Children’s ministry: Easter 2008

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2008 saw the festival of Easter fall within the school term for the first time. The Diocese, in partnership with the Board for Schools and CMS felt this was a great opportunity to serve our local schools and churches by producing a new way to tell the Easter story.

Packs were produced containing original assemblies to use both in Holy Week and Easter week, as well as workshop materials to be used during school visits to churches. The packs, which were sent to every church and church school, also contained physical artefacts to complement the teaching. Original photographs were commissioned to help the children engage again with meaning of Easter. The pack is available to download from this page.

Images of Easter

These six pictures were shot over one week in December as the result of a partnership between Dennis Morris, a world famous photographer, known especially for his iconic images of Bob Marley and other rock groups; Ben Bell, a youth worker with an interest in photography; and Bob Mayo, a parish priest with a background of research into young people’s spirituality. They worked together with young people from Islington to produce these images, which takes the heart of the Easter story and translates it into the lives of children and young people today.

There are six key events that mark the Easter story. These are Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the Trial, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The six images in this pack mirror back to children and young people how each of these events might be represented in their lives. The images are not an exploration of how young people relate to the Christian story but rather a re-presentation of the events in a contemporary cultural context with which young people are likely to be familiar. The initial thinking behind this came from a research project I was involved in which showed that images can be a wonderful stimulus for open-ended discussion on themes of spirituality and meaning. Images appeal to the imagination of children and young people as well as to their thinking and feeling selves. Images provide space to wonder and to explore, without the tyranny of always being expected to come up with the right answer.

The events of our week together were chaotic and fun. The pictures were shot in a damp and scrappy church hall that had been broken into over the weekend. We brought a red backdrop and spent the first half an hour of the shoot taping it up to the ceiling. The young people had no sense that someone the stature of Dennis Morris was photographing them. On one occasion he was ready to shoot when a young person’s mobile rang. She snatched at the phone, marched off to answer it and left us waiting while she finished the conversation. On our final shoot we waited an hour and a half for the young people to come. Some came, said that they would be back in five minutes and went away again for another half an hour. We ended up doing twenty minutes filming for two and a half hours waiting. Throughout the process there were parallel realities running alongside each other. Dennis was focusing on the images, Ben and I were concentrating on managing the event and the young people were concerned with each other.

Jesus going to his death forlorn and alone is the ultimate example of something seemingly hopeless but actually fabulous. In our small way this is what we experienced during our week together. We were immersed in the Easter story and the process of our taking the photographs began to run parallel to some of the events of Holy Week. The young people came to be photographed largely out of loyalty to Ben but they did not fully understand the significance of what we were trying to achieve. At the Last Supper, I imagine the attitude of the disciples to have been somewhat similar. Jesus would have bemused them; they would have known that something important was going on but not quite sure what it was. We were concerned when we realized that the young people would be coming straight from school, but then the poignancy of the school uniforms in the images cemented in our minds the ordinariness of the disciples as the key players in the drama of Holy Week. Dennis was creating new ways of looking at what would otherwise have been familiar, ordinary and drab. He saw possibilities in the images that would otherwise have been lost. Danny, one of the young people, described the process as “fun and strange”.

The appropriate passage from the Bible, along with questions for the children, is provided on the back of each A4 poster. The Group Leader’s notes are to help you understand what was intended in the making of the image. I commend the results of our week together as a resource to help young people learn the Easter story. All learning lies on a pendulum between self-discovery where we work something out for ourselves, and things taught where we accept something as a given truth. The former comes through our imagination and intuition, and the latter from our consciousness and understanding. These pictures can bring a new reality to the Easter story by appealing to young people’s imagination as well as to their understanding.

The copyright for the Easter 2008 images is held jointly by Dennis Morris, the Diocese of London & CMS. Thanks are due to Tapestry MM for their contribution to the project and also to the young people of St Stephen’s and St Mary’s Islington.

Palm Sunday: Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem

Jesus's triumphant entry

The crowds loved Jesus but the authorities were suspicious of him and so some type of confrontation was inevitable. Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem so that everyone would have the chance properly to hear his message.

When he entered the city, the crowds of people welcomed him with shouts of joy. They were intrigued and excited by what he planned to do.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

Whole story – Luke 19:28-40

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem coincided with the Jewish feast of the Passover, the most important Festival of the Jewish year. It was the occasion when the Jews would give thanks to God for rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.

When Jesus was growing up, he would have eaten the Passover meal every year with his family and friends. Now, Jesus knew that he was going to die soon, and he wanted to give his friends a way of remembering him. So he celebrated the Passover meal with them as always, but he did it a bit differently.

During the meal, he took some bread, gave thanks to God and he broke it. He passed it to his friends on either side of him and said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he picked up the cup of wine and said, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’

That was the last time that Jesus ate with his friends before he died and so we call it the Last Supper.

Whole story – Luke 22:7-28



After the Last Supper had finished, Jesus took his three closest friends, Peter, James and John and went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus wanted to spend time with God, praying and asking for the strength to face his death.

The disciples were tired and fell asleep, so Jesus was left alone. He felt frightened at the idea of being crucified and as he prayed his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

It was here that Judas brought the Roman soldiers and had Jesus arrested.

Whole story – Luke 22:39-56

The Trial

The Trial

It was now late Thursday night and Jesus was on trial for his life. He had been arrested even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. The Temple leaders were angry at what he had been saying about God.

He was taken to the Council of the High Priests in the Temple where Caiaphas, the high priest, questioned him. Caiaphas got people to make false accusations against Jesus but the witnesses all contradicted one another. They could not seem to get their stories straight. Jesus was silent throughout this proceeding.

Angered to the point where he tore his clothes in frustration, Caiaphas pronounced Jesus a heretic and, with the consent of his fellow priests, took him to Pilate, who was the Roman Governor of Judea.

Pilot sentenced Jesus to death, even though he found Jesus innocent.

Whole story – Mark 14:53 – 15:16

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

The soldiers took Jesus to a place just outside Jerusalem called Golgotha (The Place of the Skull) to be put to death by crucifixion. They beat him, laughed and mocked him, then nailed him to a cross to die.

Jesus would have been in agony. The nailing of the hands and feet forced the victim to push up against the weight of his own body to take a single breath. In the hot sun he felt a terrible thirst and was exhausted. Whilst Jesus was on the cross the sky fell dark.

After three hours Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”— which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then he died.

Whole story – Mark 15:16-41

The Resurrection

The Resurrection

Jesus was crucified, died and was buried on the Friday. Saturday passed without event.

But early in the morning on Sunday Jesus’ friends went to his tomb with spices to anoint his body. When they got there, they found the tomb had been opened and there was no body inside. Jesus had left the tomb – he had risen from the dead and was alive!

He came to his disciples and showed them the marks of his crucifixion so that they would be in no doubt that his resurrection was physical, literal and actual.

The disciples who had been frightened and confused were then transformed into the people of faith who would take the message of Christianity to the ends of the earth.

Whole story – Luke 24:1-49


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