Stations of the Cross NYC: a Digital Experience
Last year, I wrote about the Washington D.C, Stations of the Cross installation that spanned the city, featuring art installations and monuments. This year, a similar experience is occurring in New York City.
Although I often write about helping people find God in the digital space, our digital platforms can also help people experience God in “real time” by enhancing their immediate, physical reality while simultaneously taking them to a deeper understanding of their faith.
During Holy Week at my church, like many churches, we offer a service which includes the Stations of the Cross. This features a slow and solemn procession, moving one by one to each of 14 framed prints hung around the perimeter of the sanctuary. At each station, we stop, listen to the readings and pray the prescribed prayers. While it is a sacred experience, it sometimes feels a bit sterile, utterly removed from the noise, chaos, crowds, confusion, and uncertainty of the real trek to Calvary. Furthermore, by focusing on the historical experience of Jesus, we perhaps miss out on the opportunity to connect the sufferings of Christ to our own individual and collective daily struggles, our own crosses to bear.
This Lent, a unique exhibition in New York City, offers a more visceral Stations of the Cross experience. Throughout the city, certain designated works of art tell the story of the Passion in a new way, for people of different faiths and backgrounds (shown, Station 3, Jesus falls for the first time represented by Mark Dukes, Our Lady of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence, 2016. The Collection of The Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones).
Rather than a lap around the interior of a church, participants can download an app with an embedded map to direct them from one location to the next throughout the city. At each location, pilgrims can listen to podcast reflections by artists and clergy associated with the project, and reflect on questions included in the downloadable devotional guide. The intent is that, "Instead of easy answers, Stations aim to provoke the passions: artistically, spiritually, and ethically.”
For those who can’t get to NYC to visit the exhibit, here are some suggestions in how to use digital media to expand on their own Stations of the Cross experience.
- During Lent, invite participants to read and reflect on each of the Stations of the Cross, and to select a contemporary image to evoke each station. Images might come from personal photographs, or might come from images in the news. In a recent workshop, one participant suggested a newspaper image of toppled headstones in a Jewish cemetery for “Jesus falls for a second time.” Gather the images and share them on social media, organized by station, each with a brief written reflection.
- Consider gathering a group of people to physically travel through your neighborhood or city, taking photographs to symbolize the various stations. You could create a corresponding podcast and share that with the images, offering others a chance to follow your path. If the locations you photograph are permanent, you could add them as pins on a Google map, which could be shared. For example, a dozen congregations in Jersey City, New Jersey gathered together to do a Stations of the Cross walk to draw attention to gun violence in their community and to pray for the victims.
- Using the reflections, devotional guide, and other materials associated with the NYC, Stations of the Cross as a template, ask participants to reflect on art chosen to depict each station and why it was chosen. Those who are comfortable sharing their reflections could provide recorded responses in advance for a podcast as well as photographs or other physical artifacts to enhance their responses. These could be displayed as prayer stations in lieu or in addition to other traditional stations of the cross depictions; and the recordings and images could be posted on your digital platforms and social media accounts.
- Remember when using hashtag-oriented social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram to share stations, use one hashtag that connects the stations back to your church (#stppgh, for example) and use another more generalized hashtag (#stationsofthecross, for example), to increase awareness beyond your immeadiate social media connections.
However you choose to experience the Stations of the Cross this Lent, remember that being present in the digital space isn’t the ultimate goal. Our digital platforms are merely tools that help us further engage and invite others to more deeply grow in faith.
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
What can we create together?
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