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Covington Methodist creates Stations of the Cross interactive display

Covington First United Methodist Church Pastor Doug Gilreath hammers a nail into a cross as part of a Stations of the Cross interactive display prepared by the church for the public to visit.

Covington First United Methodist Church Pastor Doug Gilreath hammers a nail into a cross as part of a Stations of the Cross interactive display prepared by the church for the public to visit.

From creating original paintings to erecting a solid cedar cross crafted from a large chunk of wood, Covington First United Methodist Church's first presentation of the Stations of the Cross has been a church-wide project of love.

"God used many different people and their imaginations to bring out exactly what we were trying to get across," Covington First UMC's Associate Pastor Jan McCoy said. "Many different people working together made it all come together as one big work."

The church will debut its Stations of the Cross interactive display this week and open it to the public free of charge beginning Monday. The event is open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. until noon through April 6.

McCoy said she and Senior Pastor Dr. Doug Gilreath decided to offer a Stations of the Cross interactive display for the community during the Easter season.

The project coincided with two book studies the church is presently conducting, which offered inspiration and help in creating the exhibit. Both studies are from books written by Adam Hamilton -- "24 Hours That Changed The World" and "Final Words From The Cross."

"We kind of used those two as a framework for this whole journey we've been on ..." McCoy said. "The Stations of the Cross kind of came out of that ... The two studies kind of helped people get into this and visualize what it might have felt like.

"It helps them get into the spiritual space and kind of builds an atmosphere for them to go there mentally and really think about the different parts that led up to the crucifixion and how significant all of those are."

Every station has an interactive element, such as Station 7, where Jesus begins to carry his cross. Participants will have an opportunity to reflect and consider the crosses they bear in life, such as illness, death, temptation, peer pressure and others.

The interactive part of that station involves a table with "stones of burdens," in which participants can take a stone and drop it in a pool of water as they pray for God to take away that burden and help them.

"Each station will have something -- an interactive (part), a touch -- because different people learn and connect in different ways," McCoy said.

"We have music in the background for people who connect through hearing music. There will be some things to touch like the little red marbles when you think about Jesus praying until his sweat was like drops of blood. We have little red marbles for people to take and remember that."

McCoy said Covington First UMC built its interactive display off the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross.

"It's a long tradition that goes way back through the early church," she said, adding that they took the traditional 14 stations and found ways to "bring that forward to today."

"The first station is Jesus praying in the garden alone," she said. "So (we ask) where are some places in our lives where we are all alone? Who are some of those people in our world who feel alone and are alone in facing trials and illnesses alone? How do we pray for them and connect with them?"

In asking those questions, McCoy said church members made prayer shawls and blankets. During the Stations of the Cross, participants will have an opportunity to pray over those shawls and blankets and for the people who will receive them.

"It's not only to get people to think about their own spiritual journey, but reach out to others who are on a spiritual journey," McCoy said.

"It's a sort of 'then and now' at every station ... What's the story we get in the Bible? What's the story of Jesus walking through this time of persecution and crucifixion? How can we learn at each of the stations to connect with our world today?"

The 14 Stations of the Cross are presented as a self-guided tour. Participants are asked to come to the church office and they will be directed to where the tour begins.

All stations are inside and situated throughout the chapel and the sanctuary. Participants go at their own pace and can have time to meditate and pray. It is designed for people of all ages and family groups are encouraged to take part together.

Both McCoy and church administrative assistant Claudia Minge agree this project has been a blessing for everyone involved.

"We've had people who have done paintings and people who have done needlepoint and prayer shawls and all kinds of crafts," McCoy said.

"We've had wood crafts and a lot of different crosses, including a beautiful solid cedar cross someone made out of a big chunk of cedar. We've had people who donated their time to come and decorate and that to me is an art because that's one of those things I can't do.

"We've had people come and spend their time doing those kinds of things. People wrote prayers. People donated their resources for putting together all the little extras."

"A lot of prayer went into this," Minge said. "We asked people church-wide just to bring things and gave them some ideas where we were going with this."And how I know God has worked in this is because everything everybody brought fit. It matched perfectly. It's been an amazing journey to get to this point."

One member of the church is a professional photographer and donated photographs taken during a trip to the Holy Land. Other artists took scriptures related to this time of Jesus' life, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and created original paintings.

Each artist chose a specific Station of the Cross and was free to represent that in whatever way they felt, McCoy said.

"We didn't say 'go paint this' or give them a picture, but said 'it's whatever you paint and however this speaks to you,'" she said. "When we got them together and the people started bringing in the paintings for their stations. It was amazing to see."