The Passion Story Revisited, A Reflection

Poole Passion Play 2016Knee-deep in preparations for Holy Week I had a phone call asking me if I’d like to attend the Poole Passion as a representative of Sarum College.

I’d spent the weekend before at Sarum College as part of my ministerial training exploring ‘urban ministry’. And here was a beautiful example of work sprung up from the community embracing the wealth of people from an urban context. Those involved in the re-telling of a story which ‘resonates to those of the Christian faith, no faith and to other faiths, as the story is a vehicle for a powerful and enduring truth, that of the redemptive aspect of love.’ (from Poole Passion’s website)

The Poole Passion first performed in 2009 now has a strong tradition itself incorporating amateur and professional members of the community who work collaboratively to shape thought-provoking and emotive biennial re-enactments of Jesus’ last days. This year’s performance, ‘Through the eyes of a child,’ focused on telling the story from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old girl. The performance moved from one church building, via a green space opposite busy restaurants and pubs, to a churchyard and finally another church building. The physicality of moving from place to place mirroring the movement of Jesus to the place of crucifixion complete with, at times, echoes of the jeering crowd from various passers-by!

The performance was punctuated by monologues, pieces of music and projected filmed images, including a light show projected onto the outside of a magnificent church building. There was an interactive sense throughout and, as with immersive theatre, those watching were invited into the story. I was particularly moved by a scene which involved sharing of bread amongst cast and audience – although maybe participants would be a more accurate term. There was a Eucharistic quality in it; the sharing of bread with a mixed band of people, all from different walks of life, each coming to the performance with different perspectives, each finding themselves in different facets of the Passion of Christ.

For me this was the perfect lead-up to Holy Week. An opportunity to hear afresh the story which can at times seem too familiar. It was a privilege to be told the story in such an interesting way and by a community of people so evidently impacted by the storytelling process.

Ruth Wells – Ministry Student at Sarum College

Lectionary Reading Blog for 10 April: 3rd Sunday of Easter

LiturgyandSpirituality‘The conversion of Saul’ is the heading in my bible. I think that this is odd.

As I understand ‘conversion’ in this context it would mean ‘changing one’s religion’. Saul does not ‘change religion’. Christianity as we know it does not exist and the followers of Jesus are Jews ‘who belong to the Way’. And just as Saul had planned: he visits the synagogue in Damascus (v.20).

I think that if I had to write a heading for this passage it would be: ‘The calling of Saul’. Jesus calls him to ‘do’ something different (v.6). Instead of persecuting Jesus Saul is to bring the name of Jesus before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel (v.15).

With this change in calling, the content of Saul’s Jewish faith does change somewhat, but the radical change is in his actions, in his work rather than in his religion. Unconsciously I associate the change of name from Saul to Paul with this story of his calling, but that is not part of it at all.

Saul is the Hebrew (Jewish) name that means ‘asked for’; while Paul is a Latin (Roman) name that means ‘small’ or ‘humble’. He clearly used both probably depending on the cultural context. In this passage Jesus asks for Saul to be his witness. What is your calling?

10 April 2016
Acts 9:1-6

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Lectionary Reading Blog for 3 April: 2nd Sunday of Easter

LiturgyandSpiritualityThere is much talk of ‘leadership’ nowadays. In today’s reading Jesus is called ‘leader’ although some translate ‘prince’ or ‘author’.

Literally the Greek word, archégos, is a combination of ‘the first’, arché, and ‘to lead’, ago.

So it is about the first in a long procession: a pioneer who goes first so that others may follow. It is more the ‘founder’ or the ‘originator’ than the ‘prince’. Fascinating that what Jesus as the leader (and saviour) gives is ‘repentance’ and ‘forgiveness’.

I am not sure that this is what we expect from our leaders. He goes before us in complete self-giving, in death and in exaltation. We turn around, change our mind, repent and follow him. Peter and the apostles show us how. They give of themselves through being witnesses to Jesus: just like the Holy Spirit. If Jesus is our leader also, the pioneer of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 – same word), where is he leading us? Where do we need to go as we follow him in self-giving, in witness, in repentance and forgiveness?

3 April 2016
Acts 5:27-32

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

An Evening of Lenten Reflection with Meg Warner

MegWarnerSarum College Bookshop had a very successful evening of Lenten reflection on Wednesday March 16th with Dr. Meg Warner, author of Abraham.

Dr. Warner of King’s College, London, gave a 45 minute talk on Abraham, before taking questions from the floor.

The evening was part of a Lent pilgrimage by publisher SPCK who travelled to different towns with different authors during Lent. SPCK sponsored this free event, providing refreshments, cotton bags and pens for everyone in the audience, and a beautiful framed screenprint of Lindisfarne by Ian Scott Massie, author of Places of Pilgrimage to the winner of the lucky ticket.

If you couldn’t make it, you might like to order Meg’s book Abraham. Although badged as a Lent book, it is not a ‘page a day’ book, and there is still time to read it before Easter.

A (Very) Public School Murder: Book launch with Simon Parke

simon_parke_portraitYour company is requested at Sarum College Bookshop on Wednesday May 18th at 3pm to launch the latest Abbot Peter murder mystery, A (Very) Public School Murder.

Crime fiction is perennially popular, and crime fiction with a church background is everywhere at the moment.

This is the 4th Abbot Peter novel, and if you haven’t yet made his acquaintance, the Abbot works with DI Tamsin Shah to solve crime, usually murder, on the south coast of England, in the seaside town of Stormhaven – clearly based on the real town of Seaford.

When we first meet the Abbot he is in his 60s, a keen runner – he completed the Saharan marathon on six occasions – and formerly the Abbot of St-James-the-Less monastery in the deserts of Middle Egypt, a day’s camel ride from the famous St Catherine’s monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. He was Abbot there for 20 years, and a brother there for ten years previously. Intrigued?

The books come from the vivid imagination of Simon Parke, who has been a script writer for Spitting Image, a Sony award-winning radio writer and a weekly columnist for the Daily Mail. An Oxford graduate in history and a former priest in the Church of England, he is now CEO of the Mind Clinic and author of many books including the Abbot Peter murder mysteries, set in Seaford on the Sussex coast, where Simon now lives with his piano, the seagulls and some running shoes.

There will be a 30 minute talk, Q&A, tea and cake – and of course the new book will be on sale, and the author on hand to sign it.  Do join us!

Tickets on sale now for £4 (£5 on the door) to include discount on sales of the book.

Special rates on B&B if you want to make a night of it – £50 ensuite or £30 with a shared bathroom. Contact the bookshop on 01722 326899 or

Lectionary Reading Blog for 27 March: Easter Day

LiturgyandSpiritualityOn Easter day we read Peter’s sermon for the ‘gentile Pentecost’ – the moment non-Jews received the Spirit for the first time in Acts.

This sermon is in reality Peter’s witness to his own conversion. Peter who is also called ‘Simon son of Jonah’ (Mt. 16:17) needs to be convinced through a trance (10), visions (v.3,11), an angel (v.3), lots of thinking (v.19), meeting people (v.21) and finally the Holy Spirit (v.44) that gentiles can be and should be baptised.

Like Jonah it is clearly hard for Peter to understand God’s interest in ‘every nation’. Cornelius’ conversion seems unspectacular in comparison to Peter’s as Cornelius is already a ‘devout’ (v.2) and ‘up-right’ (v.22) man. As gentile Christians we owe a lot to Peter’s conversion, and I wonder what kind of conversion we are called to this Easter.

Peter’s message of God showing ‘no partiality’ was revolutionary in the history of the church and in mission. I wonder whether God’s acceptance of “every nation” might be just as revolutionary in the church today. What group, which people might we be called to embrace this Easter?

27 March 2016
Acts 10:34-43

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Lectionary Reading Blog for 20 March: Palm Sunday

LiturgyandSpiritualitySometimes Jesus’ management of his affairs is rather mysterious.

He seems to do very little administration and organisation in the sense of a modern CEO but of course he does rather a lot of communication.

Here it seems as if we are only told one part of the story. Questions flutter around. Did Jesus have a previous ‘deal’ with the owners of the colt: had he arranged it in advance? Or is Jesus seeing ‘far’ in the sense of miraculous knowledge? Was he generally known to everybody in this village as ‘the master’? The big underlying question is: did Jesus stage an entry as described by Zechariah 9:9 or did it almost happen accidentally on the spur of the moment?

I believe Jesus planned this. Even if it was planned by prayer and spiritual insight rather than by a deal with the owner of the colt: Jesus wants to make a statement about being the ‘king of peace’. Zechariah 9:10 is crucial: “he shall command peace to the nations”. With his entry into Jerusalem on a colt Jesus makes a massive statement both of power “triumphant and victorious” (in Zechariah’s words) and of peace “humble and riding on a donkey”. No warhorses, no king with blood on his hands. The only blood on Jesus’ hands will be his own. Only in Luke do the multitudes of disciples who shout really understand this. Interestingly they call out “peace in heaven” rather than “peace on earth”. Peace on earth will only happen on that day when all confess “Jesus as Lord” and follow his way.

20 March 2016
Luke 19:28-40

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

March 2016 Book of the Month: Abraham by Meg Warner

AbrahamAbraham: A Journey Through Lent by Meg Warner

Meg Warner’s Abraham: A Journey Through Lent has been my favourite Lenten read this year. It is both a thorough examination of the Abraham stories and an interesting exploration of the reader’s own Lenten journey. She combines a difficult biblical text, the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross and illustrative episodes from her own life to create a very readable book.

The choice of an Old Testament figure, Abraham, as a companion through Lent may seem strange but Abraham’s journey has so many parallels with Jesus’ story that the subject never feels out of place. Meg Warner brings to her book a thorough analysis of the story of Abraham. She places him in his own historical context and explains some parts of the story that to us, as modern readers, can be almost incomprehensible. Her vast knowledge of the subject is ever present but she does not overwhelm the reader with it. The focus of the book is very much on the shared experience of journeying through Lent, using Abraham’s journey as a model. The questions posed to the reader at the end of each chapter serve to direct our reflection towards our personal Lenten journeys.

This is by no means an arduous read, just one chapter for each week of Lent. Each chapter is further broken down into around six sections; an introductory section introducing the theme and reading for the week, some historical context and Lenten reflection on Abraham, an illustrative episode and some questions for the reader. This gentle pace compliments the reflective period that is Lent and allows the reader to pick up the book in a moment of peace when they are ready to absorb what it has to say.

Reviewed by Lynette White, Duty Manager at Sarum College

Published by SPCK, Abraham a Journey through Lent, is just £6.99 in the shop or £4.99 + postage from our online shop until 31 March 2016 (RRP £7.99).

You can meet the author on 16 March at 6.30pm when she will be in Sarum College to talk about Abraham. This is a FREE event sponsored by SPCK publishing, but please reserve your place by emailing or by phoning 01722 326899.

There will be gifts for everyone attending, and one audience member will receive a beautiful print of Lindisfarne by Ian Scott Massie, author of Places of Pilgrimage.