The Story of the Cross Walk

by Joyce Carter

Way back in late February of 1975, the youth fellowship had just finished dinner. Much like the LOGOS program of today, different groups would fix dinner for us on Sunday nights, and we’d meet afterwards. (This happened to be the 7th week in an unprecedented 11 straight weeks of Sloppy Joes…) The Senior Highs were sitting on the floor of the Old Fellowship Hall and Pastor Phil Bauguess said, “Hey gang, I’ve got a great idea!” Now usually, that meant something incredible, because his ideas were legendary. So we listened as he continued. “What if we built and carried a 200lb cross through downtown Winston-Salem, into God’s Acre, through Old Salem and finished at the end of Main Street at Bahnson.” Right. You could have heard a pin drop. He wanted us to do what? We just stared at him. Nobody knew quite what to say. So he explained. And as he did, we got every bit as excited as he was. I mean, no one had ever done something like this before; why not us?

Rev. Phil Bauguess >

Good Friday came and we met on top of the Sears building downtown. Phil had some of us in costume, a drummer, and about 25 of us, mostly youth and our advisors. We were to pick up this huge cross he had built, and carry it in silence. He reminded us what Jesus had endured: how he had probably spent his last evening on earth (after being betrayed, denied and deserted by his disciples), how he had been condemned for no reason, how no one would help him carry the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, and how finally, one Simon of Cyrene was “compelled” to assist him. We were to make this walk in silence, contemplating on what might have gone through Jesus’ mind, or the people around him, or his disciples. Pastor Phil made it clear that this wasn’t a parade, or a spectacle. This was a way that we could demonstrate our faith – our willingness to follow Christ, and in the process perhaps gain some insight into the sacrifice Jesus made on each of our behalf.

We began the slow walk. The cross was heavy and it got heavier as we progressed. It was a cloudy day, but warm and the humidity was incredibly high. It was uncomfortable and for a bit, some of us wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into. People stared as we passed by, many thinking we were crazy, while others paused and watched as we walked. A few even joined us for a few blocks. We passed by one of the seedy bars that used to be downtown, and a bunch of drunks came running out cheering us on, which confused us until we realized they thought we were the Klan. That was humiliating. Some people bowed their heads. Several ladies sitting near the old courthouse sang softly as we passed them. We headed up what seemed to be a huge hill at Cemetery Street and headed into God’s Acre. It was more peaceful there, and the large trees provided some relief from the heat. People got quiet as we walked through, and finally, we found ourselves at the end of the walk at what is now the arboretum at MESDA. We were tired, exhausted really, and we just sat down, putting the cross on the grass amongst us. Phil reminded us that we got to put the cross down and get on with our lives, but when Jesus put down the cross, they raised him up, crucified on it. It was one of the most meaningful times of my life.

We still carry on this tradition some 35 years later. It’s gotten bigger and we’ve added a short service at Salem Square, making sure those who can’t walk can still participate. I’m glad that we’ve kept this tradition going. I’m especially glad that it’s still led by our youth. And all of us are particularly grateful to Pastor Phil Bauguess for giving us a meaningful way to demonstrate our faith and to connect with our Savior. May God continue to guide our youth in this endeavor and bless all who take up the cross to follow Him!