‘It’s the best thing we’ve ever done!’ That was our churchwarden’s reaction to our first Walk through Holy Week. Over 250 children from four local state Junior Schools had come to share in the story of Jesus’ last week. Two things inspired us: the encouragement of Hope 08 to tell the Easter story in the public place and an article ‘Easterfest’ in the Church Army magazine.
Groups of Years 5 & 6 children, 60 at a time, arrived excitedly in the church foyer. Two church leaders had been into the schools to teach them some songs, to help make palm leaves and to choose the twelve to be the Disciples. The church was cleared of chairs, and the front screened off with the ‘walls of Jerusalem’. Most of the children came into the church to hear the beginning of the Palm Sunday events and then broke into song and waved their leaves as Jesus (a leader) and the Disciples arrived. Then suddenly the mood changed. Jesus and the 12 go to the front and the tables of the moneychangers are overturned. We explained that Jesus was not just a popular figure, but also someone who stood up for truth and justice.
The 60 children then broke into 2 groups. Half went off to do Easter crafts – mini Easter gardens, cards and biscuits. The other half went to a large gazebo in one corner of the church where they shared in a Passover meal – lamb, bitter herbs, egg – Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and explained that the bread and the wine were to be taken in memory of him. The next corner was Gethsemane. There they watched a video of Jesus at prayer and heard the story of the soldiers arresting Jesus. He was marched off to another corner, which was draped in black and with a large cross. Our Lay Reader, a retired teacher, dressed in a centurion’s costume, dramatically told the story of the crucifixion. He ended with striking words “Despite all I had done to him, the beating, nailing him to the cross, he looked at me with such love: ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’.” After such a powerful moment the children went off quietly for refreshments and then to the crafts. The other group then participated in the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
For the final scene the front of church was transformed into the empty tomb. Two leaders came up through the seated children explaining that they were going to anoint Jesus. ‘How would they move the stone?’ ‘ Who has stolen the body?’ Then Mary saw the risen Jesus! We erupted into celebration, dancing and singing ‘ Jesus is alive !’
We had very positive feedback from all the local schools, both teachers and children and they want this year’s Y5’s to come.
As the children left we gave them a bracelet made with little coloured beads to remind them of each of the scenes. One child gave her Christian Great Grandma a set. As the others in her Residential Home asked her about the bracelet she could naturally tell the story of Jesus too!