DECATUR - With the rain hammering remorselessly out of a leaden sky, hundreds of Christians put their faith on display as they marched in remembrance of Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday.
They carried makeshift crosses and clutched each other's hands or the hands of children and the leashes of family pets, some of the groups walking more than seven miles in the deluge through the middle of Decatur. By the time they got to their Central Park destination for a 3:30 p.m. communion service rendezvous, many were beyond drenched, their clinging clothes looking as if they had been painted on.
Chelsea Kendall, 17, sat soaked and smiling with her faithful friend Nakomie, a 6-month old yellow lab. The dog, a quivering ball of energy, appeared ready to trot the seven miles all over again from First Church of the Nazarene on West Hickory Point Road, where his mistress attends.
"This is my third year doing the Cross Walk," Kendall said. "The walk is just part of our church, and it shows that through thick and thin, no matter what goes on, we're still going to represent our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Cross Walk, now in its seventh year, is organized by Wade Stine, the Christian education pastor at First Church of the Nazarene. Walkers from several other churches also braved the weather and estimates suggested some 250 people made the trek, close to the numbers that show when conditions are fine. The weather's only victim of the day was a planned musical accompaniment to the communion service, cut because of the risks of using electrical equipment.
Trinity Church of the Nazarene senior pastor Daniel Taylor led a contingent from his church who marched four and a half miles from their address on 44th Street. "We figure that if God can walk his walk on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, then it wouldn't hurt us to get a little bit wet," said Taylor, 48.
"We can share some discomfort but show a testimony to the community that there are still Christians in the world, still people who commemorate Jesus and stand for living for him."
First Church of the Nazarene senior pastor Tim Crump said he believed Easter was the most important time in the Christian calendar, outshining Christmas. "Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, especially the resurrection, there is no hope," he explained.
"All we are doing then is just following some dead guy. But because he rose again ï¿½ it changed everything."
On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, starting at the church at 7:30 p.m., First Church of the Nazarene is hosting a musical drama depicting the life of Christ. Admission is free.