ONE OF THE MANY PLACES OUR CONGREGATION IS PRESENT IS ON STAGE ACROSS OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH A VARIETY OF PERFORMING VENUES.
Each summer St. John’s is well-represented at The Muni, the Legacy Theater, and New Salem’s Theatre in the Park as a variety of disciples share their musical and theatrical gifts. This summer is no exception. St. John’s youth Danny Lee performed in the musical 1776 at New Salem’s Theatre in the Park the weekends of May 18-20 and 24-26. The Muni kicks off in June with the high energy musical Sister Act featuring St. John’s disciples Christie Lazarides Purdy and Carla Wilson. Our very own Director of Music Ministries Sue Hamilton is serving as the vocal director for the production of Mama Mia at the Legacy Theater from July 6-29. And, finally, the “sun will come out tomorrow” in August with the production of The Muni’s Annie under the vocal direction of our Director of Contemporary Worship Christie Lazarides Purdy and starring St. John’s disciples Craig Williams II, Alicia Huntley, and Claire Huntley. And, if a beautiful evening of music in the park is more your style, you won’t want to miss this year’s 57th International Carillon Festival at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon in Washington Park June 3-5 and 7-8, coordinated by and featuring our very own Organist Carlo van Ulft. In the article below, St. John’s disciple Carla Wilson shares her reflections on the powerful connection between performing in community theater and living out one’s discipleship to Jesus.
What does performing in a play or musical have to do with discipleship?
How can saying, “I’m leaving for rehearsal!” ever be translated to mean, “I’m heading out to worship?” Several disciples of St. John’s are active in the local theatre community, and we find many opportunities for worship and praise in that involvement.
First, there is fellowship and a genuine desire to lift up and connect with our cast mates. Once rehearsals start, this motley crew of people from all walks of life becomes a family, working toward a common goal (and seeing each other more than we see our real families!). As the days go by, we quickly learn about each other and become interested in each other’s lives outside of the show, and when the show is over, those bonds continue. One of our disciples, Craig Williams says, “For me, theater is a very communal activity. People from various walks of life joining together in mind and body to work toward a common goal. You audition together, rejoice in getting roles together, rehearse together and ultimately perform together. Along the way, we get to know not only the roles we are working to portray, but also one another. Without one another, the show wouldn’t be the same. In that respect, I have actively felt the Holy Spirit working within the casts and staffs of the various shows I have been part of. The connections that are made between folks are much like the ones made at church.”
Secondly, we are all together each evening because we share a love of performing. I believe that when we are doing something we love to do, it makes God happy, because he made each one of us with unique gifts and interests. Using those talents lights us up inside, because we are igniting a spark put into us by our Creator. When you have thirty or more people singing and dancing their hearts out because they love it, the result is a very loud, joyful noise!
On a deeper level than fellowship, there are ways we minister to each other, as anyone involved in a close-knit group can attest. We pray for each other, and many of us pray together before each show. People carry burdens that can’t always be checked at the door, and life happens, even in the span of an eight- week rehearsal schedule. We are there for each other, not just with prayer, but in understanding, hugs, encouragement, and cookies.
There are underlying themes in all works of art, and while certainly not all of them are uplifting, many are, or they remind us that love will triumph over hate and people are generally good at heart. These themes bring cast and audience members together, and for a brief moment, unite us as humans and children of God. One of the musicals being produced this summer at the Muni is “Sister Act,” which concludes with these lyrics, which I think we’ve all heard before, in form or another: