Celebrating and remembering the events of Holy Week
– at the time they actually occurred, according to the gospel accounts
– at the place they occurred, according to the gospel accounts
Only where you live
What is it?
Some years ago, over the course of Holy Week, I led a project called Jerusaleynsham (a combination of Jerusalem and Eynsham‚ the village where I live). The idea was simple: I superimposed a map of first century Jerusalem over the village. Then, each day we would recreate the events of the week‚ meeting together to read the gospel accounts at the time when they occurred, and in the Eynsham equivalent of where they occurred.
So, for example, the Temple roughly covered the area of the Eynsham playing fields. So, when the gospels said Jesus went to the Temple early in the morning, we did exactly that. Broadly speaking, each day there was a morning meeting at 7 am and an evening ‘catch up’ meeting at 7 pm.
I subsequently did the event at another town as well, where it worked equally well. So, in order to help other churches enjoy the same experience I have developed this into The Longest Week Live, based on my book, The Longest Week. With these resources you can recreate the events of Holy Week where you live, you can meet in the right place, at the right time, in your own town or village.
How does it work?
To recreate the week, you will need the following:
a) Someone who can use photoshop or similar
b) a map of your town or village
c) The Longest Week Live Sample Timetable (Download here)
d) The Longest Week Live overlay map of first century Jerusalem (Download here)
The sample timetable gives an idea of how it works.
Then you need to get your photoshop expert to superimpose the overlay map onto a map of your location. Move it around a bit to get the best fit. There is no need to be absolutely precise about this. If you can find a venue in the right general area that will be fine.
For the original version we met outside for many of the events, but each evening meeting was held in a central hall location.
Once you’ve worked out what fits where, then you can start to plan your timetable and decide what events you want to put on, and where. (To help you you can have a look at the original Jerusaleynsham timetable leaflet (624k pdf) and one from Lymington where we called the event… er… Jerusalymington.)
What happens at these events?
It’s up to you! I’d suggest making each morning event short (10-15 mins) and the evening events a bit longer.
You can have a simple reading of the appropriate passage, followed by prayers. Or you can add in a bit of background information about the event. (To help you with this, on the sample timetable I’ve linked each event with the relevant pages of The Longest Week). There might be prayers or a meditation or a piece of poetry, or simply some silence. There might be some discussion.
The evening events can be longer and will help people catch up on the events of the day.
People can choose how to be involved:
1. Right time, right place. You can come to the individual commemorations, at the right locations.
2. Right time, wrong place. Read the passages and pray at the right time, but without leaving home! Simply read and pray where you are.
3. Night time, right place. Join in the evening discussions/meditations.
How do you know when things took place?
There’s a bit of supposition involved, but the broad sweep of the week is taken from Mark’s gospel. Other events have been put in at the most likely time they occurred. I’m not arguing that this is definitely what happened – just one idea. If nothing else reading things in this way will give you a picture of how the events built up.
How do you know where things took place?
Again, there is some guesswork and tradition involved. Certain locations we know for certain (e.g. the Temple), others are high probabilities (e.g. Pilate having his HQ in Herod’s palace), and some are long-standing tradition (e.g. Gethsemane). Whatever the case, I would recommend you make this a ‘moveable feast’ and walk between the different locations. This will give you an idea of the geographical scale of things.
What if I can’t get the church behind this?
Well, you could do it yourself. Do it as an act of personal meditation and prayer. You can use these resources here or download the Longest Week devotional timetable and sort out your own itinerary.
What if I don’t want to do the whole thing?
Fine by me. Do what you want. If you choose just one thing, I’d recommend the walks on the Thursday – from Bethany to the Upper Room, from the upper Room to Gethsemane, and from Gethsemane to the House of Caiaphas. They give you an idea of the physical effort of that day and the way that Jesus criss-crossed the city.
Do you lead these events for other churches?
I do when I can. For obvious reasons, I can only do one a year! (I suppose I could do one for the Greek Orthodox community as their Easter date is different!)
Feel free to contact me for more advice.
At the end of the week I asked people to comment on what they had learned or experienced. Here are some selected thoughts:
“What got me was the dragging out of the 3 days from death to resurrection.”
“It was great to make the events of holy week become real events, happening to real people, rather than just familiar stories.”
“I was struck by the seeming length of the week on Sunday/Monday and the seeming shortness of it by Thursday – I wondered how it seemed to Jesus.”
“Best Easter week for learning ever! Lots of visual learning. Early mornings were worth it, honest.”
“It brought to me a greater understanding of the tensions and pressures surrounding Christ’s crucifixion.”
“It gave substance to the Easter story and brought the city to life.”
“This has been the most meaningful Holy Week I have experienced. It therefore made Easter Day very special indeed.”