Good Friday is the day on which Christians commemorate the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. Hence, it is a day to connect across all Christian denominations and to get together.
In 1998, the first ‘Combined Churches Easter Walk’ was initiated by Malcolm Steedman from Maria Assumpta Parish in Beach Haven. Only once in 25 years the Walk had to be cancelled – due to the Covid pandemic. The number of stops has fluctuated as churches have moved in or out the area of Beach Haven, Birkenhead and Birkdale. The church communities that have participated without fail every year have been the Anglican, the Catholic and the Baptist communities.
This year, the Walk started again at the Anglican church where Reverend Daniel Sahayam welcomed the participants.
Despite rain being forecast, the sun was shining as more and more people gathered in the Anglican Community Garden, listening to the Scripture according to Mark and Jesus’ Agony in the Garden.
There are only a few hundred metres between the Anglican and the Catholic church, but an additional halt was added this year. It was here that a month ago, Joshuah Tasi was killed on a Friday evening while Christians were praying the Stations of the Cross in their churches.
A few silent moments of prayer where withering flowers reminded of a life being lost in a gruesome stabbing amidst the community.
At Maria Assumpta Catholic Church, Pat Lythe gave a reflection on the Scripture passage which describes Jesus before the Council while his closest disciple denied that he knew him.
From here on, the Walk became slightly more challenging, and those with walking difficulties were grateful to Ritchies for continuing the long-standing tradition of supporting the Ecumenical Walk with a local bus at no charge.
About 120 people walked together up the hill to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The volunteer team of traffic wardens kept an eye on the safety of the group while people chatted, connected with new people or just silently walked alongside their friends.
The church bells were ringing when the group approached the Coptic Orthodox Church. As the Orthodox feast days don’t correspond to the Gregorian Calendar and therefore differ to those of other Christian denominations, the community was holding a service but invited the participants of the Ecumenical Walk to attend their service for a while.
The atmosphere was very special. The interior of this church surprises with the beautiful icons on all walls.
The visitors entered quietly and left after a few prayers with the Coptic community.
The ceremonies and rituals of this ancient Christian community was in stark contrast to the outdoor stops at the other churches. Entering this church was like entering into a different world.
The Ecumenical Walk continued towards the Baptist church, with two more stops on the way.
Dale Campbell from Auckland Church Network welcomed the participants at the Birkdale Bible Chapel, continuing with the Scripture reading according to Mark.
When the group reached the Birkdale House carpark, the representatives of the House of Mercy – Tongan Wesleyan Church continued reading the Passion accounts, culminating with the crucifixion.
At the Baptist church, the end of the Passion of Christ was dramatized with a re-enacting of Jesus being laid into the tomb.
After this walk of about 3km, the participants stayed together and socialised in an atmosphere of friendship and good neighbourhood.
07 April 2023, Beate Matthies, Maria Assumpta, Beach Haven