CHURCHES from across Sunderland will unite tomorrow to mark a new era in the city’s Easter celebrations.
A service to replace Wearside’s historic Easter parade will take place at Mowbray Park bandstand from 1pm.
It was held for the first time last Good Friday after the parade, which had taken place through the streets of Sunderland for 200 years, was scrapped amid a cash shortage and red tape.
It proved so successful, that it will be held again tomorrow - and organisers hope for many years to come.
Reverend David Hands, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, in Millfield, said: “The Songs of Praise rally proved so successful with people attending from across Sunderland and beyond that we are doing it again.
“It’s open for everybody to come along.”
The nine churches from the city’s West End are involved in the service, as well as 20 churches from central Sunderland and others who used to be part of the city’s Easter parade.
Highlights will include prayers from Olaf Erikkson of St Mark’s Church in Millfield, scripture readings led by Mr Hands and music from the Salvation Army citadel in Cairo Street.
After a shake-up in health and safety rules, the Good Friday parade tradition was brought to an end in 2010 as organisers couldn’t afford to fund a specific Event Safety Plan to meet guidelines.
The problem arose when police relinquished traffic management, as they were obliged to under new laws, meaning organisers had to sort out and fund their own plan.
Mr Hands added: “Many people were disappointed at the loss of the Good Friday parade but we want to start a new tradition in the form of having a public service.”
The Good Friday Procession of Witnesses once drew tens of thousands, but for years numbers had been falling and about 400 people took part in 2009, many following the Salvation Army band from Rutland Street, Millfield, down Hylton Road, St Mark’s Road and Chester Road before heading to the Civic Centre to sing hymns.