Top News

His cross to bear: Minister to take Deep Bight to Clarenville trek on Good Friday

Reverend Bob Mercer ahead of his trek from Deep Bight to Clarenville, carrying a cross in recognition of Good Friday. He has been the minister at the Clarenville and Deep Bight churches for the last seven years.
Reverend Bob Mercer ahead of his trek from Deep Bight to Clarenville, carrying a cross in recognition of Good Friday. He has been the minister at the Clarenville and Deep Bight churches for the last seven years. - Jonathan Parsons

“We want to break the stereotype,” he says, a determined look on his face.

Reverend Bob Mercer is not a tall man. He doesn’t necessarily look like he could lift much of a heavy load.

And he admits that he’s on the wrong side of 30 for doing strenuous work.

However, his eyes light up when he talks about his plans for this Good Friday, showing his passion for his profession and an inner strength which shines through his demeanor.

This is all in preparation for Friday, April 19, when Rev. Mercer will be bearing a cross – literally as well as figuratively.

The minister for the United Church congregations of Deep Bight and Clarenville will drag a heavy wooden crucifix from the altar in the church at Deep Bight to the sanctuary at Clarenville.

This idea of trying to emulate what Christ did on a Good Friday over 2000 years ago, has been chewing on his brain for a while.

“I’d like to get more people interested in church — God only knows, they’re not as full anymore,” Mercer told The Packet in an interview at the United Church in Deep Bight.

He says it falls on him and the church’s board to make people want to come back each Sunday.

Rev. Mercer in Deep Bight.
Rev. Mercer in Deep Bight.

“Church doesn’t always have to be somber,” he says — imitating a droning, boring voice.

It was a similar instance he remembers back in his youth while living in Ontario — long before his involvement in the ministry — that gave him a deep seeded idea to try something like this.

Looking at the front page of the Toronto Star, he saw a striking photo of a full re-enactment of Jesus carrying the cross with Roman soldiers through the streets of Toronto’s Little Italy.

The spectacle left an impact on Mercer.

“I looked at that and thought, ‘Wow! Someone’s actually carrying that thing!’ So now, fast-forward almost 30 years, I’m thinking, ‘Can I do this? Maybe I can.’”

And it’s obvious Mercer wants to get people thinking. And what better way to do that than to present a thought-provoking, eye-catching study and metaphor on Jesus Christ during Holy Week.

But it’s not meant as a re-creation. Mercer will be wearing comfortable, warm clothes for his trek.

According to Rev. Mercer’s research of modern religious scholars, it was seven miles (or 11-kilometres) from the place where Jesus was tried and convicted to Mount Golgotha, the hill where he was crucified, dragging a heavy wooden cross behind him all the way.

That’s why the route will take him from the front door of the church in Deep Bight, along the Trans-Canada Highway and into Clarenville.

However, it won’t be exactly a straight line to cover the 11-kilometres.

In Clarenville, he explains, he will continue on Memorial Drive to Vardy’s Avenue, down to Marine Drive and past the church, then back to Memorial Drive again, to Vardy’s Avenue and down again to Marine Drive to finish the exact distance.

And this modern day cross has one slight difference from the one that Jesus dragged through Jerusalem.

There will be a small wheel affixed to the end of the cross, not just to reduce the friction and the drag of the cross on the ground, but to protect the end of this piece of church furniture.

So, after finishing up his Sunday sermon in Deep Bight, around 11:30 a.m., Mercer will hoist the cross onto his shoulder and drag it all the way to Clarenville, hopefully arriving by 2:30 to get a bit of a rest to begin his 3 p.m. service.

In the past, Mercer has taken similar outside-the-box approaches to presenting teachings of faith in the community. He’s written and performed his own dramas for Good Friday. He’s also held Bible study classes cross-sectioned with comic book superheroes.

“I want to show that church doesn’t have to be the thing of your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, but it can be something that can be for people of all ages and styles.”

He says there’s not just one way of worship for everyone, it can be more in tune with the times.

Mercer says some people might say things like superheroes have no place in discussions of faith, while others may think the church shouldn’t “interfere” with things of a secular nature.

“But we have to try basically anything to get a reaction sometimes,” he said.

“If we didn’t try something, more’s the pity for us.”

“I want to show that church doesn’t have to be the thing of your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, but it can be something that can be for people of all ages and styles.” — Reverend Bob Mercer

Come Good Friday, Mercer says he’s not worried about the walk. The 53-year-old plans to be careful and doesn’t want to do a test run of any sort.

“Jesus didn’t have time to practice.”

And he fully expects to see both support and strange looks while on his journey.

“Some people might scorn me. How is that going to deepen my own appreciation of what Christ went through? I’m sure there’s going to be people right behind me and there’s going to be people looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.”

It’s not only about attracting others to Sunday services. Mercer says he hopes the experience will enable him to explore his own faith, including strengthening his own understanding of what Christ went through — even if just on a surface level.

And his reflection during his walk on Good Friday will surely impact his sermon to the congregation in Clarenville.

“Are people going to say, ‘Was anybody with you?’, ‘How’d you feel?’, ‘Were you lonely?’, ‘Did anybody say anything to you?’, ‘How much hurt was there?’”

He says he looks forward to relaying his thoughts on his first-hand experience on Good Friday.

“Instead of a stereotypical sermon, I’m just going to go down there and let people know what I was going through.”

Twitter: @jejparsons

Recent Stories