Some have requested the liturgy we used for Stations in the Third Ward, complete with the context-based reflections.  Here it is, but, first, I would like to give credit where it is due.  The liturgy itself comes from the Book of Occasional Services, but we reduced the overall number of stations and made space for reflection.  The idea for taking the Stations on the Road in the Third Ward in partnership with Tour de Hood came from Marcia Sadberry, a leader within the community of St. Luke the Evangelist, the first African American Episcopal church in Houston.  The photos are the work of Jeremy Bradley, Minister for Youth and Young Adults at Christ Church Cathedral, Houston.  

Opening Prayer
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

V. We will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
R.  In whom is our salvation, our life and resurrection.

Brothers and sisters, from the early days of the Church, Christians have undertaken a pilgrimage to follow Jesus in the Way of the Cross.  Just as early Christians made their way through the city of Jerusalem, pausing to pray and to contemplate the mysterious journey of the Savior, so we make our way through this city, pausing to pray, to listen, and to remember.  For Christ has walked the way of his Passion here too.  The way of struggle is known here.  The way of love – a reckless self-sacrificing, giving all kind of love is known here.

The earliest Christ-followers who traced the Way of the Cross walked with equal parts confusion and gratitude.  Like us they were an Easter people – a people who knew down to their very bones that God had broken into the world in Jesus Christ to do what the God of Abraham and Moses does – to set people free, free from the bonds of Sin and Death.  They knew the world would never be the same, because of that thing that had happened in a swirl of confusion one Passover in Jerusalem.

They were an Easter people, and yet, how could such a thing be?  God crucified – the only begotten son given – raised upon a cross of wood outside the city in what was basically a garbage dump, mocked, beaten, spat upon, in the company of thieves.  How?  Why?  And so they did what human beings do when we are perplexed – when we are seeking something that we once had in our grasp perhaps but has been lost in crowd and confusion and noise.  They began to retrace their steps – his steps.  And as they did so, pausing to pray, to listen, and to remember, they did not necessarily find all their questions answered.  There is something in this act of God that defies neat answers.  As they prayed, and listened, and remembered, they found themselves enfolded in a mystery that would not let them go.  And they realized that it was for them to walk in the Way of the Cross in the world – even when they left Jerusalem.

17862497_621574981369737_4255251368909297525_nToday we make the Way of the Cross, like those early Christ-followers, filled with confusion and gratitude and awe and wondering.  We will pause to pray, and listen, and remember in the midst of our own city.

At each Station, we will hear a part of Christ’s story, but we will also take a moment to ask:
What is this place?  What do you see here?  What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?
Then, we will pray, and taking a question with us, we will move on to the next station.

As we go, pay good attention to what is around you.  Sometimes stops will be close together.  Sometimes they will be far apart.  Follow the rules of the road.  Don’t be in a hurry.  If you are struggling, let someone know.  We ride together.

Let us pray. (Silence)
Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Station  (At the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University)
Jesus is condemned to death

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, “He deserves to die.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?

17904133_621574814703087_380216238347782392_nThis place, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, is a place of study for those who seek to contribute to justice in this world, a world that denies justice to so many.

This place is named for Thurgood Marshall, the first African American justice on the Supreme Court, who once said:
“I wish I could say racism and prejudice were only distant memories.  We must dissent from indifference.  We must dissent from apathy and fear.  We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, its sick to disappear and blow away.  We must dissent from a government that has left its young people without jobs, education, or hope.  We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership.  We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”

Pilate washed his hands and claimed that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood, before he had him flogged and sent him off to be crucified.  Thurgood Marshall reminds us that we cannot wash our hands of the suffering of others.  We are bound up in a death dealing society.  Who will deliver us?

V. God did not spare his own Son
R. But delivered him up for us all.

Let us pray. (Silence)

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Traveling Questions: How is God calling you to strive for justice and peace?  How might you as a member of Christ’s body be part of Christ’s victory over death?

Second Station  (At Cuney Homes)
Jesus takes up his cross.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Like a lamb he was led to the slaughter; and like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?
So we are right across from Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston’s historic Third Ward community, here at Cuney Homes.  Cuney Homes was the first Houston development opened by the Housing Authority in 1938.

This apartment complex is named for Norris Wright Cuney, a prominent African American leader in Texas during the late 1800s. Cuney forged a remarkable career in post-Civil War Texas. Born into slavery in 1846, he nonetheless studied law and became a civic and political force in the years following Reconstruction.  Cuney was the child of Adeline Stuart, a slave on a Hempstead plantation, and Stuart’s owner, Philip Minor Cuney. At thirteen, Cuney’s father freed him and sent him north for education.

Following the Civil War, Cuney returned to Texas, to the bustling port city of Galveston, then Texas’s most cosmopolitan city. Cuney used his education, political connections, and wealth to improve the lives of Texas’s former slaves. He worked to establish and fund schools and colleges for black Texans and opposed segregation in public schools. He also helped organize and lead the African American Masons. In the 1880s, he helped black laborers loading cotton on the Galveston docks form their own union and fight for equal pay.

Close to 560 families live here, bearing the burdens of a history of poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunity.  Many community serving organizations are trying to change that, however.  And Cuney Homes, and the schools that the children here attend (Yates, Blackshear Elementary) have become the focus of the efforts of various non-profit organizations.

Jesus takes up his cross, and it is heavy, laden with the suffering and sorrows of a trapped humanity.  Here at Cuney, and in places like it, we learn to see and bear each other’s burdens

V. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all:
R. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Let us pray. (silence)
Almighty God, whose beloved Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption: Give us courage to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Traveling Question:  Jesus calls you to take up your cross and follow.  How do you reach out to share the burdens of others in your life’s journey today?  How might you reach out tomorrow?

Third Station  (At Project Row Houses)
Jesus falls.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?

17952516_621575101369725_8807198034524880372_nOn this walk, we fall down and we are vulnerable.  Project Row Houses seeks out the vulnerable – those who feel like they are dying, like they cannot rise up – and says to them, “There is beauty and potential in you.”

Founded in 1993 by artist and community activist Rick Lowe, Project Row Houses is an experiment in “creating intersections between art, historic preservation, affordable housing, community development, neighborhood revitalization, and human empowerment.”

Public Art
The Public Art Program provides opportunities for artists to take risks and experiment in their practice while exploring new ways of working outside of the studio. Through learning the complex history of the neighborhood, connecting with Third Ward residents, and understanding the changes that come with working within this context, artists create site-specific installations that live inside the art houses or the public spaces of the neighborhood.

Project Row Houses invests in the education of the community by offering free Monday night tutoring and college and career preparation programs.  Through service learning projects, community exploration and summer educational experiences with partner organizations like The Woods Project, S.H.A.P.E. Community Centers, and Project GRAD, they equip the youth of the community with the tools they need to forge their own paths.

Parental Support & Affordable Housing
Project Row Houses endeavors to support young single mothers as they pursue education and fulfilling careers. The Young Mothers Program provides housing and counseling on personal growth and parenting skills, allowing these mothers to raise their children in a creative, nurturing community. This programs offers up to two years of subsidized housing in one of seven refurbished, fully furnished row houses that recall the way communities used to be – when neighbors knew each other and gave a helping hand when needed.

Project Row Houses and Rice Building Workshop collaborated to create a series of row house-inspired duplexes to provide affordable housing for people in the community.

Supporting new business
In Third Ward, there is a strong history of small business, and PRH seeks to preserve this history by providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to experiment with business models, products, and showcases.  Through a series of community markets, Project Row Houses helps to connect creative entrepreneurs to audiences both within the Third Ward community and beyond. These markets provide an opportunity for local businesses and talents to showcase their skills and engage with their neighbors and members of new communities.

V.  Surely he has borne our griefs:
R. And carried our sorrows.

Let us pray. Silence
O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Traveling questions:  Have you ever felt like you were dying and could not rise up?  Who came to your aid and said, “There is beauty and potential in you.”?

Fourth Station (At Emancipation Park)
Jesus falls again.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?
Emancipation Park will reopen on Juneteenth (June 19) this year.

The end of the Civil War resulted in a dramatic reorganization of society throughout the former Confederacy, including new freedom for the slaves. President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation and published it on January 1, 1863, but it did not reach Texas for two years. It wasn’t until General Granger proclaimed it in Galveston on June 19, 1865 that Texas got the news.

The anniversary of the day took on festive traditions and a new name: it came to be known as Juneteenth. Over the next few years, African-Americans across Texas collected money to buy property dedicated to Juneteenth celebrations. In Houston, the effort was led by the Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist minister and former slave. Rev. Yates is remembered today through the high school with his name and his home, restored as part of the collection of historical buildings in Sam Houston Park. His church, Antioch Baptist, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association. In 1872, they pooled $800 to put down on ten acres of open land as home for their Juneteenth celebration. In honor of their freedom, they named it Emancipation Park.

In 1918, the park had been acquired by the City of Houston. Racial segregation was the law of the land, and Emancipation Park was the only municipal park African-Americans could use at that time. In 1939, Miss Annette Finnigan, a veteran of the push for women’s suffrage, donated property to the city for a second one, which became Finnigan Park.

Also in 1939, the WPA undertook the construction of a community center building in Emancipation Park. Designed by William Ward Watkin, the fine new facility was dedicated at the Juneteenth Celebration on June 18-19, 1939, and provided greater recreational and educational programs for the users of the park.

Today, Houston is making this space new once again, so that it might be a source of renewal in the community – a place where the community comes together.

Jesus shows us that it is togetherness, that it is solidarity, that sets us free.  So he came to be among us.  To live and die as one of us.  To set an example for how we are to be with each other.  May this park be a place of solidarity and transformation.

V. But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
R. Scorned by all and despised by the people.

Let us pray. (Silence)
Almighty and ever-living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Traveling question: What does solidarity look and feel like to you?

Fifth Station  (At Riverside Hospital across from Blackshear Elementary)
Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem and his mother.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

To what can I liken you, to what can I compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What likeness can I use to comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

V. A sword will pierce your own soul also:
R. And fill your heart with bitter pain.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?
Riverside Hospital was initially built in 1918 to serve the black community in Houston.  The Hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for black patients in Houston, and it provided a place for well trained black physicians to work, who were not allowed to admit patients to the “Black Wards” of Houston’s other hospitals. The Hospital Nursing School, established soon after the Hospital was built, was the first such educational institution for the training of Black nurses in the City of Houston.

For this community, this has been a place of healing and of mourning, of grief and of joy.  O Lord, bind up our wounds and help us attend to the woundedness in our selves, our families and in our communities.

Let us pray. (silence)
O God, who willed that in the passion of your Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother: Mercifully grant that your Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Traveling question: What is the gaping wound in your own community, right now, that needs attention?

Sixth Station (Third Ward Community Center)
Jesus’ cross is laid upon Simon of Cyrene.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As they led Jesus away, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

V. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
R. Cannot be my disciple.

What is this place? What has this place been to you?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?
As we think about this station, we are called to mediate on the weights placed upon the shoulders of God’s people every day, especially upon the most vulnerable: children and the elderly.  The Third Ward Community Center partners with a variety of community serving organizations to create a safe space for learning, growing, and being.  The Gateway to Care program helps to remove obstacles to receiving needed health care in a confusing system that is particularly difficult to navigate if you are uninsured.  The Senior program attends to the lonely and the isolated, and it works with a senior advocacy program to assist with legal needs in issues of guardianship, housing assistance, and abuse.

Let us pray. (Silence)
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Traveling question:  Who are the most vulnerable and heavy-laden around you in your community?  How might you lighten the load?

Seventh Station  (An open space)
Jesus is stripped of his clothing.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And they divided his garments among them by casting lots. This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.”

Reflection What is this place? What do you see?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?

17861927_621575004703068_4625990804571749014_nWords begin to fail and fall away here.  We hear the jeering of the passersby, see last acts of mercy – a wine-soaked sponge held up to relieve the pain.  In the corner, a scrap is going on over his clothing.   Who wants a piece of Jesus?  Don’t worry – Jesus is giving his whole self to you.

V. They gave me gall to eat:
R. And when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink.

Let us pray.  (silence)
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Traveling question: How do we fight over a piece of Jesus today?

Eighth Station (MLK Fountain at TSU)
Jesus is nailed to the cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”

Reflection  What is this place? What do you see?  How does this place speak of the Word made flesh, Jesus?

17884227_621575554703013_6779975250007804956_n“the love of God is the kind of love that identifies with the powerless; the kind of love that appeals to nothing but its own integrity, that doesn’t seek to force or batter its way through. It lives, it survives, it ‘wins’ simply by being itself. On the cross, God’s love just is what it is and it’s valid and world-changing and earth-shattering, even though at that moment what it means in the world’s terms is failure, terror and death.”
-Rowan Williams

They pierce my hands and my feet:
R. They stare and gloat over me.

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

No traveling question.  We move from here in silence.

Ninth Station  (St. Luke’s Courtyard)
Jesus dies on the cross.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished!” And then, crying with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And he bowed his head, and handed over his spirit.

How does this story speak to you today?  What questions would you want to ask of those who were there?  What questions do you need to sit with?

V. Christ for us became obedient unto death:
R. Even death on a cross.

Let us pray.
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; who lives and reigns now and for ever.  Amen.

Tenth Station (in the church around the font)
Jesus is laid in the tomb

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb.


At the end of the day on Good Friday, nothing but death remains.  Humanity has brought God’s Son to the tomb, sealing him behind stone.  But to God, through whom all things are possible, no barrier is immovable.  Through the sacrifice and death of Christ, even death itself is no longer a barrier to life for the children of God.  The burial rite in the Book of Common Prayer reminds us, “Even at the grave, we make our song,”  and that song is a word that I will not say today, because it is still Lent, but you know what I am talking about.

V.  You will not abandon me to the grave:
R. Nor let your holy One see corruption.

Let us pray.
O God, your blessed Son was laid in a tomb in a garden, and rested on the Sabbath day: Grant that we who have been buried with him in the waters of baptism may find our perfect rest in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Savior of the world, by your cross and precious blood you have redeemed us:
Save us, and help us, we humbly beseech you, O Lord.

Let us pray.
We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of your Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.