Prayer for Liverpool
It is now seven years since we first experienced the Liverpool Passion Plays in the Cathedral. They were written and produced by an in-house team: Daniel Bishop, Mark Lovelady and Nick Basson, and came about with a veritable army of talented helpers. Originally there were three acts, designed to be performed in the Great Space of the Cathedral on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings of Holy Week, shortly after Evensong.
The original plan was for adult members of the Cathedral Company to take part as the actors, but in the event, sufficient adult volunteers were not forthcoming. Instead a host of younger people of the Cathedral Company, members of Cross Guild and the Overcrofters, the choristers and other young friends, were the ones who stepped up to the plate.
Any misgivings about the maturity of the young people to enter into the story of the Passion disappeared completely on that first Monday evening. Their professionalism was remarkable and exemplary. And there was an unexpected bonus: the young players and singers brought their families with them, and their friends too, so that by the Wednesday evening the audience in the Cathedral was close to 500 people.
The whole Cathedral was used for the Passion Plays. The Well was used for the opening scenes, moving from the childhood of Jesus to overturning the tables of the money-changers. The Baptistery and Western Crossing were the scene for the plotting and scheming of the religious leaders, ending with Judas Iscariot’s dark decision to betray.
On Tuesday the procession into Jerusalem made its joyful way from the Scott Memorial to the Chancel Step before everyone moved to the darkness of the Presbytery for the Last Supper which took place around the High Altar. The final scene moved the audience to the Derby Transept, close to Lutyens’ ‘Outraged Christ’ for Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the false kiss of Judas and the violence of the arrest.
On Wednesday, the Bishop’s Cathedra became the focus for the trial, and Pontius Pilate sentencing the Lord to death. The Crucifixion itself was depicted on the Dulverton Bridge, with the people standing below.
My abiding memory is of the first Wednesday evening. At the end, everyone had the opportunity to lay a flower beneath the Bridge, as at the foot of the Cross. That evening Dean Pete and I had to leave the Cathedral promptly, as we were expected to robe and process at a service at the Metropolitan Cathedral to bid farewell to Archbishop Patrick Kelly. We walked together along Hope Street, but neither of us felt it right to speak. The experience of the plays, and especially the depiction of the crucifixion , had been too profound for conversation. We had been brought to stand at the foot of the Cross, and it was so profound that the youngest members of our Company were those who made this happen. It remains an unforgettable moment in my years at the Cathedral.
This Holy Week will be quite unlike any other, I suspect. To journey to the Cross and the new life of Easter without setting foot in the Cathedral is going to be very strange for us. Seven years ago, my encounter pf surprise was how wondrously ‘the old, old story of Jesus and his love’ came alive through the commitment, talent and professionalism of the Cathedral’s young people. Who knows? It may be that the ‘God of surprises’ has something unforgettable awaiting us this year too!
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
And check out the following calendar of services this Holy Week as well (Links will be provided once they are made available):
Holy Week Reflections and Services
Service for Maundy Thursday
Joint Good Friday Service between the two Cathedrals.
The Passion Gospel read by Precentors from Cathedrals around the Country
Performance of Crucifixus by Cathedral Choir, sung remotely
Vigil Prayers and Night Prayer by National Cathedral Precentors
10.30am Service for Easter Day, +Paul preaching
Prayer for Liverpool
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Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God