Bearing the cross: Greenwich Christians mark Good Friday with march to the Point
Liz Peldunas and her family normally spend Good Friday in church.
This year, they decided instead to mark the holy day in a new way -- walking nearly two miles from the First Congregational Church in Old Greenwich to Greenwich Point.
Peldunas, her husband Brian, and their 6-year-old daughter Julia, accompanied more than a dozen teenagers who carried a heavy wooden cross during the trek, which symbolizes Christ's walk through the streets of Jerusalem toward his place of crucifixion. The cross will be used at the church's Easter sunrise service at Greenwich Point on Sunday.
"I thought the walk would be something you would participate in, rather than something you would just listen to," Peldunas said. "And, it's a beautiful day."
The Peldunases, who are not members of First Congregational, joined a decades-old tradition for the Old Greenwich church.
The group that took turns carrying the cross down Sound Beach Avenue, crowded with people taking advantage of the warm early-spring day, was made up of newcomers and veterans.
Twins Stephanie and Gillian Woodman, both 11, have been participating since they were 2 years old when they were pushed along in strollers by their father. They have continued to attend each year with their father, Rick Woodman, who carried the cross as a high school student in the late 1960s.
"Usually it's just the big kids" who hoist up the cross, said Stephanie, "but sometimes we help carry it."
Caroline Kelly, 15, participated in her first cross-bearing, and was encouraged to participate because she is in the first-year confirmation class at First Congregational. Caroline, who attends Convent of the Sacred Heart, said she wasn't familiar with the tradition until this year.
"I think it's kind of cool and unique," she said.
The group was particularly female-heavy, and before they headed off, they joked about being "strong women," one girl flexing her muscles.
"It gets heavier," warned Mark Montgomery, the church's associate pastor for youth ministry.
Montgomery said though not all students can walk the whole way because of other commitments, many try to make some of it.
"It says a lot about the priorities they make in their lives," said Montgomery, who joined the church in August 2008, and participated in his second walk Friday.
"Could you imagine how hard it was for Jesus to carry it all by himself?" Peldunas asked Julia, as they walked through downtown Old Greenwich. "He carried it up a hill, not a flat walk like this."
The participants said they felt the walk was a way to truly appreciate Christ's crucifixion and death.
"It's a more interesting way of learning it," Stephanie Woodman said. "It puts it in a different sense."
Staff Writer Lisa Chamoff can be reached at email@example.com or 203-625-4439.