Good Friday trek marks its 35th journey
GORDON - The "Trek of the Cross" took to the streets of Gordon for the 35th time on Good Friday, bringing the portrayal of Jesus Christ carrying His cross to Calvary to those in their homes and as an outward devotional of faith.
For the fourth year in a row, Jeffrey Nemeth, of Frackville, donned the white robe, purple sash and crown of thorns and carried the large cross through the borough.
The trek began at 12:15 p.m. at Simpson United Methodist Church, where it has begun since the beginning. The parsonage next to the church was used as the dressing room for Nemeth and the two centurions - Keegan Hubler, of Lavelle, and Brandon Herling, of Hazleton - who provided the Roman guard during the walk. Others walked behind Jesus dressed in period costume or wore modern clothing.
While Nemeth waited to begin the trek, he said, "This was intended only to be 12 treks, but it's been going a long time. When it first started, it was just to get the message out to the homebound, and we still do it for the people who can't get out. I see people take pictures and videos. It's means a lot to them. I'm going to keep it going as long as possible."
As has been the tradition for those who have portrayed Jesus, Nemeth walked barefoot. There have been two years that there was inclement weather during the trek's history, but Friday's weather cooperated again with no precipitation and with moderately chilly temperatures.
Before the trek began, Len Zarko, of Fountain Springs, stood near the parsonage with his camera. He came to Gordon with his friend, John Ballinger Jr., of Mount Carmel, and said it was the first time to see the trek.
"I've known about the Trek of the Cross, but I just didn't get over here to see it," said Zarko. "I've been watching 'The Bible' series on History, and I remembered that they were going to have this here in Gordon, so I wanted to come over and see it this time."
The trek began with a prayer from the Rev. John Wallace, pastor of Simpson UMC.
"Dear God, thank you for this of all days. We pray that what we will do today will bring honor and glory to your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, in whose name we march and remember with thanksgiving."
Sharing the message
The tradition began in 1979 when Elmer Yost, of Allentown, picked up a large cross and walked through the streets portraying Jesus Christ to bring the salvation message of Good Friday to Gordon's homebound. The first year, Yost did the trek by himself. The second year, he had a friend come from Allentown as a soldier. On the third year, he rented two soldier costumes.
When he started the trek, Yost was an Allentown resident, but made regular visits to the borough and was a member of Simpson United Methodist Church, as well as with a church in Allentown. The pastor at the time was interested in re-enactments and supported Yost in his idea.
Yost had planned to do the trek for 12 years - a year for each Apostle, with the hope that it would continue beyond that time. Shortly after the 10th trek, Yost passed away. In order to complete the intended 12 years of treks, Yost's nephew, Edward Labie, of Girardville, picked up the cross in 1989 for the two remaining years. Those two treks became 21 treks, his last in 2009. In 2010, Nemeth, who is Labie's nephew, picked up the cross.
Nemeth doesn't know how long he will continue the family tradition, but he hopes that his four-year-old son, Jeffrey, will do so when he grows up.
"My little guy right there doesn't know it, but he will be the next one," said Nemeth.
The trek began at Simpson United Methodist Church on Biddle Street and proceeded east to Hobart Street, where it turned right. The participants walked the entire length of the street, moved west to McKnight Street, then moved to Biddle Street, where the trek turned left to end at Simpson UMC. Participants and onlookers entered the church for the 1 p.m. Good Friday service by Pastor Wallace.
Gordon Fire Police provided traffic control.