On the day of the Passion Play Cheltenham’s friendship park was the setting for the Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the 5000 and the challenge of Jesus teaching. We followed in his footsteps as he healed a woman in the crowd, and offered the water of life to the Samaritan Woman at the well. Anne Kish, a nameless woman in the crowd, focuses our prayers on a world of hunger and the need to break down barriers of faith and religion, of culture and gender, of politics and race. We are invited to extend the hand of friendship across the divisions that are so damaging in today’s world. Friendship - a meditation - for the script of the meditation.
All that Jesus stood for brought him into conflict with the religious leaders of his day. The parts were played by the religious leaders of our town ... and that gave rise to all sorts of reflections on the relationship Jesus has today with the religious institutions of the church. Steve and Joan Osmond [a religious leader in the play and onetime secretaries of Churches Together in Cheltenham] share a prayer meditation. They reflect on the inner conflict those who belong to the Church sometimes have. Conflict - a meditation for the script of the meditation.
As our Passion Play took us through the streets of our town towards the betrayal of Jesus by a friend, by the authorities and by the whole crowd, our next prayer meditation takes the form of a prayer of confession and of prayer of renewed commitment to our town. Peter Brown who played the part of Judas prompts us to reflect on our own betrayal of Jesus, not least in the lack of commitment we have to the community around us. Betrayal - a meditation for the script of the meditation.
To witness a re-enactment of the death of Jesus on the cross at 3-00 pm on Good Friday afternoon, and then to share in the silence of a crowd of 2000 people is moving for all who experience it. One of those most moved by the whole experience was Keith Dawson, one of the key stewards who had helped to marshal the crowds through the town centre. He died only a fortnight later. His wife, Wendy, had played the part of Mary, the Mother of Jesus in the Passion Play - her prayer meditation reflects on the stages of grief we all share in times of immense sadness. Death - a meditation for the script of the meditation.
On Good Friday the fourth Act of our Passion Play came to an end in silence. At 8-00 am on Easter Sunday morning there was an air of excitement and expectation as crowds once more gathered for the final Act of our Play. Matt Medhurst who played the part of Jesus shares a prayer reflecting on the triumph of resurrection and the hope we can all have today, tomorrow and forever. Resurrection - a meditation for the script of the meditation.
Words of Comfort on the Way
As the second Act of our Passion Play came to an end twelve women led the crowd from the the scene of Last Supper outside Burger King on the High Street round to the scene of the Garden of Gethsemane, under the trees on Cheltenham's Promenade. After 50 yards or so the first pair of women stopped and after another 50 yards the second pair of women stopped. Each pair of women had words of comfort to share drawn from the words of Jesus in John 14-16. As the crowd passed by the women in turn they heard all these words of comfort ...
Words on the Way of the Cross - Stations of the Cross
As Jesus was marched from the trial scene on the steps of the Municipal Offices to the crucifixion in Cheltenham's Imperial Gardens the women now had twelve banners depicting the Stations of the Cross. After fifty yards, the first stopped and then fifty yards later the second and as the crowd passed they heard these words drawn from Isaiah and from the Gospels.