Bringing the stories of Easter to life
Zion Lutheran Church welcomes community to 9th annual Passion Walk
Two members of Zion Lutheran's youth group, portrayed as Roman soldiers, act out a scene in which Jesus is escorted out of the Garden of Gethsamane. Photo by MELISSA MARTIN
VALLEY CITY – As it has done for the past nine years, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church opened its doors to the community for two nights last week as part of its annual Passion Walk, which dramatizes the Biblical events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Participants were welcomed into a Jerusalem marketplace in the church lobby to wait for their trip back in time where they were able experience some of sights, sounds and culture of 30 AD.

From the marketplace, guest walked from scene to scene both inside the church and on church grounds to witness scenes portraying the Last Supper, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest, Peter’s denial in the High Priest’s Courtyard, Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the crucifixion of Jesus and Jesus’ burial in the sealed tomb.

“We like to tell the participants as they are leaving to come to church on Easter Sunday to hear the rest of the story,” said event organizer Mary Ann Dalgleish.

Dalgleish said the free, community event is intended to serve as an “inspirational beginning to Holy Week,” featuring period costumes, all of which have been handmade by Colleen Wolfe, a member of the Zion congregation.

“We want to provide the community with an event that helps get their hearts prepared for Easter and helps them deepen their faith at the same time,” Dalgleish said.

More than 60 members of the church’s congregation, including many from the church’s youth group, volunteered as actors in the scenes which were taken directly from the Bible and acted out every 15 minutes from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on both April 8 and 9.

“It’s created wonderful camaraderie amongst our congregation,” Dalgleish said. “So many of those who are participating as actors didn’t know each other before this because they didn’t attend the same church services. But now they have developed those bonds of friendship and even coach each other on what to say and how to deliver their lines. It’s amazing to watch.”

Every year, Dalgleish said, the event attracts record crowds. This year’s numbers, she said, amounted to more than 400 participants throughout a two-night span.

“We’ve gotten such good feedback from our guests who say this is as close as you can get to being there,” she said.

Of the more powerful scenes, Dalgleish said, involves the actor portraying Jesus stumbling as he carries the cross.

“You can see people wince as they look on,” she said, noting that the crucifixion scene is ultimately the most powerful. “I’ve seen many teary eyes come away from that scene.”

Dalgleish said the church hopes to carry the tradition of the Passion Walk for years to come, but says it is a decision the congregation and its leaders make every year.

“Mostly we do it for the children, who are excited to be of the age where they can finally participate,” she said. “But those of us who started the Passion Walk are getting older and retired and we need to find members of the younger generation to carry on the tradition. Hopefully that will happen.”