We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The Via Dolorosa Project
I don’t know about you, but at Easter I like to take the opportunity to journey back over the year to reflect about what has changed in terms of my faith and understanding. This year, I’ve gone further back, thinking of previous Easters, and it’s been fascinating to consider the trajectory of my life. In this reminiscing, one Easter that particularly came alive for me was the Easter of 2005, the year I found myself involved in the “Via Dolorosa Project.”
First of all, it might be helpful to try to answer the question - What is the Via Dolorosa?
Early Christians would make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, following the route that he is thought to have taken as he carried his cross from the city to Calvary, outside the city walls, and reflect upon his passion and death. They would stop at points along the path to contemplate what happened there, marking stages of the journey for others to follow. The path that Jesus walked became known as the Via Dolorosa - Latin for “Way of Grief,” “Way of Sorrow,” “Way of Suffering” or, quite simply, “the Painful Way.”
By the 14th Century, series of ‘stations’ were to be found at monasteries and major churches to assist in these devotions without the need to travel to Jerusalem. Traditionally, there were 14 stations which were standardized in the 18th Century. A 15th station, reflecting the resurrection, was added at a later date but is not always included.
The Via Dolorosa Project was developed at St Mary’s Church (central Slough), by Arts at St Mary’s, which developed many arts projects reflecting on aspects of the Christian faith, one of which took the Via Dolorosa as its theme.
This project revolved around the idea of photographic journalist, David Sparrow’s, idea of ‘giving away’ this important piece of Christian devotion; something that took a lot of discussion and soul searching. It began by asking some questions:
What if we replaced the ceramic stations of the cross plaques around the church with video monitors, and at each one showed a multimedia presentation representing that station? What if we invited artists of other faiths to work on the content of each? In short, what if we gave it away?
The Via Project became the answer to these questions. After the discussion stages, planning spanned 2 years and, in October 2004, Arts Council England funding made the project become a reality. Artists from the Sikh, Jewish, Jain, Buddhist, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu and Christian Faith traditions were invited to take part, reflecting on this ancient Christian tradition. Specifically reflecting on Jesus’ journey along the Via Dolorosa to his death on the cross. The multimedia stations were utilised for the first time during Holy Week of 2005 at St Mary’s Slough.
It was a seminal time for all involved in the project, as we met the different artists, and talked about Jesus, and how he might have relevance to their own faith perspective. During the first showing of the stations, many of the artists were able to come, and it was the most incredibly moving experience to ‘do’ the stations together, walking in the way of Jesus. Powerful, reconciling and life changing.
Should you be interested in experiencing a more traditional Stations of the Cross during Holy Week this year, why not visit St Mary’s, Shinfield’s version – all day Monday-Thursday of Holy Week, with led stations at 12 noon on Good Friday.
It could be a powerful, reconciling and life changing experience.
I wish you all a Happy Easter