A dramatic re-enactment of the Easter story of the Crucifixion attracted more than 100 adults and children to the highest church on Dartmoor today (Friday) on a perfect sunny day.
Families got into the early spiritual meaning of Easter on Good Friday by walking up Brent Tor, near Tavistock, while interacting with members of the community acting out a drama portraying the Scriptures' story of how Jesus was crucified.
The story unfolded in stages on the steep walk up the tor, culminating in 'Jesus' being 'nailed' to the cross at the top next to St Michael's Church (1,100 feet above sea level) on its spectacular location overlooking a moorland vista. Members of the parish enacted 'Christ's Passion' which involved two of them (including aa Ukrainian) sharing carrying a heavy wooden cross to the peak.
The Rev Hazel Butland, curate of Brentor's St Michael's Church, said: 'For several years Brentor and Gulworthy parishes have enacted Christ's passion on Good Friday as the heavy cross is carried up the Tor to St Michael's. It has been a fantastic day. We had 120 adults and 30 children or more making the walk and enjoying our Easter story.
'We were blessed with the most wonderful sunny and windless day with amazing views over lovely Dartmoor from our small but beautiful church.'
She added: 'It is very important that we tell the story of how much Jesus suffered for our futures. He was tortured and then most cruelly crucified. I'm so pleased so many people came to see our drama which is like a mystery drama. This was where we moved up the hill to the church listening to our excellent church warden Helen Harris as she narrated the story of our Lord's Passion from a booklet comprising a series of 14 short Scripture readings. We stopped to perform different stages of the drama and Helen did a great job of encouraging the crowd to interact with the dialogue.'
Helen said: 'As a former college teacher for 30 years I was very impressed how so many people paid attention for nearly an hour to our play. They also joined in enthusiastically, which was very rewarding. we were joined by a lot of people who wouldn't normally go to church, so that was wonderful to reach out to them ands they enjoy the day.'
Following the success of the Orthodox Christmas Service at St Michael's, Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their home country, were also invited. Tania and Vladimir Kovalchuk, of Ukraine attended with their children Andrii, 13, and Roman, ten, all dressed in Biblical costume, with Vladimir helping Jesus carry his heavy cross as 'Simon'.
Tania said: 'This is a sad story of Jesus suffering, but it has an optimistic message for all of us. We all felt privileged to take part and it was a moving experience. I certainly cried when I read the script.'
The large cross was placed with two other smaller crosses in front of the church. The event finished with 'Joseph of Arimathea' placing the 'body' of Lord Jesus in the crypt below the church.
The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Rev James Grier, also attended in an unofficial role. He said: 'I just had to attend this amazing event to celebrate God and Jesus' message to us all on Good Friday. It's such an uplifting experience to see so many people who might not ever think of going to worship taking part or merely watching. It's a great way of spreading the word of God and seeing how people were engaging with it on every level.'
Shirley Stickland, 82, of Shaugh Prior, near Plymouth, used her wheeled walking aid to scale the steep and uneven rocky and muddy terrain to reach the church. She said: 'It was a fantastic event. I wasn't planning on seeing it, but it caught my imagination and helped me get to the top.'
She was joined by her daughter Jenny Brown and granddaughter Dani, 17, and their dog Pepper. Jenny said: 'We just had to climb up to see the church. My mum has always wanted to do it and we were so lucky the Easter story was also on. It made such a special day. My mum was also amazing and determined to get to the top and it was worth her effort, even though it took two and half hours up and back again.'