The Rev Dr Steven Martin writes . . . .
If you are planning to go on an exclusive luxury cultural heritage weekend in Magaluf, or are hoping to visit your long-lost (but recently-found) cousin in Clacton-on-Sea next April, then cancel your travel arrangements AT ONCE. Tear up that holiday brochure; put that portmanteau back on top of the wardrobe. Tavistock is the place to be on Good Friday, 14th April 2017. Why? you ask (…Clacton is very nice at that time of year…). Because we shall be staging the Tavistock Passion: an epic, outdoor, dramatic presentation of the trial, crucifixion and triumph of Christ on the cross. It will be an event not to be missed. The performance will begin at 11am in the centre of Tavistock and everyone is invited to take part or join the audience.
Plans are coming on apace. If you would like to get involved, there are lots of jobs to do and many opportunities to be a part of this exciting community project. You could let loose the inner thespian and audition for a part or join the chorus, or you could help with the music and join the choir or play an instrument in the band. Alternatively, you could help to make the costumes, scenery and props, or join the publicity team, or prepare the refreshments at rehearsals, or be part of the stage management team—there are many jobs to do and we need people with all sorts of skills.
The aim of the project is to present the Easter story as a thought-provoking piece of drama, so that whoever takes part or watches the performance is given an opportunity to engage with it however deeply they wish, at whatever level they feel able. In his first letter to the church he had established in Corinth, St Paul wrote: ‘When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). The story of the cross is the greatest of all mysteries; it is a story which needs to be simply and directly told to all people, because it is not only Jesus’s story, but is our story too. The passion and resurrection of Christ, God incarnate, is a demonstration of the Spirit and God’s power to transform the failure of death into an endless victory—a victory which is ours too, thanks to the limitless mercy of God offered to us through the cross.
Graham Greene once argued that drama in British culture began with the church. The medieval church began the mystery play tradition, and devised colourful, engaging, dramatic presentations of scenes from the Bible to take the story of creation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ out onto the streets. This is what we hope to achieve with the Tavistock Passion.
I am very keen that both Christians and non-Christians have the opportunity to take part in the Tavistock Passion, because it is not simply a lofty tale for the initiated, but a universally compelling story of betrayal, revenge, tragedy and the power of the love of God to transform death into life. It is a story which everyone should be familiar with regardless of where they are in their understanding of God, because as St Paul realised, ‘knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified’ is key if we are ever to begin to contemplate the limitlessness of God’s mercy and love.
Why, you may ask, am I writing about Passion Plays and Good Friday in the August edition? Auditions and rehearsals are being planned and will start in the autumn, but as wise old Solomon said, ‘time is a very shadow that passeth away’, and all that (Wisdom 2:5). My reason for writing now is to invite you to consider how you can be a part of the Tavistock Passion by offering your time and skills to the project (in any of the ways described above). If you would like to be a part of the Tavistock Passion 2017, please let me know (via Tavistock Parish Office, or 01822 611148).
Even if you are not able to help, or are too worried about losing that deposit you paid for the Magaluf escapade or disappointing your long-lost (but recently-found) cousin in Clacton, and will not be in Tavistock next Good Friday, please support the play by praying for its success, because projects such as this only come to fruition if they are ruthlessly organised and covered in bucket loads of prayer.