PRAYERS were sent out to the armed forces and others in need of support as a cross was raised to mark Easter.
About 1,000 people gathered on Tunstall Hill for Sunderland’s Good Friday service, bringing together members of churches from across Wearside.
As part of his sermon, Father Christopher Collins, of St Aidan’s Church in Grangetown, asked the crowds to think of those serving in our forces in Libya and Afghanistan, along with the lonely, those living in fear, victims of crime and the disabled.
After the service, held above the misty city and to the sound of fog horns sounding on the coast, Father Collins said: “I think particularly in the problem of Afghanistan, a number of us are not sure politically what we believe about it, but the support for our forces is very strong.
“I think this event sets the scene over the city with the cross and it’s such an important event in the life of the city.”
Father Michael Sweeney, who has moved to Ireland after his retirement from St Cecilia’s, had returned to lead its congregation during Easter, and spoke of his joy at being back in the city.
He said: “It is quite a privilege to be back on Tunstall Hill on Good Friday morning.
“It’s been going a long time and I’m so happy this powerful witness for Sunderland is still going strong and grows every year.”
The cross was put up on the hill after a procession from Tunstall Farm.
As the day brightened, churches united in Sunderland’s Mowbray Park for an outdoor Good Friday service, which replaced the historic parade that had to be scrapped after being hit by red tape.
Churchgoers gathered at the bandstand to enjoy the sunshine, hear a sermon and sing hymns. Invitations were extended to all the city’s churches, which total about 50.
It is now hoped the service in the park will become an annual highlight to replace the city’s Good Friday parade.
Reverend David Hands, pastor of Church of the Nazarene, in Millfield, thanked Sunderland City Council for its help in organising the event.
He said: “Hopefully, it will become a new tradition and we hope people who don’t go to church will come along and know that it has a meaning, not just for Christians, but for everyone.”
The service included speaker Andy Osenton from Youth for Christ and a Bible reading from Matthew’s Gospel.