Churches in Settle and District

Journey to the Cross

THIS annual pageant is now in its 10th year and yet each time it is staged it seems to be revitalised.

In part this is due to the fact that there are often new cast members, in particular this year Joe Dillon in the central role as Christ, sometimes new directors but also by the fact that this is a story which bears retelling.

On any level it is a powerful story and when such dramatic events take place in the middle of the everyday life of the town then it is even more effective.

Shoppers stop to watch, cars slow down and yet - as in Jerusalem at the time - everyday life continues without everyone taking in the enormity of what is happening.

Settle itself does lend itself perfectly to the theatrical nature of this event and the choice of settings creates part of the power of the unfolding tale.

The first act takes place in St John's Church, and the Last Supper itself is seen being laid out on a table which is actually the modern alter of the church.

The story moves on in procession to the events of Christ's vigil and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene, here located in the Millennium Garden and next to the supermarket carpark, where curious shoppers swell the crowd to watch the dramatic events unfold.

Here birdsong and passing goods trains mingle with the snores of the disciples who doze in the cold and drizzle until soldiers arrive to arrest Christ.

The trial in the Market Place is always a highlight, as the location lends itself to this kind of confrontation.

Seated in splendour outside the Town Hall, Caiaphas embodies the religious powers of the times: desperate to keep control of the situation and determined not allow this upstart Nazarene to rock the boat.

Paired against this excellent performance is an equally outstanding military and civil power, personified in a very detached and authoritative Pilate, speaking from the balcony of The Shambles.

Between the sinister and stern Caiaphas and looking up to the might of Rome above them, the crowd mills and follows the lead of the agitators who call for the release of Barrabas.

Accompanied by the steady drumbeat of the Roman soldiery, a bloodied Christ is paraded down Church Street to play out the final act of the drama - fittingly amongst the gravestones of the churchyard.

Again the starkness of the words and actions melds into the familiarity of the venue and as Christ dies, birds sing and sunlight catches on the raindrops of the daffodils and everything falls still as the final hymn is sung.

Although performed by amateurs this never fails to be a moving moment with so much of its strength coming from the simplicity and sincerity of what is taking place.

This is a story which is known to all those watching and yet this annual performance never fails to deliver a thought provoking retelling of the familiar tale.

Gill O'Donnell