Im/migration: Stations of the Cross

The 14 Stations of the Cross represent a series of significant moments in Jesus’ last day, beginning with his condemnation to death by Pontius Pilate, and ending with his body being placed in a stone tomb. Like many artists, we added a Station 15, “Jesus is Resurrected,” in order to complete the story.

The following series of stations was curated by Grace Commons during Lent 2012, contemplating each station through the lens of immigration and migration. Artists from several churches and other organizations participated in creating the art. (You can see photos of the art opening, Palm Sunday, 2012, here on flickr.) Station 15 was completed on Easter Sunday at our community gathering for spiritual practice.

Walking the Stations of the Cross, or “praying” them, is a traditional spiritual practice among Christians. It’s a practice that evolved so people anywhere could symbolically go on “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land and tap into the power of the location and the events that happened there.

By entering the story of Jesus’ last day through art we reflect on The Passion outside of the intellect.  We involve our senses, our experience and our emotions. 

The Practice

  • Art: First look at the art. What is going on here?
  • Scripture: Read the related scripture if there is any posted in the comments associated with each piece. Some moments in the traditional story don’t have a related scripture.
  • Artist’s Statement: Read the statements prepared by the artists to learn more about their inspiration and interpretation.
  • Prayer: Finally, express your response through writing something or by simply repeating a prayer to yourself in your own words. Or, if you want, you can repeat a traditional prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer (“Our father…”) or the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”) The spirit of this Jesus prayer could also be rendered “Holy One, have compassion for me for the ways I have failed. Give me strength to change.”

Consider the struggles, injustices, blessings, longings, and hope that run through the im/migration experience as expressed through this artistic interpretation of the Stations of the Cross.


Station 1 – Jesus is condemned to die by Pontius Pilate

(click on images to enlarge them)

“Prevailing Voices”

Looking at this piece we stand in the position of judge, looking at Jesus, the migrant, being accused. We “hear” the voices of the crowd calling for death, despite Pilate’s and Herod’s assessments that Jesus has done nothing that would lead to a punishment of death.

We’ve posted here the account according to Luke. Other gospel accounts report that Pilate symbolically washed his hands in front of the crowd, telling them that he is not responsible for Jesus’ death.

The bloody water-filled bowl which is displayed in front of this piece represents the water that Pilate used to wash his hands, suggesting that his hands can never become clean of his actions. He is in fact responsible for what he has done.

Are we responsible for the judgments coming from the crowd?

Do we “wash our hands” of injustices by looking the other way?

How do the voices of injustice prevail in our society?


Grace Commons Community
Erin Toolis
Jeff Courter
Kristin Riegel
Jon Phillips
Virginia Braxton
Jim Braxton
Eric Binkley
Scott Long
Rob Clearfield
Nanette Sawyer

Scripture related to this station is included in the comments of this post.

Station 2 – Jesus is given his cross

Jesus is Given His Cross

In life, we are all given crosses to carry, challenges to face, and difficulties to overcome. Some of these crosses are self-imposed, but many times, they are not.

As we reflect on Jesus being given his cross to carry, we must recognize not only the crosses that we bear, but also our participation in placing crosses on the backs of others. Everyday, we make economic, social, and political choices that force others to bear crosses of oppression, suffering, and exploitation. Everyday, we make choices not to act, choosing to passively participate in systems that denigrate individuals’ dignity, ignore their humanity, and mock their sense of self worth.

In this piece, the cross is the central focus. Above the cross are the forces—both personal and structural—that crucify the most vulnerable in society.  These forces of oppression—and our participation in them—push the crowns of thorns onto the heads of many, including those who are alternatively documented in the United States and those who are forced to leave their homes to migrate to new cities and countries for economic opportunity.

However, this piece also acknowledges that although humanity is broken, it is not irreparable. Below the cross, images of hope, community, and love lift the cross, reminding us that as individuals and communities, we have the power to not only impose crosses on others, but also to remove crosses.

What crosses do you bear? In what ways do you identify with Jesus in these scriptures?

In what ways do you identify with the soldiers? Where do you locate yourself in this piece?

Grace Commons Community
Monica J. Brown

Monica Barrera
Merari Fernandez
Noe Mojica
Nick Croston
Danny LaBreque
Tim Vermeulen
Nanette Sawyer
Terra Winston
Emily Hendel
Jhonathan F. Gómez

Scripture related to this station is in the comments of this post.

This piece was made in 2007 and was featured in an earlier Stations of the Cross series.
30″ x 24″ Collage on canvas board

Station 3 – Jesus falls for the first time

(click here for a detail of the road)


Church members shared various stories of im/migration from England, Germany, Slovakia, Vietnam and Iraq. Earliest experiences date back to the 1600s, 1700s and 1900s.

In the late 1970s, one church member worked with a “boat family” to resettle in Midland, Michigan, but eventually San Antonio, Texas. More recently, several members helped an Iraqi family to resettle in suburban Detroit.

What are those “obstacles” that our families—or the families which we have supported—faced in immigration to the United States?


Memorial Presbyterian Church

Terry Christens and
Dave Morrison
in collaboration with
Diana Brookens
Cathy Chang
Patrick Kirts
Wendy Lewis
Guy Lynch

(members and staff at
Bertha E. R. Strosacker
Memorial Presbyterian Church,
Midland, Michigan)

That Jesus fell three times is the tradition of the church. No specific scripture refers to Jesus falling, however, Simon needing to help him carry the cross suggests that he fell.


Excerpts from stories of im/migration
collected at the church


In the late seventies Memorial Presbyterian Church welcomed the Le Family as immigrants from Vietnam to Midland, Michigan. There were five in the family, father, mother, a teen-age son and another boy and girl (we never were able to verify their actual ages and they did not know how old they were.)

They arrived one cold January day and got off the plane with only the clothes on their back and one paper shopping bag each.

The family understood no English so we had to begin very simply – just meeting their basic needs.  Immediately a Vietnamese couple that worked at Dow Corning began working with us for language interpretation.

Our interpreters and others started searching out what the father could do for work.  Since he was “unskilled” gainful employment never happened for him in Midland and after many months he wanted to relocate to San Antonio where friends he knew assured him he could find work.

Working with this family who came to us with virtually no possessions, no home, no skills, no language showed us how vulnerable people can be – and yet how, with help, they can survive and thrive.


John Barrackman from Germany, whose family had settled in County Limerick, Ireland, in 1709, emigrated to the U. S. in the 1760s and settled in Vermont. His name was spelled variously as Bergmann, Barkman, and Barrickman as well as Barrackman (meaning man from the hill or mountain.)

Due to difficulty of the Vermonters in pronouncing the German name, John’s children changed their name to “Hillman.” [see A Few More Left: The Story of Isaac Hillman, by Henry Z. Jones, Jr.]


I was always told that my mother was “smuggled” into the country. The story was this:

Following my grandfather Jacob, my grandmother Kademagrit arrived with four children via Germany and then Glasgow to Ellis Island. When she got there on March 2, 1902, Anna was in her arms because one day shy of her second birthday, she still didn’t walk.

Going through immigration Anna was noticed, and they said “She is sick; she can’t come into the country.” Kademagrit said “What do you expect me to do—I have no money for passage back, I can’t send her back by herself, and what do I do with the other three children as well?”

Supposedly a kindly white haired older immigration official who spoke German took pity on her and said “Not to worry, just give her to me, and go on through.”

Well, Kademagrit did worry a lot, but got through all the rest of the immigration formalities. As they were about to leave Ellis Island on the ferry for Staten Island, the white haired man appeared around a corner of the building and tossed Anna to Kademagrit, who hurried up the gangplank. Everyone made it safely back to the family reunion in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We think that Anna had rheumatic fever or polio or something like that in Russia. They took the cane seat out of a kitchen chair, and she remembers using that as a walker until she could walk by herself.


Station 4 – Jesus meets his mother

Till We Meet Again

Imagine on the road to the cross Jesus and his mother come together for a final goodbye. How does one say goodbye to a child, to a mother?

When families are separated by borders, unfair laws and long distances for years, sometimes forever we imagine their goodbyes include tender words with the images and memories of their lives together bubbling up.

Much like a collage of color, words, sounds and images that they carry with them on their journeys along with all the sadness, hopes and the heartache of saying goodbye.

There are many objects and images that remind us of mothers, these are a few. Some are romantic and nostalgic while others represent the difficulty that some families experience.

We chose objects and then we decoupaged them with words and images that symbolized all the memories that we hold together as we say goodbye to mothers. Words that sustain us for our journey ahead, words of grief and saying goodbye and words that hold the memories of our time together.

What are your words of Goodbye?

Friendship Presbyterian Church

No specific scripture refers to this station, however we know that Jesus’s mother was at the foot of the cross, so they must have seen each other.

Station 5 – Simon is forced to carry the cross

(click on images to enlarge them)

Where is the immigrant?

These sequence of paintings transport us to Dominican Republic, where for a better life, people take a fragile boat to cross the seas to Puerto Rico and United States, risking their lives in the process.

The first painting reflects how Simon, as an immigrant, put his life in God’s hand before crossing the ocean. The people in the background watch Simon leave and judge him.

The second painting reflects Simon, as the immigrant, carrying the cross because the people who were judging him in the first painting want him to pay; in this painting, they want to be witnesses of a “Just Law.”

There are three crosses because immigrants always have to carry more than one cross at once, including:

  • Suffering, because of being far away from their families
  • Paying the economic, social, and spiritual costs of trying to find a better life
  • Internalizing pain, because they cannot express their truest emotions with anyone

The third painting symbolizes liberation. Simon, as the immigrant, will be able to break the chains when the people in power and in the crowd start paying attention to immigrants’ lived experiences and reforming immigration laws.

When the people in power, as us, as people with power, are going to spend time to think about the immigrants, reflecting on immigration law and reform?

When the actions and protests are going to be heard? How can we be better listeners? How can listening to these stories lead to action?

We are all children of God and nobody should be battered because of who they are and their im/migration journey. If there is going to be action, it is action that is needed and necessary now.

Jeniffer Rodriguez
McCormick Theological Seminary
Mixed medium

Scripture associated with this station is included in the comments of this post.

Station 6 – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Beyond Borders

What happens if we deconstruct the physical and psychological “borders” of humanity – of ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and beyond? If we embrace our common human experience while honoring our roots and culture, are we better able to support each other in times of suffering?

This piece explores the 6th Station of the Cross, when Veronica gives Jesus her veil to wipe his face. Upon return, she finds an image of his face imprinted on the veil. Veronica likely recognizes differences between herself and Jesus, but that does not stop her from offering relief to the suffering man.

Beyond Borders considers these moral implications in an immigration context.

Atlas borders were literally torn up to create this image of a hand reaching beyond existing constructs to offer relief.

The hand, painted with dirt reminiscent of that which Jesus encountered on his journey, is a reminder that we can provide relief to those “strangers” in our lives.

With compassion, kindness, and a willingness to reach beyond comfort levels, we can uplift our neighbors and ourselves.

Catherine Game
Grace Commons
24″ x 36″
Mixed Media (Maps, Dirt, Tumeric, Red Wine)

No specific scripture refers to Veronica wiping the face of Jesus—the remembrance of this act is a tradition of the church.