A view backstage at Beverley Minster

A Passion Play

“Please reserve three parking spaces for Roman Centurions.”
One of the more bizarre requests over the last few weeks, but perfectly understandable in context.
This Friday the Minster marks the starting point of the 2009 Beverley Passion performance – which will end up in Saturday Market with one of our church members nearly naked and tied to a cross.
That’s not something you see every day, but this Friday is Good Friday, so the churches in Beverley are reviving and updating a mediaeval tradition of restaging the Crucifixion in the open air.
Last year was the first time it had been attempted in recent years and it had a huge impact, bringing the shoppers in Beverley literally face-to-face with the story and events behind the festival which, after all, are the reason for the Bank Holiday in the first place.
Like Christmas, the original Christian reason for the Easter break has been almost smothered by today’s secular society making it just another public holiday like those in early May and late August. Some people say that’s a good thing – what’s all this superstition about religion anyway?
The Beverley Passion reminds people that, some 2000 years ago, a man “was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change” (copyright Douglas Adams) and his act of sacrifice changed the world.
Among other things it created a whole new moral code that, at its best, drives perfectly ordinary individuals to lead campaigns to end slavery, save fellow human beings at the risk of their own lives, or just generally be nice and help other people instead of being completely selfish.
It even led to rulers throughout the centuries to order that their citizens, apprentices and serfs should have the right to a holiday to celebrate the birth of this Jesus chap and to reflect on what led to his subsequent execution by the Romans.
I shall be working that day in the Minster so I shall miss the whole darned thing – again – but I hope it is warmer than last year. Poor Mark, who played Christ on the cross, was at serious risk from hypothermia by the time it was all over but, unselfishly, is doing it again.
Because it’s the Christian thing to do.
Of course, Beverley Minster isn’t entirely spiritual – there’s got to be a strong sense of the practical otherwise it wouldn’t still be standing after all these centuries. One of the practical things we do is acknowledge that Bank Holidays are a good time to tempt people on one of our world-famous roof tours so, this Monday, if you’re ‘up for it’, then so am I.
I shall be climbing those 113 steps at least  five times, maybe more, from 10am and then at quarter past each hour throughout the day so if you’d like to meet me, or just glory in going behind the scenes inside the roof of one of the oldest Gothic buildings in the world – with a demonstration of the largest mediaeval tread wheel crane in the country – then why not pop along? £5 for adults, £2.50 for under 16s – and you can wander round the rest of the building for as long as you want, for free.
We’re also serving refreshments in the Parish Hall opposite, so it’s quite a civilised way of spending a few hours under cover, if it’s miserable outside, or enjoying fantastic views if it’s clear.
Finally, last Sunday we were told who our new vicar will be. Step forward the Revd Canon Jeremy Fletcher, currently Precentor at York Minster: (‘precentor’ is someone who organises the services and, frequently, the music). Apparently he was very quickly chosen after the interview procedures (to which I wasn’t invited, as you may remember, but I honestly don’t think it’s that important now).
Anyway, we’ve got him, although we don’t know when he’s starting yet. Probably some time late summer but, of course, I won’t recognise him when he turns up. I expect I’ll be introduced to him eventually – he might even come on one of my roof tours.
And if Revd Fletcher just happens to read this blog as a way of finding out more about what he’s just let himself in for, hi there.
May I just remind you, sir, that it’s been traditional for the virgers to get a luxury annual holiday in the Bahamas, paid for by the church. Can we assume you’ll be continuing this worthy tradition?
After all, a happy virger is a helpful virger.

First published April 200


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