinated the production for five years, with help from her husband, Luis. They assisted with the production for five years before that. This year, their daughter, Brenda, 14, will play Veronica, who wipes Jesus' face.
"She's been coming since she was born and participating since she was 5, when she walked with the women of Jerusalem," Glenda Torres says.
Via Crucis, with a cast of about 25, will begin in front of an audience of about 150 worshippers on a platform on the church lawn, where Pontius Pilate, played by Angel Ramos, 20, condemns Jesus to death. This is his second year in the role.
It will then process through the streets, closed to traffic, in a circle back to the church parking lot, where Jesus will be crucified.
"Via Crucis -- taking to the streets -- is very traditional in Hispanic Catholic churches," Wolfe says, "in part because the culture and religion are intertwined in Latino countries."
Asso, who played the high priest last year, says people come out on their porches or lean out their windows to watch.
"Some will follow. Last year, some painters on a roof stopped to watch," he says.
A pickup truck pulling a flatbed trailer carrying the choir and a sound system will lead the way. Each station will be announced over a loudspeaker, and laypeople will speak at nine stations. The cast will hand out fliers, with hymns for followers to sing while walking.
"The city police are very helpful," Wolfe says. "The community is very receptive."
The cast has rehearsed for two hours every Sunday since Ash Wednesday.
Fabian Gonzalez, 13, will appear has Barabbas for the second year.
"I'm free, I'm free!" he says in character.
Some cast members improvise on the streets. For example, Asso says the soldiers always try to find new ways to torment Jesus.
"One year a soldier dropped down and did push ups during Jesus' third fall to make fun of him."
This year, brothers Kayne Mas, 14, and Keich Mas, 18, will play the soldiers.
"I'm the good one," Kayne says.
Last year they were thieves.
"They've graduated," Wolfe says.
The Via Crucis culminates with the Good Friday liturgy in the church at 2 p.m.
At 7 p.m., parishioners will perform a drama of the Seven Last Words of Christ. Torres says the sanctuary will be packed for both services.
"For Latinos, Good Friday is the day to be in church," Wolfe says.
For more information, contact Wolfe at 392-4118.
Other cross walks on Good Friday include:
The Northeast Ecumenical Cluster of Churches will hold its ninth annual Good Friday Cross Walk from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, beginning and ending at First Baptist Church, Duke and Frederick streets.
Each stop will feature a Scripture reading, prayer, short meditation and hymn. People are welcome to join the walk anywhere along the way. Refreshments will be served at the end of the walk at First Baptist, which will host a service in case of bad weather.
The schedule of stops, with speakers and topics, follows.
n 12:10 p.m.: The Rev. Dawn Yoder Harms, of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church, will speak on "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" at First Baptist.
n 12:30 p.m.: The Rev. Deb Schrieber, of Otterbein United Methodist Church, will speak on "Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise" at the Lancaster Cemetery, Park Avenue.
n 12:50 p.m.: The Rev. Carolene Brubaker, of Community UMC, will speak on "Woman, here is your son … Son, here is your mother" at Ross Street UMC, 312 E. Ross St.
n 1:10 p.m.: The Rev. Roseann M. Goldberg, of Christ UMC, will speak on "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" at the former St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 701 N. Lime St.
n 1:25 p.m.: The Rev. Steve Verkouw, of Grace Lutheran Church, will speak on "I am thirsty" at Otterbein UMC, 20 E. Clay St.
n 1:40 p.m.: The Rev. Roseann M. Goldberg, of Christ UMC, will speak on "It is finished" at Grace Lutheran, 517 N. Queen St.
n 1:50 p.m.: The Rev. Richard Hill, of First Baptist Church, will speak on "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" at First Baptist.
The Lancaster City Assembly, 426 S. Queen St., will lead a crosswalk around the block at noon on Good Friday. It will begin and end at the church and include an interactive Easter drama that will conclude in the church parking lot. Snacks will be served, and there will be crafts for children.
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