These stories have been written by five members of our church community and will be displayed on the fence at Wellingborough Methodist Church, one story a day going up between Palm Sunday and Easter day. They represent, along with nearly 1700 hand made items that will adorn the fence on Easter Sunday morning, nearly ten months of work by our lovely church family and friends, to create a way of interacting with our local community, letting
people know that although our church building has been closed for worship for much of the last year that we are still around, still worshipping in
whatever way we can and still wanting to share the good news of God’s love with others.
We hope that you get the opportunity to visit the fence display for yourself and choose some items to take home for yourself, neighbours, family and friends, but thought that we would share the stories with you at home too. Each story tells a part of the narrative of Holy Week through the eyes of an animal. We have attempted to keep them simple and accessible to those who perhaps are interacting with events that we know so well for the first time.
We hope that you enjoy our offering and wish you all a very Happy Easter.
I watched as two men argued with my master; all were wildly gesticulating and my colt shuffled closer into my body. I observed them carefully, though strangely I was not afraid; travellers came and went through the village, though none had ever taken much of an interest in me before. I could not say why I was not afraid, I just wasn’t. Perhaps the baking hot sun pressing down was tiring me. Eventually coins fell into my master’s hands and the two strangers began to unwind the ropes that held us in place against the tree. I huffed and stamped my hooves, dust kicking into the air. My master looked over, shrugged lengthily and then left, calling to his wife who kept to the dark coolness of the house. The strangers, it seemed, were no longer strangers, but my new owners.
Their hands were soft when they brushed my mane with their fingertips, and my ears twitched back to press into the smoothness. They made hushed, soothing sounds, as if anxious I may bolt, but I felt no such inclination. My colt, still by my side was just as placid. My long eyelashes lazily beat away a fly and still I was not afraid.
They led us away. The path was familiar. We made a happy group.
More men were waiting, sheltering beneath far reaching branches, though only one man was really in focus. He looked quiet and unassuming, but the crowd of people seemed entranced by him. He was the centre of the throng. It was almost as if they didn’t notice, but when He moved, they moved, when He blinked, they blinked.
He came over. Peace, complete peace settled over me.
Cloaks were thrown over my back, and He sat on top of them, relaxing down between my shoulders. He was light.
The road to Jerusalem.
Before the town was really in view, we heard it. The people seemed not to notice yet, my more sensitive ears picking up what they could not. But soon the roar became inescapable and smiles grew wide and their voices joined the chorus. The streets became thick with people, the colours, smells and tastes new with every plod forward, but with jubilant shouts the crowds parted in front of us. Never before had I received such a reception and suddenly my weary, heavy tread became a delighted trot, my head held high.
People began picking palm leaves from the trees and laying them on the road before us, the hot crunch pleasant beneath my hooves. Cries of ‘Hosanna!’ reverberated all around and the air was filled with such excitement that though I didn’t understand, the atmosphere caught me.
“This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
It was perhaps not until later, when my colt fell asleep warm and cosy in the barn that had been found for us, and the night finally felt still and silent, that I realised just how important my load had been.
I had a near-death experience the other day. I really thought my time had come. Even though I was only few months old, I knew what it meant to be locked in a wooden crate, along with others of my kind, and wait for my end to come.
But a miracle happened that day. I was set free, and I live to tell my tale.
I was born in a field outside Bethlehem. I was one of twins, but I was sold while my sister was left with our mother, Ewe. We were all the property of a shepherd, who is a good chap, but he had to make a living. So boy lambs like me, are sold to the temple in Jerusalem. The day I was taken from my mother and sister was just awful. I bleated and pleaded to stay but she could do nothing but let me go.
When I arrived at the temple, I felt sick with the motion of the wagon that carried us, but I felt even worse when I realized my fate. Now some of the lambs with me were happy to be offered as a sacrifice to God, but I was not. I had not lived my life yet, and I didn’t want to die. I felt myself shivering and my little tail was hanging between my legs in fear.
It was then that I saw him, the man they call Jesus.
He was standing in the doorway of the temple with his hands on his hips and a scowl on his face. He did not look happy. In fact he looked furious.
Before I could work out what was happening, this man, this stranger, was shouting at my new master. He was turning over the tables where people went to change their money into temple money. He called out – “You scum. You have spoilt God’s house with your thieving”. He knocked over the crate where I was crouching in fear, and as it hit the floor, the door was flung open.
Seeing my chance, I nipped out of the cage and hid behind a pillar. I watched as doves were released from captivity and lambs bleated and ran for cover.
When the noise and shouting had stopped, this man, this angry man, calmed down and looked around. He seemed pleased with the mess he had made and it was then that he spotted me. He walked over and picked me up and carried me on his shoulders out of the temple and into the Spring sunshine and set me free.
He saved me.
Love. It was that simple. The one thing He asked His people to do. Love God and love each other.
It was yet another hot day, and I sought shelter in a tall olive tree, the branches providing a little relief from the burning sun. I ruffled my feathers and settled in for a peaceful wait until the sun set and the temperature happily dropped. My eyelids drooped and I felt sleep descending.
Suddenly my tree haven was surrounded by people, crowds stretching for as far as I could see, and the noise reached me, as high up as I was. I flew up even higher, disgruntled by the disturbance, and not in the least curious what the fuss was about. Humans, as far as I could tell, would gather for any mundane reason, though largely when complaints were to be heartily voiced. I had no inclination to find out what the latest cause of uproar was.
The sun crept higher and still more people came, despite the rolling heat, and began passing around food and drink, looking as though they were settling in for the day. I peeped over my branch to see directly below and found a man standing tall above the seated audience. Questions were being launched at him, some in angry voices and others with open inquisitiveness. Whoever this man was, half the crowd seemed to think Him mad, whilst the other half clung onto His every word. I was in no mood should the mass turn on him and begin throwing their stale bread and meat at him.
I flew to the next tree.
Minutes later a hush descended, but rather than feeling smug that I finally had what I wanted, I felt the faintest prickle of importance in the air. My feathers stood up a little. Despite myself, I looked at the man again. He was rather ordinary looking, but even I had to admit that there was something quietly powerful about him, a commanding presence that did not impose but held peaceful authority. I had to wonder who He was.
Someone in the crowd repeated their question, the words whispered through the people like a ripple, reaching even those at the back of the gathering. But when the man spoke, even nature went entirely still.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
It was clear. It was simple. Even the non believers were struck by the weight the words held, and seemed to have no responses or arguments. There was nothing they could possibly fault in it. Love people as you want to be loved and be kind. Surely humanity could do this at least.
My mum called me Cleo (after Queen Cleopatra) in recognition of our heritage: cats always pride themselves on being in the right place at the right time. For tens of thousands of years we’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (as you humans say) and the night I’m going to tell you about was no exception for I unexpectedly became an uninvited guest at a very special meal.
It was that time of year again – the feast of the Passover. I‘d just curled up for a cat nap in my favourite spot when I became aware of footsteps coming up the stairs and a conversation in progress. I pricked up my ears. “How does he do that?” one of them asked. “He always knows,” said his companion, “who’d have thought we’d follow that man with the water jar and find this lovely room for our Passover Meal.” “It’s just as he said,” the first replied, “but isn’t it always?”
They said a lot while they bustled about preparing the meal and my interest was piqued so I decided I’d stay a while longer. No chance for my cat nap now – there was far too much going on!
During the course of the afternoon, no fewer than ten more people arrived. They knew each other well and seemed to be some sort of club. They were clearly waiting for someone else – their leader I think; they called him Jesus. I’d heard the name before – some were for him, some were against him.
I don’t know why, but Jesus seemed pre-occupied when he arrived and he became quite sad as he sat down to the special meal they’d prepared. One of the friends asked him what was wrong. Crikey, it was no wonder Jesus was sad: he told them he was going away the next day to be with his Father in heaven and that he was going to die!
Jesus knew which of his friends had accepted money to betray him and the one called Judas left the meal early after dipping his bread in the bowl at the same time as Jesus. I was reminded of the earlier conversation: they were right – it happened just as Jesus had said.
What Jesus did next was just a different way of sharing food but I could feel it had great significance. He took a chunk of bread and gave thanks. He broke it and gave it to His disciples. What Jesus said made my whiskers twitch: “This is my body broken for you. Take it and eat it and remember me.”
Then he took a cup of wine and said another thank you prayer. “This is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Take it and drink it and remember me.”
Bread into His body? Wine into His blood? I didn’t understand but I could tell that this very special meal would be remembered for many thousands more years.
Night fell and I opened my eyes, letting a croaky twit twoo out into the air. I nodded hello to the moon and stars, and felt them winking back. My stomach growled and I knew before too long I would have to go searching for breakfast.
Gethsemane garden was my favourite place in which to rest during the day; the trees are tall and full of gnarls, with wonderfully concealed hollows where one can sleep undisturbed. The flowers are fragrant and the large leaves provide adequate shade from the midday sun.
I was just about to leave my perch to go searching for a tasty meal, my eyes already fixed on the ground, watching for rustling grass and listening for tiny scurrying paws, when my ears pricked up. Humans. At this time of night?
A small group of men arrived, murmuring, their voices so low that even I could not hear the individual words. I wasn’t exactly well versed in the emotions of people, but I could recognise the air of concern that surrounded them. I was curious and I knew I would not be satisfied until I found out what they were doing there. Breakfast would have to wait.
Silently, I flew a little closer, following when a few of them walked a little further into the garden. Three of them sat, making themselves comfortable in the grass, watching as the last man went even further on, cutting a lonesome figure in the gloomy half darkness. It seemed as though a heavy weight was dragging him, pulling at his limbs. He walked in slow, measured steps. He collapsed to His knees.
His three companions did not appear alarmed at the sight of their friend in such a tortured state, if indeed they noticed at all, for it seemed they had made themselves too comfortable and one by one, they succumbed to sleep. I would learn nothing about who they were from them.
I inched closer to the prostrate man. He cried out into the night, a plea in His voice, and such pain in his tone I had never heard before. He was begging, asking for an alternative future, a future where this great weight did not press down upon Him. Whatever was being asked of this broken man seemed too much for Him to bear.
The night drew on, and I kept watch over Him, thinking myself something of His protector now. Still He cried, He asked for mercy, but whatever answer He was longing for did not appear to arrive. Had He been forgotten?
The sun was just rising when the man finally stood, turning as more men arrived. His tears had dried and there was no trace now of the desperate man. Instead stood a man of resoluteness and peace had descended upon him, though from where I could not say. One of the newcomers embraced him, kissing his cheek, though his heart seemed troubled to do it.
My ward was arrested.
Suddenly I took off, charging the men holding him, and I was not alone. His friends were fighting, swords drawn. But the man held captive did not struggle against His binds, and called for an end to the brawl. Just in time I veered off my course, narrowly missing one of the guards and came to land just behind them. I hadn’t wanted to stop attacking, but it seemed I was stopped by something beyond my control. I looked up and saw the man smile at his friends.
“It is all as it should be.”
“Woof,” I would introduce myself to you if I had a name. You see, as a common mutt, I have no owner having been abandoned at a very young age. Like some other dogs I had to fend for myself.
While I am just an ordinary kind of dog, the events I witnessed one Friday were extraordinary!!
As I set out one morning to sniff out food along the roadside, I was lucky and found a huge bone. After feasting on this, I licked my lips and wiped my face clean with my long tongue. Then I noticed a group of people approaching me along a dusty path. A man, who went by the name Simon, was labouring with some blocks of wood fitted together like a road crossing. He struggled, painfully alone, as the heavy blocks dug into his shoulder. He seemed to have been carrying it a long way. Then another man, who had his hands tied behind him, was moving along behind the first. After they passed, I slunk behind and followed, my interest was piqued and I wanted to know what was going on.
I had never witnessed this before. Something was up! They came to a placed called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull). I had seen the man with the strings tied behind him before in the temple. He seemed like a decent man who I would like to be my owner: he sometimes gave me food and petted me. I was totally shocked and mesmerised by what those cruel men did to him.
As they got to the hill, the man called Simon threw down the wood with relief. His shoulder and neck were badly bruised as the heavy wood had dug into it. The group of men then untied the kind man, laid him on the wood and guess what? They began to pound some huge nails into his palms. He groaned in pain. They did this to two other men as well, but I was not so interested in them.
Some passers-by began shouting, “You throw people out of the temple, why don’t you get yourself down?” “Why doesn’t your God help you now?”
He heard – but never uttered a word; he just looked at them as though he felt sorry for them. I thought it should be the other way round!
It was about noon now and I would normally be finding somewhere to sleep. Suddenly, a strange darkness came over the city, much earlier than it usually would. It was just as though a large dark cloud had enveloped the land. That was not the only strange thing: I suddenly felt a rumble beneath my legs. I felt unsteady, but the tremors got worse and worse. The people were running, buildings were crumbling, it was frightening.
At the three o’clock, this kind man shouted out in anguish and then hung his head as life left his body; he had succumbed to his wounds. I could only hang my head close to the ground as he did.
When the group of men saw this, they took the wood down and freed the body of the kind man. They wrapped his body in a bit of cloth and took him away to a small opening where they laid him. They went back to the city and left him, but I could not: I had to stay and keep watch over him as my sadness was greater than any pain I had ever felt. I could not explain it to you but my heart was heavy to see this good man so disrespected and killed in such a cold-blooded manner.
Everything was still. Even nature had fallen silent, mourning alongside the absent people. No visitors arrived; the quiet was eerie, the air usually filled with howling wails of loss and heartbreak, of grief and outpourings of sentiment. I couldn’t say why I had chosen the graveyard as my home, but clambering over the rocks and plants that grew above those laying in the ground, reminded me that beautiful things still grow from sadness.
But no one was there. No one was crying, no one bringing gifts for their loved ones. A sense of something having ended was so thick in the air that even us beetles tramping through the grass felt it and moved slower. The last few days had been hot enough to burn, but even the sun had stopped being so radiant, and shone far more weakly, as though simply carrying out its duty, rather than passionately smiling upon us. It was a dark day indeed.
Us beetles could feel the power of course. The power behind that one tombstone. We’d seen Him carried in there, seen the stone rolled to conceal the entrance, seen the women sitting opposite and praying. We didn’t know who He was, but His importance was undeniable. Guards had arrived to watch his tomb, though they were not very respectful, laughing and joking together. They had fallen asleep, weary from hours spent observing the stones and ridiculing the nothingness. I was grateful for the quiet.
I sniffed the air. He was gone, and it had affected the people greatly. A change had come, and He was the reason why.
I like living here, scuttling around in and out and under the bushes that offer shade from the hot sun in the day and protection from the owls that scoot about at night. It’s normally busy during the day with people leaving crumbs (tasty morsels that I can nibble away at) and, if I’m honest, I’m getting quite portly but it’s usually quiet in the early morning and I enjoy sitting and cleaning myself in the warmth of the early morning sunshine while I contemplate the day ahead.
Today, however, there is quite the commotion. It is early: the sun is just peeking over the houses. A group of women have arrived carrying the things that I’ve seen humans bring to bless their loved ones who have died. I saw the man being placed in the grave on Friday, but since then nothing – until now. The women are very upset. As they approach the place where the man was laid, I notice that something strange has happened. How can I have missed this? The entrance to the grave is open. They are running to see what has occurred and there is much wailing as they discover that the body of the man is no longer there. One woman in particular is very agitated. Not even the angel is able to calm her.
I watch her, wondering who the man was. He must have been important and much-loved to be causing so much anguish. As the woman stands there, crying, a man approaches her. She turns to him and asks if he knows what has happened. Who has taken the man away?
He says one word; “Mary”. I recognise this as a name – her name. As dawn breaks, so does the realisation (shared by us both) that this is the same man that was laid to rest on Friday.
How can this be? He was dead; I am sure of it: I have seen enough to know.
But now he is standing here, talking to the woman named Mary. My little mouse nose is twitching in excitement, my resentment at the disturbance forgotten. The women rush off and I settle under a leaf to ponder on what this means.
What now? Another whoosh of noise and I see a group of men are approaching, followed by the women. They, too, look in the grave and see that it is empty, but there is no sign of the man from the grave who was here before.
Gradually, they gather themselves and leave. They look stunned. Some seem to understand what this means, others are arguing that it is not possible. The women are joyful: they have seen the man and know he is alive: they have spoken to him.
As it grows quieter again, I amble around looking for a tasty nibble or two. Somehow this doesn’t seem such an important task today for I am like the women: I was here and heard him speak. I know that this man lives and that everything, for all creation, has changed forever.