By Linda C. Hoops
How much more would the events of the week leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection mean to you if you could actually taste the vinegar Christ was given on the cross or hear the crack of the whip that scourged his back?
That is the premise of a new product from Concordia Publishing House titled Journey to the Cross, a sensory-based program that presents the biblical account of Passion Week and Easter morning through experience-focused activities appropriate for ages 3 to adult.
Kelly Bailey McCray, creator of the program and director of Christian education at Trinity Lutheran Church, Bend, Ore., originally developed Journey in 2003 for a special worship event for Maundy Thursday for the church’s grade school.
Participants in the program begin at a “Customs Station,” where they receive a passport to record what they see and hear. They then walk in small groups through 13 stations and experience the Bible stories of Holy Week at each stop.
“People remember more of what they experience than what they hear, so Journey to the Cross was made to use the senses as much as possible,” McCray told Reporter. “As participants walk from site to site, they meet individuals dressed as Bible characters who tell the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection as if they had been witnesses. Every stop also has an activity that involves the senses. For example, they smell perfume, taste Passover foods, wash their hands, and pet a donkey. And the participants collect stickers in their Passports at every stop, so they have a tangible record of their Journey experience.”
While the program was designed for children in the school, McCray found that the parents who acted as chaperones simply walking the children between stations “came away with a renewed appreciation for all that Christ had done for them.” About 275 people took part in the first journey.
In response to her congregation’s experience with the program, McCray made some changes when creating the program for CPH: She shortened the actors’ scripts and included suggestions for dealing with inclement weather, “since we had to relocate our stops in the middle of the event when it began to snow. I think that writing it for CPH helped me to create a better planned, more cohesive event,” she told Reporter.
The Journey CD-ROM is a complete planning guide with reproducible files that give step-by-step instructions on how to create a program at a church or school. It includes ideas for decorating, recruiting, advertising, training, and leading the event. It also has files for reproducing bulletin inserts, sign-up sheets, the passport, and scripts.
The program is practical to implement at congregations of all sizes, according to CPH Marketing Manager Keith Settle.
“This program was developed in a Lutheran congregation, and its content and planning reflects a practical style. Those who participated in Journey to the Cross share that it is one of the most meaningful Easter experiences they’ve ever had,” he said. “Journey to the Cross is a family-focused event and also a perfect community outreach.”
McCray says the CD offers ideas for making Journey an outreach tool, including having the pastor be a greeter or to be available for questions at the end of the experience, and including the church’s phone number and worship times on the passports.
“And it doesn’t need to be done at your church,” she added. “The whole event could be done in a public setting such as a park or parking lot or empty warehouse. The key to using the Journey as outreach is to publicize it well in your community and have a plan for connecting with visitors after the event.”
McCray feels the best part of Journey to the Cross “is the chance for the events of Holy Week to come alive and not just be words in a story. Children and adults alike think they know the whole story because they hear it every spring. But when you actively participate in something that is similar to what Jesus experienced, by tasting vinegar or hearing a whip crack, then the events of Easter become more significant and less likely to be taken for granted.”
The Journey to the Cross CD (item no. 29-0800WEB), $39.99, is available by calling CPH at 800-325-3040 or through its Web site at www.cph.org.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted January 22, 2009