A two-block-long parade of Christians marched into Riverfront Park Saturday morning to show the city what goes on behind church walls.
“Right now, anybody can see what we are doing,” said Spokane March for Jesus organizer Ruth Hamp.
She and thousands of others from Spokane to Seattle prayed, sang, hugged and hollered. They took what opportunities they could find to share their faith with the curious who wandered in from the old-truck show next door in the park or from nearby streets.
Barry Buchanan, who grades lumber in Plummer, Idaho, brought a 100-pound conversation piece: a man-sized cross of 4-by-6-inch timbers.
The 32-year-old correspondenceschool divinity student lugged the cross on his shoulder throughout the parade from the Coliseum to Riverside Avenue and back to the park.
“To me, it’s a way of showing people a little bit of what Jesus did for me,” Buchanan said. “The worst thing I have is a little hole in my tennis shoes, but they beat him all over.”
Buchanan said some people suggested he should put a wheel on the bottom of his cross and pull it, “but Christ didn’t have a wheel on his.”
There were plenty of wheeled entries in the parade, though. Strollers and Radio Flyer wagons were almost as common as the elaborate pennants and homemade signs with Biblical messages.
In addition to kids, many wagons carried boom boxes tuned to Christian radio station KTSL. Music from the portable radios substituted for a band, and the marchers sang.
“Jesus Christ is Lord of lords … Crown him Lord of all,” they sang as a group of clerks from The Bon stopped to watch.
Mostly, though, the parade provided its own crowd. The size of the crowd is a question of faith.
“It’s well over 12,000, I know it,” organizer Hamp said with conviction. “We had 12,000 last year, but I’m just guessing, you know.”
However, other observers put the number between 4,000 and 6,000.
Riverfront Park security officer Jason Conley estimated that close to 4,000 marchers made their way into the park. Dale Larsen, the park’s events coordinator, figured there might have been as many as 6,000.
There was no doubt, though, that the march and rally brought people together.
Everyone from prim, white-haired ladies to bearded and tattooed Soul Patrol bikers were there.
“I’m trusting God that every denomination, affiliation, race and color is here today,” said Hamp, who is black. “Jesus prayed a prayer to make us one.”
Tom and Wilma Bob and their children and grandchildren wore their traditional Colville and Flathead Indian outfits “to show that Jesus is for everybody.”
“The natives have a hard time believing because they think a lot of times that he is a white man’s god,” Tom Bob said, noting he is sometimes shunned by his own people.
The Bobs live in Victoria, British Columbia, but have been staying in Spokane while Tom, 45, studies to be a pastor with an internship at the First Assembly of God church. The family already has a traveling music and sign-language ministry called The End of The Trail Is at the Foot of the Cross.
Hamp, 56, said she felt called to launch the annual March for Jesus program two years ago after spending years supporting the ministry of her husband, the Rev. C.E. Hamp, who has now retired as pastor of Spokane’s Full Gospel Mission for All Nations. She has dates and themes for marches each year until the turn of the century.
“I won’t stop until I see the body of Christ become one - amen,” she said.