Representatives of the UKâ€™s biggest denominations have urged Christians to welcome the BBCâ€™s forthcoming drama series The Passion.Â The Churchesâ€™ Media Council has published guidance for Christians saying â€œThere’s no need to debate whether or not the Christian community should welcome this production. We celebrate the fact that the story of Jesus is being retold for an audience of millions.â€Â
The Chair of the Council Rev Dr Joel Edwards said â€œfrom time to time opportunities arise nationally that provide significant moments for the Christian faith to engage with our culture.Â One such opportunity will be the forthcoming BBC series The Passion.â€Â He expects the series to make â€œa huge national impactâ€Â over the Easter season.
The series will be scheduled in peak time on BBC1, with the first episode on Palm Sunday 16th March.Â It is likely to attract audiences in excess of 10 million.Â It tells the story of the last week of Jesusâ€™ life, his trial and crucifixion.Â The last episode, to be broadcast on Easter Sunday 23rd March, dramatises his post-resurrection appearances.Â It has been made by award-winning drama producer Nigel Stafford-Clark, who was responsible for Bleak House and Warriors.Â The cast includes Cold Feet star James Nesbitt as Pilate and EastEnders actor Paul Nicholls as Judas Iscariot.Â The part of Jesus is played by the relatively unknown Joseph Mawle, who at 33 is the same age as Jesus during the events of the Passion.
A multi-denominational group convened by the Churchesâ€™ Media Council has launched a website to provide resources and information about the series.Â It can be found at www.churchesmediacouncil.org.uk/passion.Â The group is encouraging the Christian community to seize the opportunity to contribute to a contemporary public discussion about Jesus.Â Â Guidelines on the site encourage the Christian community to treat the series as drama first rather than theology.
Andrew Graystone, Director of the Churchesâ€™ Media Council, was profoundly moved byÂ early versions of the series.Â â€œThis is an extremely vivid piece of drama.Â You feel you are right there, in amongst the Passover crowds, alongside the disciples as Jesus comes out with these simple but earth-shattering messages.Â And then of course, heâ€™s taken away and makes the ultimate sacrifice, and like the disciples, youâ€™re left to decide what you are going to do about it.â€
National Christian leaders will attend a special preview screening of the series on Thursday 28th February.Â Meanwhile a panel of speakers has been formed to contribute to press, radio and TV discussions.Â The Passion website also has ideas to help local churches prepare for the series.
The website www.rejesus.co.uk will act as a one-stop-shop for anyone who sees the series and wants to explore Christian faith.
Andrew Graystone said â€œChristians have a tendency to be critical of the media â€“ and sometimes with good reason.Â But I hope Christians will welcome this series unreservedly.Â Itâ€™s a once-in-a-generation opportunityÂ to engage the whole nation in a public conversation about the Christian message. â€
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The BBCâ€™s comprehensive press pack for The Passion is published today.Â It includes extensive intervews with cast, production crew and consultants.Â You can find it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2008/02_february/25/passion.shtml
Â The BBC Passion website will go live on Thursday at www.bbc.co.uk/passionÂ