Manchester crucifixion fundraiser axed over blasphemy fears

Rob Slater, pictured, is playing the part of Jesus in the passion play Image copyright Manchester Passion 2017
Image caption Rob Slater is playing the part of Jesus in the Passion play in Manchester's Cathedral Gardens

A fundraising event which involved lifting members of the public on to a cross for a "full crucifixion experience" has been cancelled.

Manchester Passion play fundraiser Alex Stewart-Clark wanted to charge participants £750 for the spectacle in Cathedral Gardens.

However, the offer was withdrawn after the play's committee raised fears over blasphemy and health and safety.

The Passion, a dramatisation of Jesus' final days, will be held on Saturday.

'Dinner with Jesus'

Mr Stewart-Clark, 56, a volunteer for the Passion Trust, said he believed the plan could have raised vital funds, but he respected the committee's decision.

"The idea was, on the Friday when the stage was being set up, to give something tangible for people to pay for.

"It could be £25 to have dinner with Pontius Pilate, £200 to have dinner with Jesus, or in this case £750 to be 'crucified', but people didn't embrace it.

"The idea wasn't to replace Jesus but to empathise with him. The cross was meant to be a humiliating execution. It would be embarrassing to be up there."

He added: "You have a brainwave, you try it. I thought it was a good idea, but it came from a practical business idea, not a spiritual, theological head. So I have to listen to the powers that be."

Image copyright Peter McDermott
Image caption Members of the public could have experienced the "humiliation" of being hoisted on to a cross

Thousands of people are expected to attend the Manchester Passion which involves a gospel choir, 120 cast members and is marshalled by 80 stewards and other volunteers.

Event co-creator Nakib Narat, a playwright from Chorlton said: "Alex is a really kind, decent man and a sincere Christian man.

"It is one of those odd things people think is a brilliant idea but it seemed to detract from the message of the Passion play, which is about love one another and forgive one another.

"It seemed too commercial. At £750 it is a mad amount of money.

"It costs about £60,000 to put on this family event and make Manchester proud.

"Alex is brilliant at raising funds but it just wasn't the right idea and it was pulled within a few days."

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