Missing chapter in city church’s Easter story

The Rev Canon Philip West, of Christ Church,Stannington, who is skydive in aid of a Church Charity
The Rev Canon Philip West, of Christ Church,Stannington, who is skydive in aid of a Church Charity

ONE of Sheffield’s Easter traditions will be missing this year.

Members of Christ Church, Stannington, began telling the Easter story in the open air in Stannington 12 years ago and at one stage relocated to the city centre.

This time, though, organisation has proved impractical.

“We would love to do it, and it’s quite frustrating, but we just don’t have the personnel at the moment,” said the vicar of Stannington, the Rev Canon Philip West. “There are a number of other things to do, people are very busy and we have lost one or two members.”

Using narration, mime and music, and copying the mediaeval style of writing the play in verse, the church told the Easter story, including a depiction of the Crucifixion. Actors, mainly from the congregation, travelled between the village green and park.

It became an important part of the Sheffield Christian calendar, along with Stannington’s open-air nativity, although it did not go ahead one year because Easter was very early, and threatened a particularly chilly experience high on the hills.

Easter is early this year, but it is the other obstacles that stand of the tradition in what will be Mr West’s last year at Christ Church.

“I would have liked to have done the Easter story this year,” he said. “I am going to retire in the summer, although I don’t know when.”

He is leaving with his wife, Marion, after 24 years in Stannington “with mixed feelings.

“I will have been a parish priest for 38 years and I need to retire. I’ll be of retirement age. But it will present new opportunities for different ways of serving the Lord, although I don’t know what they will be.

“It’s scary leaving what is familiar. Sheffield 6 is a wonderful place to live and it is a great privilege to have lived here. It is ten minutes from the city centre and ten minutes from the Peak. We’ll miss it.”

First there is an anniversary to mark - 20 years since the refurbishment of the church. “One of the first things I did was a reordering. It was in a very needy state.”

He hopes that his successor will continue the tradition of taking the Easter and Christmas stories to the streets - and he will leave another legacy in the form of £4,500 for Church Mission Society after taking part in a sponsored skydive last October.

He described the jump - at an airfield in Northamptonshire - as “terrifying and thrilling at the same time”.

Will there be another one in retirement? “I have said I may do it again in five years!”