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All the church’s a stage

Drama productions take many forms, multiple roles in congregations

August 10, 2011

Headshot of Melinda Roblee Fischer

Melinda Roblee Fischer —Photo credit: Duane Sweep

STORM LAKE, IOWA

Some classes just teach themselves. Or so it seems.

Dean Seal, who taught “Church and Stage” at the Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ Synod School this year, described his class as “open-minded and interested in making something happen.”

For one class period during the week-long event at Buena Vista University here, participants in the class did just that ― made something happen.

When Seal had to take a one-day sabbatical from his Synod School class to teach at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he is an adjunct faculty member, his Synod School class discussed the use of drama in their own churches.

Rather than having Seal in their classroom, the class watched a recording of his work ― “Three Wise Men and One Wise Guy” ― a Christmas play presented last December at Presbyterian Church of the Apostles in Burnsville, Minn. Seal is the congregation’s director of Christian education.

Noting the adults included in the production, Diane Wray Williams of Moorhead, Minn., said, “It’s nice to have adults involved, but I’m a drama nut. If it was up to me, we’d have everybody in a play.”

A play, she said, can help a congregation “see stories in a different way.”

Stage productions take place in many ways in many congregations these days. Participants in the eight-person class described examples from a “shadow play,” where silhouettes of characters are projected through a screen, to short skits developed by worship teams to skits as announcements, to plays with a praise band background to Christmas stories with a “living nativity scene” and “journey to Bethlehem.”

Dorothy Duquette of Bovey, Minn., said she didn’t expect to hear the extent and variety of drama activities in congregations. “What surprised me was how much drama we actually do,” she said.

A “living nativity scene” brought its own unexpected result to her congregation. Children who came to see it would ask their parents if they could be a part of it, she explained. “What surprised us was how much fun the congregation had,” she said.

Nancy Ann Gee of Jackson, Minn., agreed. When she lived in Texas, her congregation’s praise band would provide background music for drama productions. “We had a blast doing that,” she said.

Drama can also bring people to church. Melinda Roblee Fischer of Lawrence, Kan., described a “journey to Bethlehem” that took travelers through a number of stops in the Holy Land at the time of Christ’s birth, including Herod’s palace and a marketplace. Live animals had a part. “As a kid I loved it,” she said. “The whole church was involved … and it brought a lot of people to our doors.”

The class was one of more than 60 at the week-long education event that drew more than 620 participants to the 58th Synod School.

Duane Sweep is a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service. He is associate for communications for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.

  1. This may sound a little defensive, but I need to ass a correction. The video of "3 Wise Men and One Wise Guy" had a cast of about 16 people, and one third was adult. Another third were teens, and the last group was 6 to 12. The goal of Church Theater is to break the kids out ofthe demographic ghetto we put them in.

    by Dean J. Seal

    August 15, 2011

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