November is a time for stories. At the beginning of the month, as we celebrate All Souls, there is a chance to remember those who have died, whether they be family, friends, neighbours or others who have been special to us in some way, and to share their stories. As the month progresses, we move on to stories of bravery and courage, loyalty and sacrifice, tragic heroism and shocking inhumanity as we enter the season of remembrance. There are stories from the past and stories from the present; stories which demonstrate both the best and the worst in humankind; stories that need to be told, not to glorify war, but to honour the memory of those have have been, and still are, caught up in conflicts around the world. For it is through remembering that we pledge ourselves to a better future, one in which there is no more war but, instead, peace and justice for all.
It is good to tell our stories for telling and retelling stories is part of what it is to be human. They engage us whatever our age. And it is through our stories that we can make this world a better place, building upon the wisdom of our forebears, learning from our mistakes and drawing strength and encouragement from those times when God's love and goodness has shone through.
Perhaps one of the greatest stories is that which tells the events of Holy Week and Easter – a wonderful story about love, sacrifice, power, expediency, relationships, betrayal, forgiveness and hope, themes which resonate with all of us, whoever we are. With that in mind, plans are already well developed to bring that story to life in the centre of Woodstock next April when we hope people from across the community will share in an outdoor retelling of the Passion Story on Palm Sunday afternoon, April 13th, 2014.
Passion Plays have, of course, been around for centuries. Perhaps the most famous is that of Oberammergau, a village in south-east Germany, where a play has been performed every ten years since 1634. But re-enactments of the passion story, as well as the life of Jesus, had been going on for centuries before that. These pageants, over time, became major community events and many towns and communities would perform something, using the opportunity to get all the people, as well as the town guilds and other organisations, involved as much as possible. And that is what we are trying to do now: get both individuals and all sorts of community groups involved in retelling the passion story.
Our aim in doing so is not to preach at people or force one particular viewpoint on others. Our aim is to simply tell the story and let the story speak for itself. For, whether you are someone of faith or not, the story itself has shaped the lives of millions of people over the years, not to mention our cultural and artistic heritage, and remains an important element in understanding the things and people around us. As such, it remains a story that is worth telling and worth hearing. And as we share in telling it together, so we get to know each other just that little bit better, building up that sense of community which is itself, surely, a good thing!
So, do think about how you, or the groups of which you are a part, can be involved. We are holding a casting session at 2pm on 9th November at the Marlborough School for anyone interested in acting in the play, whether as a named character, disciple, Roman Guard, bystander, one of the women, temple trader, priest, member of the crowd, or anything else. No previous experience is necessary and we guarantee to use everyone who turns up in some way or other! Alternatively, there are lots of other ways to be involved, whether as musicians, technicians, set building, costumes, marshalls, publicity and a whole host of other things. So why not visit our website and sign up. Or give us a ring on 01993 225074. We want this to be a real community event, so please do get involved. We would be delighted to hear from you!
Jonathan writes a monthly column for the Woodstock and Bladon News. This was his contribution to the November issue.