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Reciting Mark from Memory

by glynch — last modified 05 Nov, 2014 04:13 PM

Pewsey priest to give dramatised recital of the greatest story ever told, without a note

Reciting Mark from Memory

Canon Gerald Osborne at his installation in Salisbury Cathedral. Left to right: the Very Revd June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury; Canon Gerald Osborne; the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury. Credit: Ash Mills.

A Wiltshire clergyman is to perform a remarkable feat of faith and memory – by reciting the whole of Mark’s Gospel from memory, over 11,000 words, in public. Canon Gerald Osborne, a farmer and priest in the Vale of Pewsey, will give the dramatised recital at St John the Baptist Church in Pewsey at 7 pm on Friday 14 November.

When asked about his previous experience on the stage, Canon Osborne replies abashed, “I have never even been in a school play before, so this is quite a challenge! The idea came to me about the start of the year, but it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to commit myself.

“I owe my fascination with Mark’s Gospel to the Revd Michael Cripps. I did a few tutorials with him before studying for ordination, and he really opened my eyes to Mark. Then a few years ago, when Bishop Nicholas came to licence the Revd Deb Larkey as our Team Rector, the Gospel text was most of the first chapter of Mark. The Bishop challenged us to keep pondering it afterwards.

“I got more and more into it, and found myself memorising it when I was doing chores around the farm and the house.

“After a while, I had memorised so much that I started to wonder if I should try a public recital, and I started reciting bits of it to my wife, Emma - often when we were on long walks together.

“Another invaluable person has been Colin Heber-Percy, a TV scriptwriter and parishioner in the Vale. In June, I finally approached him asking for help in putting a live recital together. He has coached me in how to recite the text in a way that helps people engage with its power rather than paying attention to me.

“On the night, Colin will be on stage with me acting as Petronius, St Mark’s imagined scribe.

“One reason for the recital is that Lectionary Year B will start on Advent Sunday, and Mark will then be the main source of Sunday Gospels for a whole year. The recital gives Christians an opportunity to focus, in a unique way, on the Gospel as a complete book in its own right just before that starts being the case.

“Mark’s Gospel is a fast-paced, directly written, story, so it’s an exciting listen for people of any religious viewpoint or none. I agree with the long-held view that this Gospel is a record of what Peter told St Mark, so it’s as close to an eyewitness account of Jesus Christ as exists.

“Mark’s Gospel is all about the authority and identity of Jesus – how can people decide whether or not to follow Christ if they don’t know who he is? This is an ideal opportunity to introduce people to Jesus Christ, and let them see if they might like to become one of His disciples.”

Entry to the recital is free and light refreshments will be served.

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