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Oxford Community Passion Play

During the first lockdown, stuck at home, actor and playwright Carolyn Lloyd-Davies got to writing an Easter Passion play for the congregation at St Matthews Church in Oxford. With the help of a Development Fund grant from the diocese, the church and community have brought the play to life. 

Man with a beard standing with hands tied together with rope and a crucifix is on the wall in the background.The play, And a Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul, tells the Easter story from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus, in an accessible way for both those who are familiar and unfamiliar with the gospel story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Working with Jo Hutchence, the Families Pastoral Care Worker at St Matthew’s and former drama teacher, Carolyn pulled together a group of 45 volunteers aged 25-80 plus, including musicians and singers, from the church and the local community. With a range of acting abilities, from Oxford academics to those who have never been part of a drama performance before, they have been meeting every Sunday to rehearse the play. 

Carolyn shares why the diversity in the cast was an important part of her vision: 

“I wanted to ensure that the cast included a diverse range of people that reflected the demographic of the local community including those from UKME backgrounds. We have people with additional needs on the cast too, so we have made it accessible to everyone who wants to be involved. It is a play for the community, by the community and in the community.” 

Local people and other churches in the area have been involved in supporting the production. The Artist in Residence, Daniel Balanescu, at the sister church of St Luke’s, Oxford has designed the staging and other members of the community have used recycled materials to create stage designs and costumes. The local St Swithun’s CE Primary School have loaned staging and Christ Church, Abingdon have provided props. 

The Revd Dr Jenni Williams, Vicar of St Matthews, describes the opportunities for the community: 

“This is the first time we have done anything like this at St Matthew’s, but the community have been really on board. About half of the cast are not regular church goers so by offering local people something to be involved in it has created a real opportunity to bring people together, keep connecting and even reconnect after the pandemic has fragmented many of our communities.” 

Marion Bloice-Smith, who has been helping direct the play, shares the aim of the project and the impact so far: 

“It is a missional project, we hope that people will come into the church, maybe for the first and realise that it isn’t just a building, but it is full of life and hope. We hope that the story about our God who came to earth in human form and relates to us on a human and divine level will resonate with people in a new way. Even some members of the cast hadn’t heard the Easter story before. 

“It has been so exciting to see the positive difference it has made to mental wellbeing already. In rehearsing together people have formed new friendships, developed a sense of community and grown in confidence.” 

Book tickets 

And A Sword Shall Pierce Your Soul will be showing for three performances starting on 13 April at St Matthew’s Church.

Tickets are free and available to book via Eventbrite.

The Development Fund 

The Development Fund is open to all parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford and especially those with limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. Find out more and apply on the¯Development Fund page. ¯ 

The Development Fund was launched in 2019 to enable missional creativity and assist churches in the Diocese of Oxford with their visions to become more Christ-like and support their communities. Since its launch, the fund has donated almost £2 million to more than 100 church projects across the diocese. 


Hear Carolyn on BBC Radio Oxford.


Page last updated: Monday 14th November 2022 2:44 PM
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