Written by Anthony Moujaes
Rhode Island congregations of the United Church of Christ will come together on Good Friday joining their neighbors, young and old, from churches of all denominations to raise money for hunger and homelessness. In this Good Friday Walk for Hunger, event organizers aim to raise at least $100,000 — about twice as much as previous years.
"This is our 35th year, and we continue to grow," said the Rev. Betsy Garland, a UCC minister and president of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. Garland was the Good Friday Walk president for 10 years, and is now a board member.
In its early years, the walk was organized primarily by Roman Catholic parishes in Providence, and since has grown into an ecumenical experience to raise money for local, national, and international groups. The walk attracts about 800 to 1,000 walkers annually, and raises about $25,000 to $50,000 in proceeds. The event is an all-volunteer effort to help maximize the amount donated to fight hunger and homelessness through 20 local outreach organizations in the state and international partners in the Caribbean and Africa.
"We start at churches of different denominations and walk to the State House for a rally," Garland said.
Since the event is held on Good Friday, it also brings together the Christian community to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on one of the holiest days of the year. Good Friday is symbolic in the Christian faith as the day when Jesus walked to his crucifixion on Calvary, carrying the cross on his back.
Garland said that a number of UCC congregations from across the state participate in the walk. "I manage the Haven [United Methodist Church] stepping out site in East Providence, and churches from the East Bay come there," Garland said. "We generally have [UCC walkers from] Newman, Seekonk and Riverside. Also, Beneficent UCC in downtown is the big water stop."
The Providence area will have 10 "stepping-out sites," or starting points, where participants begin their walk at 9 a.m., and converge from all directions at the State House in downtown Providence, R.I., at 11 a.m. Most of the routes are about 6 miles, with some longer and shorter routes. Two additional walks will take place in the cities of Coventry and Newport, R.I.