KINGSPORT — A record crowd gathered downtown to Walk with the Cross on Good Friday afternoon.

Organized by Shades of Grace United Methodist Church, Walk with the Cross is an annual event that not only commemorates Good Friday, but also raises awareness of homelessness and addiction in the city.

Pastor Will Shewey said the walk has taken place every year since the church was established seven years ago, except for last year.

Friday’s event drew about 75 people, which Shewey said was the largest turnout yet.

“I think people have been enclosed with the pandemic long enough that they’re wanting something to get out and be meaningful in the community,” he said.

Participants walked from Shades of Grace to Hunger First and back, stopping along the way to sing hymns and read the last seven sayings of Jesus from the Bible.

A brass band was on hand to lead the music, and walkers took turns holding a wooden cross with the words “homelessness” and “addiction” painted on the back.

“We’ve all had so many problems, especially in the last year, not only with health and the division in our country, but so many, many ways,” Shewey said. “We’re hoping this is going to help people understand that as good as it can be in this life, this is just a place we get ready for real life to come.”