Today is still Good Friday, at least according to the BBC Weather Centre. But I wonder for how much longer in our secular culture. Why should Christians be given a public holiday for our special day? Will Birmingham’s Winterval soon be joined by Bunny Friday?
Or more to the point, are we on the centre of the road or bunched onto the pavement later this morning? It could go either way.
Each Good Friday the churches of Ormskirk join together for our procession of witness behind the cross. We leave the Moorgate car park (i.e. M&S) at about 11.30 am for the market cross by the circuitous route along Park Road.
A powerful witness in a public place, but also a potential inconvenience to those driving through Ormskirk.
Over the years the police have handled this problem in different ways.
I remember walking on one side of the road with traffic using the other, supervised by the police.
Then we were restricted to the pavement. I felt we had lost something.
A public event became a private excursion, as if Christianity was a hobby for like-minded enthusiasts.
Then last year something happened. The police blocked the traffic, leaving the road for the procession, moving at the speed of our slowest walker. The cross of Jesus is a public event; that’s how crucifixions work.
However, I did feel vaguely guilty, blocking off Southport from the rest of the country for 20 minutes – although considerably shorter than the August MotorFest.
I remember wondering why the policy change. Was it the police saying thank you to the churches for street pastors?
But don’t get too excited. We have just been informed that there are new rules. We have to have county and borough council permission to close the roads, giving eight weeks notice! “Bureaucracy – observed Einstein – is the death of all sound work.” Albert could have added “and potentially of all processions of witness.”
We’ll see, but the underlying question is where is Good Friday going? And underlying that question – What is the place of the Christian faith in our nation?
Strangely the tide is flowing in both directions at once, assuming that metaphor makes sense. One current is very strong – commercialization. Liverpool One will be going full belt, as will both teams from Swansea and Newcastle in the Premier League.
But something else is happening at the same time. For example, Preston will be brought to a standstill at 12 noon for their Passion (BBC1 live 12 noon not BBC4 recorded highlights). In fact, public Passion enactments are becoming a feature for Good Friday.
There will be 20000 (maybe double that amount this year) packing Trafalgar Square for their annual Passion Play. I’d be there if I could.
It all began just four years ago when Peter Hutley was walking across the square. “Suddenly, a thought me struck me,” he recalls. “Trafalgar Square would be a marvellous place to stage a passion play.” A Christian with a good idea, some faith and Holy Spirit determination.
Very simply people realize that shopping is not enough for Good Friday. This very special day needs marking with some meaningful event in which we may all participate. Such is the power of the cross of Jesus. And ours too, if we are prepared to carry it before a wondering world.