Thursday, March 12, 2020

Walk Through the Easter Story

Walk Through the Easter Story at St Nicholas’ Church

I am delighted that we shall be hosting groups from two local secondary schools taking part in this event, around ten Year 7 pupils from one and around fifteen Year 10 pupils from the other, in the last week of term before the Easter holidays. Hopefully, the church will also be open during Holy Week (the following week).

The purpose is to help pupils make connections between their own life experience and the challenges they face, and the Gospel accounts of the Passion of Jesus the Christ. My working assumption is that faith (all faiths) engage the gritty questions of life, so we don’t start from scratch, but have resources to draw on.

We’ll be setting up eight spaces in the church, depicting and interpreting key events. We’ll begin with welcome and an overview of the story (15 minutes), then extended time for student-led but church team-supported engagement (40 minutes: there will not be time for every pupil to engage with every space; they will need to choose where to go), before gathering for feedback and sending out (15 minutes). We might also offer hot cross buns and juice (to be confirmed with the schools).

Here are my notes around creating the eight stations along the Way:

X The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Luke 19:28-44
Theme: Demos and Protests
Key questions: What matters to you? Where do you feel you are not taken seriously?
Summary: A banner-waving people-movement has come to Jerusalem to demonstrate their hopes and dreams, and are dismissed as dangerous dreamers by the powerholders of the day. Pupils will be invited to make their own placards for a procession of hope.
Location in church: steps to main entrance of church, and inner vestibule.
We will need: palm branches to decorate the entrance into the church; wooden batons, card, gaffer tape, and coloured pens to make your own placard.
Extra: connect to Palm Sunday practices, including the palm procession and public reading of the Gospel of the Passion.

X The Anointing with Oil, Mark 14:1-11
Theme: Grief
Key questions: How do you say goodbye to someone you love, and know will die soon, when there are no words?
Summary: Mary loves Jesus (not in the romantic sense; but as a friend so close as to essentially be a family member) and knows that he will soon die. She does something special, to create a lasting memory. Pupils will be sensitively invited to reflect on bereavement and related rituals, and to leave messages written on crushed hearts.
Location in church: around the font.
We will need: bunches of flowers; football jersey; tea-light candles, in glass jars; possibly the essential-oil burner and patchouli oil (a spikenard substitute); red paper hearts, and pens to write on them; a bowl to leave the crushed hearts.

X The Washing of Feet, John 13:1-20
Theme: Fashion Models, Role Models
Key questions: Is beauty skin deep? Are you at home in your own skin? Who do you want to be like, and why?
Summary: Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, and talks to them about serving one another. Peter objects. This moment engages how we feel about our bodies—are they holy or dirty, untouchable or our obsession—and also how we relate to other people, to their bodies and to their souls. Pupils will be invited to create a ‘mood board’ of cut-and-pasted images.
Location in church: rear of seated area, right hand side.
We will need: a large bowl, jug of water, towel; a selection of fashion/men’s health/etc. magazines, photo images of various positive role models, images of hands and feet; scissors, glue-sticks, large board(s) of card.
Extra: connect to Maundy Thursday practices, including foot-washing.

X The Last Supper, Matthew 26:17-30
Theme: Betrayal and Forgiveness
Key questions: Should you forgive someone who hurts you? Are happy memories lost to hurtful actions?
Summary: Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest friends, and yet speaks about the central importance of forgiving people. Pupils will be invited to reflect on friendships, broken and potentially restored, and to ‘send’ text messages saying ‘I forgive you’—or ‘please forgive me’.
Location in church: rear of seated area, left hand side.
We will need: a table, possibly set; bread, wine; as many old (disabled) mobile phones as possible.

X The Garden, Matthew 26:36-56
Theme: Gangs and Knives
Key questions: What do you fear? Where don’t you go?
Summary: Jesus is with his friends in a place that is familiar and ought to be safe, when a ‘rival gang’ arrives. Peter reaches for his sword, and strikes; but Jesus de-escalates the situation. Pupils will be invited to think about identity and belonging, to a group and/or neighbourhood, and to mark territory and dangerous places on a map.
Location in church: front of seated area, right hand side.
We will need: ‘structural’ plants, to create a sense of garden; play swords (?); a large-scale hand-drawn map of the local area (parish?) and pens to mark places on it.

X The Trials, Luke 22:54-23:12
Theme: Celebrity
Key questions: Why do we build people up to tear them down? Can authority figures be trusted?
Summary: Pilate is asked to judge ‘the king of the Jews’. The crowd who were delighted when Jesus entered Jerusalem are whipped into a murderous frenzy now. Herod hopes to be entertained by this charismatic figure, so often on everyone’s lips. Pilate and Herod form an unholy alliance. Pupils will be invited to reflect on our obsession with celebrity, and to write, anonymously, encouraging and wounding words that have been spoken over them.
Location in church: front of seated area, left hand side.
We will need: a panel of ‘judges’ chairs, score cards, a pile of today’s tabloid newspapers; two blackboards on easels (one for positive words, the other for negative words), chalk.

X The Crucifixion, Mark 15:21-41
Theme: Bullying
Key questions: (When) have you felt forsaken? Who stood by you? Who needs you to stand by them? Can scapegoats become transformative agents?
Summary: Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry Jesus’ cross. He, and his family, later become members of the Church. Jesus is humiliated, to the point of feeling utterly forsaken by God. The women look on, from a distance, powerless women condemning powerful men by their brave, silent rebuke. Pupils will be invited to add to the wrapping of the cross in brightly coloured wool, representing scapegoats and scapegoated groups who, in God’s grace, have the power to change the world for the better.
Location in church: between the choir stalls.
We will need: large wooden cross; a selection of brightly coloured wool, to wrap tightly around the cross, so that it is progressively transformed in appearance (we may also need a hammer and nails, to create anchor-points for the wool). Potentially, also images of Jesus on the cross; and images of persecuted minorities.
Extra: connect to Good Friday practices, including Three Hours at the Cross.

X The Empty Tomb, John 20:1-18
Theme: New Beginnings
Key questions: the end of the world is not the end ...
Summary: At the Last Supper, Jesus said he was going to the Father, but would come back for his friends, to take them to be with him. When Thomas had questions, Jesus responded, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life’. Going forward, life would be different, and perhaps uncertain, but could be lived in a confident hope. This was the experience of the disciples, post- Jesus’ resurrection. As we gather to reflect on the session, we will offer every pupil a small compass, that attaches to the zip of a coat or a bag, as a takeaway reminder of the experience.
Location in church: the Lady Chapel.
We will need: small plastic compasses.
Extra: connect to Easter Day practices, including Easter Vigil and Blessing of the Light.

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