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Throughout county, San Diegans observe Good Friday

It’s Good Friday, the day when Christians around the world mark the day the Bible says Christ was crucified. KPBS reporter John Carroll shows us two very different ways local Christians observed the day.

The spring air atop Mt. Helix was filled Friday with the familiar strains of Amazing Grace, a hymn written by a former slave trader who became an abolitionist, carrying a message that forgiveness and redemption are possible no matter what.

University Christian Church senior pastor Dr. Caleb Lines welcomed the congregation.

“And so we are grateful that you all were able to come, even though it is a weekday," Lines said.

Members of the church held their Good Friday observance here for the first time. A crown of thorns was on display reminding everyone of what this day is all about for Christians.

In downtown San Diego, there’s nothing unusual about seeing people walking, but a closer look at one group revealed they were pedestrians with a distinct purpose. They participated in the 29th annual Good Friday Walk With The Suffering, a re-enactment of the stations of the cross. The walk comprises the 15 episodes Christian scripture says Jesus experienced on his journey to Calvary.

Students from Cristo Rey High School took the parts of Roman soldiers and of Christ. Station 14 was held outside a state office on Front Street.

“This is station 14, Jesus is laid in the tomb," said a man leading the group.

The infamous journey of more than 2,000 years ago was brought into the present; the stop at each station a chance to reflect on problems faced by humanity in the early 21st century.

“So here we’re thinking about the suffering of environmental destruction," said the group leader.

And on they went, marching to their destination, the San Diego Rescue Mission. There, Rosemary Johnston, who began the march and still coordinates it to this day, spoke with KPBS.

“I hope it helps people remember there’s more to Easter than the Easter bunny," she said with a laugh.

This year, the war in Ukraine shaped Johnston's view of Good Friday.

“Everyone, their heart bleeds for what is going on and we feel powerless and it’s at times like that that we need to turn to God in prayer and ask for guidance and forgiveness of the oppressors as well as to those who have been victims," she said.

“I’ve always wanted to do it and this is the perfect moment," said Xavier Sawaya, a freshman from Cristo Rey who portrayed Jesus in the event. Sawaya's understanding of the events of the first Good Friday was straightforward.

“It was a day of pain and sorrow but in the end it’s light. He’s resurrected. He saved our souls," he said.

The march is, of course, a Christian event. But Johnston said she hopes the foundational message of forgiveness and ultimate love reached everyone, whether they're people of faith or not.