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Relay for Christ takes message to the streets

Relay for Christ takes message to the streets

Relay for Christ participants on Hwy 1
Relay for Christ participants walk along U.S. 1 in Marathon for Good Friday. Photo from Rev. Larry White.

MARATHON – When it comes to spreading the word of Christ’s gift to the world, it’s hard to imagine a better platform than U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys.

Rev. Larry White, pastor of St. Paul AME Church, figured thousands of motorists bound for some R & R travel that road on Good Friday. What better way to remind them of Jesus’ sacrifice than to walk along a busy highway carrying the cross?

“People come here to forget about the Lord,” White said in a phone interview. “We want to show them that God is here in Marathon.”

Participants from White’s church and at least five others, including Marathon Community UMC, walked about 4 miles along U.S. 1, wearing T-shirts that say “Relay for Christ” and taking turns carrying a large cross. They started early Friday morning at the Church of God and ended at Marathon Community with a special worship service focused on Jesus’ last words

“Thank goodness there is a sidewalk,” said Rev. Peggy Benson, Marathon Community senior pastor, before the event. She credited White with the relay idea but said it has caught fire in her congregation also. 

Volunteer reenactors in livestream scene from The Last Supper
From Maundy Thursday dramas to Easter Sunrise services, congregations across the Florida Conference find creative ways to remember Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.  Here, volunteers from North Naples UMC stage a live re-enactment based on artist Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper," shown on the church livestream. Englewood UMC also staged a similar Maundy Thursday event. Photo by Susan Green.

The idea behind the effort is to let people know “we’re here and we believe, and it’s kind of a silent witness,” Benson said.

White said he began shepherding St. Paul about four years ago. Sunday services typically attract about 25 worshipers at his church, and he was a little dismayed to learn that the largest congregations call it a good day if they count 100 people in the pews.

He said he made up his mind that the community’s churches should band together to boost the witness to Christ.

“The Lord laid it on my heart that there’s going to be a spiritual revival in the Keys,” White said.

“I want the body of Christ to be unified because the one thing that binds us together is that we all believe and love Jesus.” 

Benson said ecumenical efforts in the community recently included a “Gospel Explosion” gathering of praise bands and choirs that performed at the local amphitheater.

Pastors from the Florida Keys show a Relay for Christ T-shirt
Pastors from Christian churches in Marathon are selling commemorative T-shirts from their ecumenical Relay for Christ event on Good Friday. Proceeds go to an interdenominational effort to feed families in crisis. Photo from Rev. Larry White.

Churches also have joined together to support a ministry called KAIR, or Keys Area Interdenominational Resources, which is based at Marathon Community UMC and provides food and other emergency assistance to families in crisis.

St. Paul AME is selling Relay for Christ T-shirts for $10 each, with proceeds earmarked for KAIR. For information, email White at

Other Florida Conference churches also offered special programs commemorating the events leading up to the Resurrection. North Naples and Englewood United Methodist churches staged dramatic re-enactments of the Last Supper.

The North Naples church made its Maundy Thursday drama available to a livestream audience. In the drama, a narrator dressed as artist Leonardo da Vinci discusses the life of each of the disciples at the table for the Passover meal before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried and put to death on the cross.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.