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Easter tradition continues

Around 50 community members gathered together to display their love for Christ during the annual Witness Walk held each Good Friday. After making one of their stops at Erwin Town Hall, the group continues their walk, bearing a large wooden cross as they head to the Unicoi County Courthouse. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

Despite the cold and rainy weather, community members came together to participate in the annual Good Friday Witness Walk on March 30. During the Witness Walk, participants carried a large wooden cross, symbolizing the journey Jesus made prior to his crucifixion.

Led by a police escort, the participants carried the cross for about a mile, starting at the Food Lion in Erwin and ending at Centenary United Methodist Church.

“It’s a culmination of solemness and friendliness,” said Rev. Stan Webster of Erwin Presbyterian Church, one of the event organizers. “We’re walking together to remember the love of Christ exemplified by his suffering.”

Rev. Ralph Crass with the First Assembly of God Church said he believed the event was first started close to 20 years ago by Tom Wade, a former Reverend of Erwin Presbyterian Church.

“It’s been going on ever since,” said Crass. “To my knowledge I’ve been coming every year that it’s been going on. It seems as though the turnout has been strong each year.”

Coretha Lefler has been attending the event for several years now. She brings with her nine young children, mostly her grandchildren, to experience the event. Like many, the Witness Walk has become a family tradition for them.

“They have started to look forward to it each year,” Lefler said. “It’s all about the community coming together for the Lord.”

The participants made four stops during the Witness Walk, starting at Food Lion and traveling to Erwin Town Hall, the Unicoi County Courthouse, and then ending at Centenary United Methodist Church.

At each stop, a new set of participants were allowed to experience the weight of the cross and assist in carrying it to the next location.

“We need new learning,” event attendee Becky Trotter said about the story of Jesus’ crucifixion during the Passover. “I hesitated to come because of the rain and cold … but I said I’m going to go anyways.”

Prior to local pastors and church members delivering messages from the Gospel of Mark at each of the four stops, Rev. Larry Wiley from Central Baptist Church led everyone in gospel hymns.

Rev. Noah Taylor of Evergreen Free Will Baptist Church spoke on Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, followed by Rick Babin of Ninth St. Baptist Church who spoke about Jesus being on trial. Kathy O’Brien with St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission spoke about the apostle Peter denying Jesus, before Rev. Todd Edmondson with First Christian Church concluded with a message relating to Jesus crying out and asking why he had been forsaken.

“This is absolutely a very special event,” said Trotter.

Trotter, who moved to Erwin from South Carolina, said she enjoys living in an area that she sees as being faith driven.

“We have more churches here than any county I’ve heard of,” she said. “If the world was all love and not hate, we would be okay.”