Easter Sunday Songs of Praise


Easter Sunday

For Easter Sunday, Sally Magnusson discovers how the people of Greater Manchester have come together to stage a performance of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.


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Transcript


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Happy Easter Sunday and welcome to Songs Of Praise

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on the most important day of the year for Christians,

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the celebration of Christ's resurrection.

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I'm in Manchester,

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where final preparations are underway for an ambitious

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one-off performance of the story of Christ's life,

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and they're all volunteers.

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I'll be finding out how the story is being made relevant

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for a modern audience.

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I haven't had a decent meal in weeks.

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Also in this Easter Day programme, Claire McCollum discovers

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an ancient carol found among the doodlings of a medieval monk.

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And I'm in East Sussex to meet an inspirational bell-ringer

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who's raised millions of pounds for charity.

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We've got some favourite Easter hymns both old and new

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and we'll begin with this modern, triumphant hymn

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announcing the good news that Christ is risen.

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The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed.

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Here in Manchester, the performance of Christ's Passion is underway.

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You must be salt and light to the world.

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Blessed are the poor.

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It tells the greatest of all stories about Jesus' teachings,

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his betrayal, his trial,

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his journey to the cross, known as the passion,

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and followed, of course, by the resurrection.

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For the past few months, amateur and professional actors,

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all unpaid, have been rehearsing for their one-off performance.

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We've become such, like, a family.

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It's such a community, like, spirit, and it's just,

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yeah, it's just really fun.

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You realise the suffering that Jesus went through

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and the sacrifice which he gave.

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That is the real message about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

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and him coming back again to life.

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Hopefully, all the love that will be around the place

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will cascade to everybody.

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The production has been written and directed by company owner

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Geoff Millard and the process had a profound effect on him.

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I had to start reading the Bible and Jesus became relevant,

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God became relevant. I learned more how to pray.

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Geoff hopes the play will attract those unfamiliar

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with the Easter story.

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And he's added a few contemporary characters to the script.

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We've got a homeless guy and we've got those elements.

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And it seems to work quite well, actually,

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and they approach, they heckle Jesus.

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Blessed are those who are hungry and thirst for righteousness.

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What about just plain hungry?

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I haven't had a decent meal in weeks.

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I feel persecuted wherever I go because of this headscarf.

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Where does gentle get you?

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Nah.

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I tell you, the gentle will inherit the earth.

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While it's been given some modern references,

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the Manchester Passion follows the traditional story

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of the Last Supper.

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I am the living bread.

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And then the betrayal and the arrest of Jesus.

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Your day's done, teacher.

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Are you not scared of me, Jesus?

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At his trial, Jesus' fate is sealed by the judge Pontius Pilate,

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who is swayed by public opinion.

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Barabbas! We want Barabbas!

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Pilate is played by Nakib Narat, who is fascinated by the role.

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It's just a wonderful man to portray because he is so complex.

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No more!

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I feel personally that he saw Jesus as possibly God.

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With my interpretation he started off quite arrogantly,

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and yet, when he washed his hands of this,

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he was genuinely sorry.

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His blood is not on my hands.

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WOMAN SOBS

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Salesman Rob Slater plays the part of Jesus.

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To be able to act this out

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when you've got a faith

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is everybody's dream, I suppose.

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Is there a better role?

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I have prayed about this and asked for help,

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because how could anybody know how Jesus felt?

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You know, I mean, he had these people putting him to death,

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but at the same time love them.

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Emotion will take over, I'm sure,

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and it's going to be quite a poignant moment, I think.

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And a connection, if you like, for me, with God.

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Father...

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..it is finished.

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Into your hands I commend my spirit.

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WEEPING

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Leading the music at the Manchester Passion

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are Manchester Inspirational Voices,

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the current Songs Of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year.

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Their musical director, Wayne Ellington,

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had the idea of giving solo lines to some of the actors.

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# I worshipped him

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# In his eyes... #

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One of them is Ben Rigby, who plays Judas.

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I mean, I'm singing in this

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and I don't come from a singing background,

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so we've spent a lot of time developing on song.

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That's absolutely petrifying.

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# Every night... #

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It's totally outside of my comfort zone,

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performing in the middle of Manchester.

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# Who was friends with the rich... #

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Dealing with the singers who have never sung before,

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trying to get people to watch me for timing and also to help out

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with pitching and so on, that was a challenge.

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We also have the Manchester Inspirational Voices here as well,

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who won the Gospel Choir of the Year last year.

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And they're really excited. They're very excited.

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And here are Wayne and his choir with an uplifting gospel song.

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# I will be with you

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# I will be with you

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# I will be with you

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# If you will only trust me

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# Trust me

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# Trust me

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# I'll never leave you

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# I'll never leave you

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# I'll never leave you

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# If you will only trust me

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# Trust me

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# Trust me

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# Oh

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# I am

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# That I am

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# Oh

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# I have all the power

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# Oh

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# I will deliver

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# If you will only trust me

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# I'll be there, yes, I will

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# Trust me

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# I'll be there

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# Trust me

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# Whenever you call

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# If you will only

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# I'll answer your prayer

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# Trust me

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# Yes, I will, yeah

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# Trust me

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# Oh, yeah, yeah

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# Trust me

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# If you will only

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# If you will only

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# Trust me

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# Trust me

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# Oh, I'll answer your call

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# Trust me

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# Trust me. #

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Here in Manchester,

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the Easter story is being told in a contemporary setting,

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but of course it's been told

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in lots of different ways over the centuries.

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Claire McCollum has been to Battle Abbey in Sussex,

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where the Battle of Hastings took place, and where they've

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discovered an ancient carol telling the story of Christ's life.

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For the best part of 500 years, this abbey was home to

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a thriving community of Benedictine monks

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founded by William the Conqueror to atone for the bloodshed

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at the Battle of Hastings.

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Very little survives from those times thanks to Henry VIII

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and his Reformation.

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But one book, complete with a monk's doodles,

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has brought to life a very special piece of music.

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MEDIEVAL HYMN IS PERFORMED

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The carol's found in a Latin service book and it's doodled,

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jotted down on the end pages of the manuscript.

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A couple of pages later,

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there's a little poem about the deaths of three of late medieval

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Abbots of Battle, and a couple of recipes for gastric complaints.

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And for me, it provides an insight into the wider religious life

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of the monks who lived here.

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And when would it have been sung?

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Well, in the Middle Ages, carols were never sung in church.

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They were sung in secular spaces.

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They could be sung throughout the year.

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We have carols on the Trinity and any number of saints -

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this one is on Christ himself

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and Christ's suffering and the example that Christ sets

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for all of humanity.

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And we're here at Eastertide,

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and I think a focus on Christ's suffering

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would be an appropriate time to be singing at this,

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the great relief that comes on Easter Sunday.

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You can break your fast again.

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It would have been a great time to be singing this carol

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in somewhere like the abbot's hall.

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'To preserve the book for future generations,

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'it has now been safely archived.'

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You're one of the very few to have actually held this book.

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For somebody like you, what is that like, that experience?

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It's always fantastic to have

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an original medieval manuscript in front of you.

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And so few of these survive from Battle Abbey.

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The abbey would have had over 1,000 books in its library.

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27 survive today.

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And to be able to look through it and see not the formal text,

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the formal Latin text but the things which were individual to the monk

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who was using this book, who was making these little jottings

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and thinking these are important things to be writing down.

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And tell me about its relevance today.

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It talks basically about not being too materialistic,

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and also thinking about being charitable.

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The chorus changes from being a follower of Christ's word

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to being a doer of Christ's word.

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So after singing this carol, after even dancing to it, perhaps,

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in the abbot's great hall here, your life has been improved

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and you're being kinder, both to yourself and to your fellow man.

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The story of Christ's life is also told in our next song,

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a contemporary setting of the Christian creed.

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You may have heard your local church bells ringing out today for Easter.

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But for the past year the bells in

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St George's Church in the East Sussex village of Brede,

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along with churches and cathedrals in the world, have been ringing out

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a special tune, as the Reverend Kate Bottley has been finding out.

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CHURCH BELLS RING

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These bells are ringing a new tune.

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This conversation was created for

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and named after bell ringer Julie McDonnell.

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And whenever it's rung, it raises money for her cancer charity.

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An incredible £7.2 million

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in less than 12 months.

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An achievement made all the more remarkable

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because Julie herself is fighting an ongoing battle with the disease.

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When you are first diagnosed with cancer,

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first of all you're very shocked.

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Then you get numb.

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Then you get really angry and quite annoying, I think,

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because you want to hit out at somebody

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so you hit out at those closest to yourself.

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And then you get that kind of strength

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and I think that's the strength I actually got through my faith.

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And then you get the determination to do something

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and not just sit there

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and wonder what's going to happen to me.

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It strikes me, Julie, that this is your mission.

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-This is your calling.

-It's pretty crazy, isn't it?

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Bells ringing across the world,

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but it's just a unique thing to do.

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I think bells do call people to worship

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but I think I wanted those bells to support people with blood cancer,

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to actually say you're not on your own.

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Because every time I hear those bells ring

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I don't feel like I'm on my own.

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You say, is this your mission?

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People have been put on Earth for different reasons.

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It could be all part of a plan, I don't know.

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But without it I don't think it would have given me

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the strength to get this point when I am now,

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and I'm very, very grateful. I feel loved.

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Now I know that your campaign has had a massive boost recently.

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-Tell me about that.

-Oh, absolutely.

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I actually wrote the Dean, Dr John Hall, at Westminster,

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and I asked him like I asked many people, including yourself...

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I remember you writing to my church.

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..asking them to ring out in support of blood cancer.

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CHURCH BELLS RING

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Usually the bells at Westminster Abbey are reserved for royalty

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and state occasions.

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But today Julie is here to enjoy the sound of bells

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ringing out in her name

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as a guest of the Dean.

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How many towers have you grabbed?

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-What, for Julie McDonnell?

-Yes.

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There's been 569 quarter peals rung for Julie McDonnell.

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But for cathedrals and abbeys and minsters,

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this will be the 31st that's rung for Julie McDonnell.

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-Wow, and you've been to each one of these?

-No.

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SHE LAUGHS

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I'd like to think that people that maybe don't have faith,

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but to hear bells rung out for them,

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for people with blood cancer is incredible.

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And actually it gives me a huge boost.

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# There is a redeemer

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# Jesus, God's own son

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# Precious lamb of God, Messiah

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# Holy one

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# Thank you, oh, my father

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# For giving us your son

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# And leaving your spirit till

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# The work on Earth is done

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# Jesus, my redeemer

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# Name above all names

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# Precious lamb of God, Messiah

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# Hope for sinners slain

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# Thank you, oh, my father

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# For giving us your son

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# And leaving your spirit till

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# The work on Earth is done

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# Thank you, Lord

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# And thank you, oh, my father

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# For giving us your son

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# And leaving your spirit till

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# The work on Earth is done

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# And leaving your spirit till

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# The work on Earth is done. #

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I can't get over the fact that I'm not going to see him again.

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At the Manchester Passion we've reached the moments

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that follow the Crucifixion.

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It's the women who are first to discover the empty tomb

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as the Resurrection becomes clear to them.

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No!

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Mary Magdalene is played by Gillian Freeman,

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who feels a strong connection to the role.

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My take, really, is she was just a really broken and lost woman.

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Because she was just seeking love in all the wrong places,

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when really what she really needed was the love of Christ.

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Why do you connect with her personally?

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Because I lived a similar life to Mary

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before I came to know Jesus.

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I lived a life of promiscuity and alcoholism

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and I sought love and fulfilment in all the wrong places.

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Woman, why are you crying?

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Who is it that you are looking for?

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It doesn't matter how far down you've been.

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Jesus can forgive anybody and he loves every single person.

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Mary?

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Teacher!

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You can't touch me yet.

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I believe that Jesus is real

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and alive and he transforms lives.

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And I'm hoping that other people will be able to see that it's real.

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Go now, out into the world.

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And tell everyone the good news.

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APPLAUSE

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The Manchester Passion performance is coming to an end

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and it's clearly moved the audience.

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It was fantastic, it was moving.

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-Oh, it was so good.

-Really good.

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It had just the most incredible raw power,

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I think perhaps because it was not simply a professional performance.

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This was really people being passionate about the Passion.

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It's great to see so many people come together,

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diverse backgrounds, to hear it today.

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APPLAUSE

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That's it from the Manchester Passion.

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It went very well.

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And we leave you with a glorious Easter hymn.

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For Easter Sunday, Sally Magnusson discovers how the people of Greater Manchester have come together to stage an ambitious outdoor performance of the greatest story ever told - Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

Music:

See What a Morning from All Saints Church, Ecclesall

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross from Romsey Abbey

Trust Me by Manchester Inspirational Voices with Wayne Ellington

This I Believe from City Gates Church, Ilford

There Is a Redeemer by Kathryn Scott with The Belfast Opera Community Chorus

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today from St Ninian's Cathedral, Perth

Thine Be the Glory from St Albans Cathedral.


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