'I hope people will encounter Jesus again'
A Baptist minister is to bring the Gospel of Mark to life in a fast-paced and punchy solo performance
Howard Jones has memorised all 13,726 words of the gospel, and will bring its characters to life in a series of performances at Christ Church in Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent (28 February – 3 March).
Howard, Urban Expression Cobridge team co leader, has spent the last two years learning the story by heart, firstly as a personal challenge.
‘It started with my own devotional life. I’d got a bit stuck and wanted to do something different. And it was just one of those little thoughts which said – ‘why don’t you learn Mark’s Gospel?’
Howard is a natural story teller who loves to perform, and as he began to memorise and live with the gospel, the idea of a live performance began to form.
‘Sadly, we have often taken this incredible story about a dynamic and amazing man and made it sound religious and boring,’ Howard said. ‘This is real shame, because so few get to really experience it as a story.’
He shared his idea with Frank McGregor, a Stoke on Trent based actor and artist, who offered to direct. Together they have crafted what they hope will be a thought-provoking and enjoyable show.
The audience will experience Jesus in a way they might not expect, Howard explained. ‘I decided quite early on to give Jesus a ‘Northern’ accent. This wasn’t just a whim; Jesus was a working-class bloke from a small village in Galilee – “up north” in Israel – and I wanted to reflect that.
‘For centuries church art and culture has tended to “poshify” Jesus, so I think it’s nice to hear him as an earthy, common man – that’s how his first followers would have heard him.’
Frank said, ‘We took the text and started by thinking of it not as Holy Scripture but as a theatrical script waiting to be brought to life in a stage performance. Howard has risen magnificently to the challenge of the solo performance, moving effortlessly between the many characters we meet along the way.
‘We are convinced that as people watch, something of the awe which struck all who heard and met Jesus will be experienced by our audiences – and perhaps some will go away asking the same question many asked at the time – just who is this Jesus?’
Howard says the experience of immersing himself in Mark's gospel has helped him to think more like Jesus.
‘When different situations come up, I automatically go to the stories in Mark. It’s made the story of Jesus much more immediate.
‘Normally when people hear the stories of Jesus, they just get a little chunk. But those stories flow together, and getting the sweep of the stories has been great. To have someone tell them with passion and humour and pathos and movement – I hope people will have fun and just encounter Jesus as a real person again.’
Tickets can be booked online http://buytickets.at/urbanexpressioncobridge or by phone 07980 365140
Howard would be happy to bring his performance of Mark's Gospel to other community settings. If you are interested in finding out more, contact him on the number above or on firstname.lastname@example.org