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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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God Given Talents

 

“It felt like I had found a new way to worship by using something that is so at my core.”

Hannah is nineteen years old and has just completed a two year diploma in Acting at York College and is now studying at Dartington College of Arts.

Hannah has been based in Scarborough for the last three years and during her time here she has used her theatre skills to help give out God’s message.

She coordinates the drama aspect of ‘Summer Soul’, the mission on the beach as well as putting her acting skills to use in portraying Biblical characters in the Christmas and Easter mystery plays.

 

Beach Mission

Several years ago, United Beach Mission stopped coming to Scarborough and Hannah said “it left a bit of a gap”. The Fresh Expressions team decided that it would be a good thing to bring back a beach mission that involved young people.

Hannah says the focus was on “young people giving back and learning how to lead and learning how to share things with their community.”

Along with other volunteers, she planned out a theme and worked out what messages they needed to get across.

Hannah says that the main challenge was making it accessible to children.  Especially as she knew that “some of these children would never have heard God’s message at all.”

In effect, they had roughly five minutes a day for five days to get their messages across. So, they decided that in the initial stages, it was more important to put across some of God’s messages rather than bogging their audience down with ‘You must be a Christian, you must believe in Jesus’.

They wanted to focus on different moral situations and issues such as self-esteem but in innovative ways.

Hannah’s dad played the role of a wannabe superhero character in last year’s mission.  She explains more about the character:  “He wasn’t really a superhero, he wanted to be superhero, and so, he had his cape, his mask and his underpants on the outside.”

“Every day he was trying to do something that he thought would make him a superhero.”

The theme of the mission was ‘God’s people aren’t super brave superheroes.’  The message that they wanted to get across was ‘being yourself is good enough.’

So over the week, the wannabe superhero was seen trying to climb a ladder to the moon because his reasoning was that because God was in the sky and so was the moon, that‘s where he needed to be heading.  So, the superhero and the children learnt that God is everywhere.

On another day, when he was trying to prove how strong he was told that: “You don’t need to be physically strong; God will accept you as you are.”

Each day of the mission on the beach starts with a huge tug of war that helps to get children and families involved and once the team have a captive audience they roll out a programme of activities to keep them interested.  Although some parents drift away, over the course of the week, God’s message can be relayed to hundreds of children.

She describes this as “a pretty cool thing to be involved in.”  She is now starting to plan for next year’s mission.

 

Acting out God’s message

Hannah has also been involved in the Christmas and Easter mystery plays that are held in the town.  The Fresh Expressions team led by Sam Foster had a plan to revive the plays in Scarborough.  Hannah describes these as “promenade pieces of theatre”.  ‘The Rising of the Sun Service’ was held on Easter morning and the aim was to try and help people reflect on the Easter message.

In the first year, Hannah was presented with a monologue that was Mary Magdalene.  She had the freedom to change and adapt as needed but she says “it just fitted like a glove. It felt absolutely fantastic. For me it was just a really wonderful experience.”  She goes on to say that this was probably the most interesting thing she has done.

At five o’clock on Easter morning, Hannah was sitting by herself, in costume and barefoot.  She describes it as “not the most pleasant feeling.”

“But being able to bring one of my favourite Biblical characters to life, pilot her and feel her,” she says, “It helped me; it gave me a whole new level of understanding into the story. To be able to share that was a really wonderful thing, it truly was.”

As people walked the route from St Mary’s Church to the beach, the Easter story unfolded as they met different characters and Hannah was the first character they encountered.

“It was wonderful to be able to do that.”

Hannah identifies that her skills lie in theatre and says: “I really feel that God gives us all things that he wants us to use for him.”

“You get so frustrated in theatre as so much of it just feels so empty, so showy.  I feel that for the first time I was using what God has given me, to give it back to him and be able to use it for what I believe he wants me to use it for.”

She really believes that “we all have stuff in us, it’s just finding ways, saying God ‘how do you want me to use this’?”

 

Faith and work

When she portrayed Mary Magdalene in the ‘Rising of the Sun Service’ Hannah says: “It was a new thing to me and it felt like I had found a new way to worship, using something that is so at my core and so a part of me and being able to use that, to give that to God and connect with God in that way. That for me was huge.”

And she says that it’s a thing that she wants to keep doing.