The Church of England in Lancashire took the ‘Being Witnesses for Jesus Christ’ element of its Diocesan Vision 2026 into a new dimension at the weekend.
Two emotional performances of ‘The Mark Drama’ – an action-packed event about the most influential and controversial figure in human history, Jesus Christ - were brought to life.
Performed as theatre-in-the-round in Blackburn Cathedral on consecutive nights, audiences were able to experience the production with a cast that included all three Bishops of the Diocese, along with other members of the Bishop’s Leadership Team and members of Buckshaw Village Church near Chorley.
The Mark Drama is an innovative way of presenting the Gospel of Mark and communicating it powerfully to others.
Hundreds of people from across Lancashire attended on Saturday and Sunday nights. The intensity of the rollercoaster 90-minute production, with no breaks, created a real buzz during and after each performance – both in person and later on social media.
Performing ‘The Mark Drama’ was also an ‘overwhelming’ experience for the cast.
The cast was led by the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson; the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North and the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff.
The Bishops acted alongside other members of the Bishop’s Leadership Team including the Dean of Blackburn, The Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones.
Collectively they created an amazing and impactful dramatisation, which was produced in partnership with Buckshaw Village Church near Chorley.
Although there were moments of great humour in places as the story of Jesus’ ministry was acted out, every story from the Gospel of Mark, the experience of participating was an emotional one for all the actors – particularly in portraying the closing scenes of Christ’s betrayal and crucifixion.
Bishop Julian said: “It’s been very challenging and demanding. As amateur actors we were trusting wholly in God to shine the light of His message through us and Callom, the Director, has been so encouraging in that context.
“Meanwhile the Gospel of Mark has amazed us again in the way it tells the story of Jesus, encourages us to worship Him and to give Him a rightful place in our lives.”
Bishop Philip commented: “Being in The Mark Drama has been an overwhelming and intense spiritual experience. It’s hard to think of a better way of entering into the scriptures than acting them out.
“I hope our performances brought Jesus alive for those who attended and encouraged deeper commitment and even conversion.”
Bishop Jill added: “The Mark Drama was such a profound way of meeting Jesus. During the rehearsals I was particularly struck by when Jesus says: ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’.
“My hope and prayer is that everyone who saw these performances will have met Jesus in a new way, knowing the scriptures and encountering the power of God.”
Since its inception The Mark Drama, created by Andrew Page, has been performed across Europe and the rest of the world.
Last year Buckshaw Village Church became one of the latest places to perform The Mark Drama successfully – which led to the Vicar, Rev James Gwyn Thomas, inviting the Bishop’s Leadership Team in Blackburn Diocese to join them in performances for 2020.
James, who played the central role of Jesus, said: "Drama is an under-rated form of engaging with the Bible. It is impossible to leave The Mark Drama without being moved by the lengths that Jesus went to prove his love for his people."
The Mark Drama also had a huge impact on the members of Buckshaw Village Church who participated.
Stuart Longworth, from Buckshaw Village, said: “Being involved in this production is possibly the most powerful thing I’ve ever done in the church. It makes such a difference to see the word come off the page and come alive in this context, and having the opportunity to be in the centre of that has been incredible.”
And Vicki Miller, also from Buckshaw Village, commented: “It’s been an emotional six-week journey for all of us; from reading the Gospel of Mark initially, to the rehearsals and now the performances.
“It has also been a privilege to perform with the Bishops and other members of the Bishops’ Leadership Team. I’m so pleased they were able to get involved.”
Meanwhile the production’s Director, Callom Harkrader, summed up the whole event when he added: “For the actors this is the most immersive and intense bible study they will ever do.
“When you act out the Gospel it’s a powerful reminder that Jesus is a person and it really comes to life. I hope this production will inspire people to use drama more in sharing and engaging with their faith.”