Chinnor Passion Play 2017
Jean Sutcliffe writes:
Having a desire to get the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ out to the community of Chinnor, I believed it was right to perform a Passion Play. Chinnor has never done one previously in the past and this was a completely new venture. Discussions were held between myself and my minister about the play, and was advised to take it to the ecumenical group as it really should involve all the churches in Chinnor.
Four years passed and in January 2016 I made the decision to go ahead with the play. The ecumenical group consisting of the Community Church, the Methodist Church and the Anglican Church approved and welcomed the idea wholeheartedly. I finished the script and sought the help and assistance of Ralph Westby, a Christian, who become the Director of the play. Ian Swaffield also a Christian became the Producer. Between the three of us we set about to organise the play.
During the coming months, Ralph and I visited all the churches in the parish of Chinnor and also the Roman Catholic Church in the neighbouring town of Thame to carry out a presentation of the play, obtain support and collect names of those interested in taking part.
By September/October we had actors, musicians, producer, knitters, sewers, scenery designers, make up artists and more. Rehearsals started in earnest by end of November 2016. The chosen date was Saturday 1st April with two performances 10.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m.
Two weeks prior to the performance, Chinnor was ‘yarn bombed’ (lots of bright woollen items in various places) which brightened up the village and brought the passion play to the attention of everyone around.
The churches in particular all were ‘bombed’ and displayed huge banners depicting the forth coming play. Advertising literature was sent to each church on a regular basis to keep the play in the minds and hearts of everyone. On the 31st March, one church opened its doors for a special prayer meeting focussing on the passion play.
Over 700 people sat in the sunshine on that day to watch the first Chinnor Passion Play performed. The audience were able to enjoy free refreshments as the Easter Story was brought to them by local people, some of whom had never acted previously.
16 months of preparation and hard work had culminated on that one day. The play was opened by a 21st century family, eating breakfast, who found themselves discussing the origin of Easter Eggs. Father, mother and two children then went back in time to AD33, complete with costumes to see for themselves the last week of life of Jesus Christ.
Joyous shouting, shofar blasts, dancing, singing, waving of palm leaves announced the entry of Jesus. St Andrew’s and Mill Lane Primary School choirs joined in the celebrations with their own song written and composed by a 16 year old from Chinnor.
Audience participation was encouraged as Pilate asked the crowd to choose between Barabbas or Jesus. They watched in silence as Jesus was denied, betrayed, whipped and finally executed on a 9ft high cross, nailed into place by Roman Soldiers. Mary, his mother was distraught. Hope and joy returned during the resurrection scenes witnessed by Mary Magdalene and his disciples.
The 21st century family who had been part of the play, reversed back into their ‘normal time zone’ and the play concluded with Jesus, dressed in 21st century clothes, joined the family, showing he was alive and relevant in today’s society.
The journey we took to carry out the play was not an easy one. Personal tragedies did occur for both Jean and Ralph, but to take the gospel to the people in this way was the most important aspect and to get the churches working together. It has enabled barriers to be broken down, people getting to know each other from the different churches and beyond, the village has buzzed with the passion play before and after. Lives have been changed.
Without the participation of the churches and more, this play would never have occurred. Over 120 people were involved and it is thanks to everyone that the first Chinnor Passion Play was a huge success. Requests are now coming in as to when the next one will be performed.
Originator and Script Writer, Chinnor Passion Play 2017.