TAZEWELL, Va. — Click here for video
Many in the assembled crowd openly wept and leaned on one another as they watched the sun set behind the three figures hanging from the crosses.
More than 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Tazewell First Assembly of God Friday night for a unique Good Friday service, watching a live dramatization of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ play out before their eyes. While some were moved to tears by the church members’ portrayal of the biblical whipping scenes, others found the actual crucifixion scene the hardest to watch. Many of the audience had not intended to come that night but pulled their vehicles over on the roadway to watch the scene unfold.
Vicki Shepard, 57, of Thompson Valley, said she had never been to a crucifixion drama before.
“I’ve never been to anything like this before,” Shepard said. “I believe the same way the church does, and it was quite impressive. I think a lot of people don’t realize this was mild compared to the torture Jesus really went through.”
Shepard was still wiping tears from her eyes when the drama ended.
“I knew it would hit me emotionally, especially seeing him up there on the cross,” Shepard said. “It shows how much God loves us that he would let his son go through all that just for us.”
Diane Beavers, 42, of Gratton, is a member of the church. Though she attended last year’s drama, Beavers said she was still moved emotionally by the scene.
“This is what Easter is all about,” Beavers said. “It’s about the death and resurrection of Christ. I brought my tissues this year because I knew I’d need them. To really see what he went through for us was just awesome. He did this for us and we don’t deserve any of it.”
Jimi Watson, pastor of the Tazewell First Assembly of God, said this year’s performance has allowed the church to expand upon the crucifixion drama they performed on Good Friday last year.
“This is our second year we’ve done this,” Watson said. “The idea started two years ago when we did a live nativity during Christmas, and we were talking about things we could do outdoors to reach out to the community. God put this idea into our heads, and out of that rose this drama. We put it together and stage it on different areas of our property. The characters are all portrayed by members of our church.”
Watson said the church’s location helps draw in audience members who might not otherwise be exposed to such an event.
“We are located on a heavily traveled road across from a major shopping center with the Dollar Store and Grant’s, so is a main road,” Watson said. “It’s a good location for us to act out the different scenes outdoors. We want to present a visual reminder for people. We live in a time and society where we are very visually geared, so showing this visually impacts people a lot more than just reading the scriptures. We pray it will bring the story home and make it real.
Several months of preparation went in to making the drama, Watson said.
“We start around the first of the year talking about it and getting ready,” he said. “We had to begin thinking about it early since Easter is so early this year. We practiced for about a month before hand since it isn’t really a scripted drama. Basically, we go by the scriptures. A lot of it is ad-libbed, but we have taken the scriptures and put them together in a way that it happened. The speaking parts are the same people who did it last year, but we still run through it several times.”
While the drama sparked a wide variety of emotions in the audience, and Watson said members of the congregation acting out the drama have also been deeply impacted by the performance.
“One of our guards last year who was part of the whipping scene said he had to stop,” Watson said. “He knew it was a play, but being a part of that scene made what Jesus went through for us hit him really hard. It really brings it home. The cross scene is very somber and we go through all sorts of emotions during that. Our congregation looks forward to doing these sorts of things and putting them together. It is just another way for us to present the gospel.”
Melissa Million, a member of the church, came to see the drama and watch her children perform in it.
“This teaches the kids what the Easter holiday is about, that this is about Jesus and what he did for us,” Million said. “I think you can read stuff over and over, but when you see it play out like this, it really gets to you. I was able to prepare myself more emotionally for it this year than I was last year, but it still hit me pretty hard.”
Robby Motley, 41, of Wytheville, Va., came to the event with his mother, who is a church member. He said it was his first time seeing a crucifixion drama.
“It’s a good story and surprised me a lot how well they were able to tell it,” Motley said. “It shows people how Christ died for our sins. If more people knew this story then maybe the world wouldn’t be the way it is. It hid me hard. You don’t really think about it the same way until you see it. This really brought the story to life for me.”
Watson said the church will continue during their Sunday Easter service where they plan to re-enact the resurrection.
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com