The
Cowley Road
Passion Play

About the Passion Play

The Cowley Road Passion Play tells the story remembered by Christians all over the world for the last two thousand years. It is the story of God’s love for each one of us — a love so deep that he calls us all to him. The events of the first Easter, from Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples through to his arrest, crucifixion and death, leading to the earth shattering moment when he rose again have changed us forever. Short scenes performed at various stations along the Cowley Road, allow East Oxford to witness our retelling and take a pause to think about why this Friday murder turned out to be good news.

In 2012, local churches told this story joined by upwards of 250 people on Good Friday (6th April). Despite a cold, wet week, we were blessed with blue skies and a warming spring sun (which made those in thinner costumes and sandal-clad feet very happy). People watched from shops, building sites and passing cars as the procession made its way along the road. The reprise of the production is eagerly anticipated.

Cancelled in 2014

With great disappointment and frustration, the organisers sadly have to announce that the 2014 performance of the Cowley Road Passion Play has had to be cancelled.

This is due to an intractable situation which developed with the City Council Events Planning Department and the local Police. Previously unheralded issues came to light a couple of weeks before Good Friday and, despite efforts to resolve the situation, the decision was taken on 12 April to call off the performance. Alternative locations were considered but it was felt that these were not logistically feasible.

We hope that you will be able to find alternative ways to ponder the story of Christ's passion; your local church will almost certainly be offering various additional services during Holy Week which will provide a space to do so.

Scene 1 — The Last Supper

Location:
Cowley Road Methodist Church (at the junction with Jeune Street).
Setting:
An upstairs room in Jerusalem, almost 2,000 years ago.
Story:
Having arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus meets with his disciples for the Last Supper. In a great act of service, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, before sharing with them bread and wine that is to become his body and blood. Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him to death. Judas Iscariot flees to betray Jesus to the High Priest. Jesus tells his disciples of the love he has for them, and promises that after he has gone, God will send the Holy Spirit to continue his work. Jesus and the disciples then get up and leave.

Scene 2 — Arrest

Location:
St Stephen's House (accessed via Moberly Close)
Setting:
A nearby garden, called Gethsemane.
Story:
Jesus has taken his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, somewhere they often went to. Judas Iscariot has indeed betrayed Jesus, and brings some soldiers of the High Priest to arrest him. Peter tries to stop the soldiers, before he and the Beloved Disciple look on in horror as the soldiers lead Jesus away. The disciples, not knowing what to do, flee.

Scene 3 — In Front of the Sanhedrin

Location:
Moberly Close, opposite East Oxford Community Centre
Setting:
The courts of the religious leaders.
Story:
The soldiers lead Jesus to Caiaphas the High Priest, and to his father in law Annas. Worried about the radical teaching of Jesus, they decide that they must have Jesus condemned to death. Knowing that they do not hold this authority themselves, they must take Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Meanwhile, Peter and the Beloved Disciple have made their way in secret to where Caiaphas and Annas are questioning Jesus. They find a brazier to warm themselves from the chill of the night, but several bystanders stand to ask them if they know this man Jesus. Peter denies it three times, before fleeing once more.

Scene 4 — Death Sentence

Location:
East Oxford Primary School (behind Tesco)
Setting:
The courts of the Roman governor.
Story:
Pontius Pilate is woken to question Jesus, but can find no case against him. By this time a large crowd as gathered. Encouraged by Annas and Caiaphas, they demand the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus appears to say little to help his case. He is lead away, and dressed in a purple robe and a crown of thorns, since he has claimed to be a king. At the time of year of the Passover, Pilate had a tradition of releasing a prisoner. When given the choice of releasing Jesus or the criminal Barabbas, the crowd are already decided. They wish Barabbas to be released, and Jesus to be crucified. With the decisive cry from the crowd, Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified.

Scene 5 — Execution

Location:
Manzil Way Health Centre
Setting:
Golgotha, a place of execution known as “The Place of the Skull”
Story:
Jesus carries his cross to the place Golgotha, the place of the skull, where he is to be crucified. He is stripped of his remaining clothes, and a sign is placed at the head of the cross “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. Then, they crucify him. Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple arrive at the scene of the crucifixion. As Jesus approaches his death, he asks for a drink, and is given some sour wine. Finally, Jesus bows his head, and dies. Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus comes forward. He, and others take the body of Jesus down from the cross, and take him to a tomb.

Scene 6 — And Then...

Location:
St Mary and St John Church
Setting:
Early on Easter morning at the garden tomb where the body of Jesus was placed.
Story:
On the third day after the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene visits the tomb to embalm Jesus’ body. When she arrives, she finds the stone of the tomb rolled back, and the tomb empty. She runs off to find Peter and the Beloved Disciple. They return to the tomb, confirm it is empty, before Peter and the Beloved Disciple run off again. Mary despairs in the garden, before coming across a man she does not recognises. He calls her by her name, and Mary realises that this man is Jesus, risen from the dead.

Find out more

You can find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@cowleyrdpassionplay). You can also contact us at info@cowleyroadpassionplay.org.uk.

The passion play was put on by churches and Christian groups in East Oxford. The creative team and cast were drawn from:

Each link will take you to the relevant website, which will give you more information about those groups, all of which will be glad to help if you want to find out more about the passion story.