By AMANDA GREENE
15,000 pieces of colored chalk.
200,000 words of the New Testament.
1,000 people on their hands and knees writing on three miles of Whiteville’s sidewalks.
This will be the scene at 6:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday (April 8) when the first Walk with Jesus Sunrise Service and New Testament Writing commences in Whiteville. A four-person committee of community activists, a bank executive and a newspaper photographer organized the event which will begin with a 6:30 a.m. sunrise service in downtown Whiteville, followed by the sidewalk chalk-writing.
“We want this to be presented as a thing of beauty,” said Mark Gilchrist, photographer for “The News Reporter” in Whiteville. The newspaper is the main sponsor for the cause. The other organizers are Stephanie Miller, Carol Caldwell and Janice Young.
“I grew up Lutheran,” Gilchrist said, “and I’m not the most religious person here, but it excites me to see something like this done.”
If 1,000 or more people come Easter morning, Gilchrist believes the writing can be done in 30 minutes. He’s broken each section of the New Testament down into 100-word to 400-word increments, depending on the size of the sidewalk block.
To raise the challenge, they’re using the King James Version.
For Gilchrist, it all started with the Declaration of Independence. About 11 years ago, he organized a public writing of that national document.
That’s what gave him the idea to write out the New Testament. But with a much larger document comes the challenge of space.
So the committee made a formal request to the N.C. Department of Transportation to close 10 city blocks 6 a.m.- 9 a.m. April 8 for the project.
And it was granted.
So far 26 churches and individual families have adopted entire New Testament books to write out on Easter.
One of the larger area churches, Whiteville United Methodist Church, was asked to take Luke, the largest book in the New Testament. About 100 people from their church have signed up to write, said church Walk with Jesus coordinator Carol Worrell.
Their team even had T-shirts made for the event.
“We’re really excited about it,” she said. “It’s bringing so many people together. We laugh about it; about how are we going to get up off our knees afterward!”
The teams won’t be writing on the road – just the sidewalks.
“That was a sensitive thing,” Gilchrist added. “We’re writing out the Bible. And we want to be respectful, and it doesn’t seem right to place it where vehicles travel.”
Gilchrist’s team plans to leave the scriptures on the sidewalks and wash them off at 5 p.m. on Easter Sunday. He hopes the verses become a destination that day.
“Maybe people will want to go visit their favorite verses,” he said. “We’re thrilled to see how it’s going to work out.”