750th Parish Anniversary
750th PARISH ANNIVERSARY
2008 was the 750th anniversary of Bere Ferrers parish (which includes Bere Alston). The first rector was appointed in 1258. To celebrate, various events were held in Bere Ferrers. There were concerts in the parish church and in June, from the 13th to the 16th, there was a flower festival.
The biggest event of the year took place at Easter. It was a Passion Play spread over four days. It was originally inspired by a passing comment by the rector, Nick the Vic (more properly the Rev Nick Law), that he would like to see one performed on the peninsula. As it was a special year, one villager took the suggestion and ran with it and produced a script adapted from the Oberammergau play. More than fifty inhabitants of the peninsula got together, from members of the three churches to folk who never went to church, and had a wonderful time rehearsing and making new friends in the process. It was an inspiring community project and the end result was, at times, very moving. The BBC even filmed a short part for the Spotlight local news programme. Fame at last for the peninsula!
The Palm Sunday first part coincided with what was then a regular monthly joint service Sunday, so members of all three churches on the peninsula (including Bere Alston United Church) joined in the procession from Bere Ferrers Church Hall to the quay and then to St Andrew's Church, with re-enactments of scenes en route. There was much shouting of 'Hosanna' and waving of palm branches. The most striking part was when Nick the Vic, who was playing Jesus by default as no-one else would (!), overturned the tables outside the temple - alias St Andrew's Church. The play was followed by a short service.
The next part took place on Maundy Thursday, when approximately 75 villagers packed the Bere Ferrers Church Hall to take part in a re-enactment of the Last Supper. After an initial scene where Jesus washed the feet of Peter, everyone shared in a simple meal of lamb, bread, fruit and wine before going outside to witness the Garden of Gethsemane scene, lit by flares and moonlight. The moving portrayal, including Jesus's arrest, ended with everyone processing to the church for the final scene where Jesus was questioned by a high priest.
St Andrew's church was filled to capacity on Good Friday afternoon for the trial and execution of Jesus. Once more this proved to be a very moving portrayal. All present were involved when Pilate asked whom he should free. Jesus was flogged (the congregation heard the flogging take place behind the curtain beside the organ) and finally crucified. The crucifixion was depicted on a screen in front of the altar and the scene ended with an extract from Bach's St Matthew Passion.
On Easter Sunday the beautifully decorated church, which included a wonderful recreation of the tomb scene in the north transept, was again full for the final part of the play, the Resurrection, giving its message of hope to all present. This was followed by a service of Holy Communion, led by the rector.
The Passion Play exceeded everyone's expectations and it was something of a miracle in itself that the weather remained dry for all the outdoor parts, despite gloomy weather forecasts.