Like assembly line workers beginning a shift, Father Wilfredo Benitez and the Rev. Preston Price exchanged quick hellos Friday and got to work.
They greeted their commingled congregations, which were arriving for a reenactment of Jesus' climb, bearing a heavy wooden cross, up Mt. Calvary.
"I got a layperson to carry the cross out of the church," Benitez said during a lull.
"Good," replied Price, senior pastor of United Methodist Church in Garden Grove.
The congregations of theirs and two other Garden Grove churches held an ecumenical observance of Good Friday -- the day, according to the Bible, that Jesus was crucified.
The services began at noon in St. Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church, where a procession formed afterward behind the 8-foot cross and wound its way through 2 1/2 miles of streets, stopping at three other churches.
At each, the "stations" of Jesus' journey from condemnation to entombment were commemorated.
"If you would like to carry the cross, tap the shoulder of the person who is carrying the cross to indicate you are next," Benitez told the crowd of about 200 worshipers at St. Anselm, where he is rector.
Hospital orderly Richard Rodriguez, 22, of Garden Grove was among the first to hoist onto his back the black, twine-fastened planks that formed the 20-pound cross as hymn-singing congregants began their trek to St. Columban Catholic Church.
"I felt a pain in my shoulder," said Rodriguez, massaging his neck after handing off the cross. "But it's nothing compared to the way [Jesus] suffered."
Rodriguez will soon celebrate the one-year anniversary of his return to the Roman Catholic Church and said he is eager to affirm his faith with other Christians, regardless of denomination.
"This is all new," he said, glancing around at his fellow pilgrims as they walked down Garden Grove Boulevard.
Another such pilgrim, Frank Manzi, 65, of Garden Grove, said all the denominations participating in the procession -- Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian -- are members of the same Christian family.
Religious observances such as Friday's are like a reunion, he said.
But an annual ecumenical get-together is not enough for the retired Army man.
"I'm waiting for all the churches to get together for good," he said.
The crowd filed into St. Columban, where a simple ceremony was held before a seated gathering.
"Loving God, your son, Jesus, took his cross in obedience to your will," said Father Don Romito from the altar. "Help us to follow him on his Way of the Cross."