There were a number of things which should have gone wrong this morning at the Way of the Cross in church lane Martyr Worthy. Firstly (and exceptionally) Winchester Council had decided to collect rubbish on Good Friday for the first time in years – the prospect of Jesus dodging, not Roman soldiers, but dustcarts and their operatives, was a little worrying. And then the weather forecast… Usually you can count on BBC Weather to get things right two or three hours in advance. At 7am the weather forecast for Martyr Worthy was ‘heavy rain’ at 9 and 10 am. When I asked Simon Ffennell yesterday what we usually did if it was pouring with rain for the Way of the Cross, he fixed me with the steely gaze that only a man of the river could possibly give when large quantities of water are mentioned and said ‘we carry on anyway…’
However, prayers answered and rain suspended, dust carts nowhere in sight, the crowds started to make their way down church lane at about 10am. Rebecca led us in prayers and we were off!
From the Lord’s supper at Tumbledown Cottage,
singing hymns as we walked up the hill we found ourselves in the garden of Church Cottage which served as Gethsemene.
The Roman soldiers burst their way through the crowd led by Judas and the disciples vanished. Jesus was first brought to Itchen Bridge drive in front of Caiaphas (dressed entirely in black with a very fetching black homburg hat) and two priests in episcopal cassocks.
Peter denied Christ three times and ran off very convincingly wailing. Judas sought to return the coins he has been paid for the betrayal and hung himself – very gruesomely this year – from a tree overhanging the entrance to Itchen Bridge.
Thence Jesus was dragged by the Roman soldiers to Pilate and Pilate’s wife – always a high point of our pageant – and the crowd by this stage had quite got into it all by shouting ‘crucify’ and calling for the release of Barabbas. Jesus was flogged and mocked and carried the cross up the hill until Simon of Cyrene helped him some of the way.
As Jesus carried his cross through the church gate, the weeping women of Jerusalem – or in this case Itchen Valley – put up a wail which would have stopped anyone in their tracks.
Ultimately Jesus was tied to the cross in our own golgotha on the St Swithun’s chancel step. At length Jesus gave up his spirit, was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb (or in our case a white sheet) just under the altar.
However funny it all seems during the rehearsals (and it does believe me), when we get to the actual performance the Way of the Cross in Martyr Worthy, it is always moving. There is something about doing it together, to acting out the story together as a community, which is very powerful. Everyone is involved – from those who attend the church regularly, to those who come only occasionally; from those whose children attend Little Rainbows to those who have got married in our churches. It is the one time when we bring those on the edge of our regular church activities to the centre and we all get to know each other. And we have a lot of fun doing it.
A very good (and memorable) performance by Andy Tan as Jesus. Thank you also to the very wonderful Gerry Stacey as Narrator and Director, our disciples Tony Gaster, Ken Henderson, Patrick Appleby and Piers Strudwick, William Parry as Judas, Stephen Cross and Nick Owen as priests and Alastair Haig Haddow as Caiaphas, Sara Mason and Judy Bishop as servants, Christopher and Anna Burness as Pilate and Pilates wife, Geoffrey Burnand as Barabbas, Will Turner, George Turner, Charles Appleby, Ollie Emery and Tom Rogers as Roman soldiers, Sarah Shirley, Lucy Pease, Liz Darley Doran as wailing women, Lavinia Owen as Mary mother of Jesus and Kelly Gibson as Mary Magdalene and John Lang as Joseph of Aramathea.
Thank you also to the super hot cross buns and coffee organised by Gilly Greenwood, Emily Windsor Aubrey, Liz Platt, Lucinda Ffennell, Amanda Seymour and Verity Coleman which were really appreciated by a church full of actors and crowd after the long cold walk to Golgotha from the Itchen…
A moving and reflective start to Good Friday in the Itchen Valley.
Thank you to Sophie and Verity for the photographs.
Revd Alex Pease
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