Christians have long pondered what it might mean if Jesus were to appear in a contemporary setting. Imagining this has a tradition from catacomb paintings to mystery plays, and from Stanley Spencer to theatre spectaculars and cinema films of more recent times.
For teaching religious education, such imagining has the added merit that it builds bridges between the world of the New Testament and the world of children, a world in which togas, tunics and camels seem remote and it is possible to lose Jesus in the museum of the ancient world.
Commissioned by Michael Adie, Bishop of Guildford, the Guildford diocesan education team have produced a video pack on this issue designed for school and church use. The tape contains five 10-minute programmes, a complete script and teaching notes, including Gospel background. These include the key themes for each programme (such as Labelling, Aggression, Friendship and Conscience) along with suggested activities which vary from the practical and creative to the unlikely "Encourage pupils to read Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyan".
We never see the "mystery man" himself on screen, which increases the mystery, but we are introduced to the storyline by Beth, in a Sherwood Forest-type setting of hiding from the law. She initially represents "Every Person" going on to encounter Simon the Zealot; Zach, the beaten-up collaborator, Martha the over-wrought householder and a dreamy, hippy Mary, who inhabit a stockbroker-type house on the edge of "the city".
The screen presentation and script are at times rather too twee for hard-boiled secondary children, so that Year 6 in the run up to Easter might be the most suitable school users of this pack, although church groups or church schools would probably be more enthusiastic. Occasionally the lighting is inadequate and a more vibrant theme tune would make the experience more memorable.
The final programme ends with Jesus, off screen, in the upper room. Some will find it moving, some won't. But then, that's been the case for some 2,000 years. The video will at least provoke comment, and from the Guildford diocese, which is known for its creative work in RE, we can look forward to further development in this field.