CHRISTIANS in Manchester are inviting faith communities across the city to support and take part in its first Passion play for ten years, at the start of next Holy Week.
Representatives from Anglican churches in Manchester, and from the Roman Catholic Church, and Jewish and Muslim communities, were due to gather in the cathedral today to support the launch of the play, which is due to take place in Albert Square, in the city centre, at 3 p.m. on 8 April.
The previous Manchester Passion was organised by the BBC in 2006 at a cost of £1.5 million (News, Feature, 21 April 2006). The similarly large-scale open-air production next year is being run entirely by volunteers. It is funded by donations, and supported by the Passion Play Trust.
It was proposed by the Priest-in-Charge of St Werburgh’s, Chorlton, the Revd Falak Sher, who chairs the organising committee, and who has close ties with the Pakistani Muslim community.
Alex Stewart-Clark, of the Trust, said: “Jesus existed in the Christian world, the Jewish world, and in the Muslim world. We are just promoting the story, which tells itself, however people wish to interpret.”
More than 150 volunteers are expected to take part, of all faiths and none. “Everyone is invited,” he said. “The play is open to anyone who wants to help the community bring the message of hope to refugees and the disenfranchised in Manchester and further afield.”
The team are hoping that a later Easter, and warmer weather, will help to fill Albert Square to its capacity of 20,000 people on the day. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, said: “The death of Jesus on the cross 2000 years ago was a very public event, in full view of the crowd on a hill outside Jerusalem. Christians have continued to proclaim both his death and Easter resurrection in the public spaces of the town and city centres.
“I am delighted that the Manchester Passion team are now planning to bring the story to life in our own Albert Square. I pray God’s blessing on their efforts that many may see and believe.”
The RC Bishop of Salford, the Rt Revd John Arnold, and the Consul General of Pakistan, Dr Zahoor Ahmed, were due to attend the launch, alongside the Lord Mayor of Manchester, and the Police Commissioner.
Geoff Millard, who directed two previous Passion plays in Bolton, Greater Manchester, has been appointed as the creative director. The music director is to be Wayne Ellington, the choirmaster of Manchester Inspirational Voices, who won the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year. Professional Christian actors will be chosen to play Jesus, Peter, and Mary.
The Manchester Passion team are looking for volunteers: actors, musicians, singers, craftspeople, costume-makers, and promoters. To take part or donate visit: www.manchesterpassion.org.