The idea of tying the stations to social activism isn’t even all that novel. Via Crucis re-enactments, like the one by Catholics in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood where costumed churchgoers play the roles of Jesus and other figures in the Passion, include stops that call attention to social problems or injustices. One year, the Chicago procession stopped in front of a neighborhood tortilleria to pray for employees working in unsanitary conditions. Online, you can find homegrown Stations of the Cross devotions that stop to pray at neighborhood sites like parks or at the scenes of fatal car accidents.
But by taking Jesus’ Passion out of play altogether, the Millennium Development Goals liturgy is a greater departure than any of these other alternative versions. So, what’s the point of stations without the cross?
The people at Episcopal Relief and Development who distributed the new liturgy insist that their alternative version was intended to complement, not replace, the traditional stations. They say the service would not be a good choice for Good Friday. And, they add, their cause is a good one: Meeting the Millennium Development Goals is an institutional priority of the Episcopal Church.