Long before Mel Gibson packed theaters with his depiction of Jesus' last hours, members of Abilene Baptist Church performed biennial Passion plays.
Every other year since 1982, the church has put on a Passion play, which is a type of play dating to the Middle Ages that focuses on the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In the context of these plays, the word "passion" refers to suffering, said the Rev. Bill Harrell, pastor at Abilene.
Though Gibson's The Passion of the Christ drew lots of attention for its graphic scenes of Jesus' suffering, Harrell likes the fact that it brought the true purpose of the Lenten season to the forefront.
"(I've gotten) a lot of comments on it," Harrell said. "It think it brought a lot of people to realization as to what Jesus did for us."
This year's dramatic musical - Bow the Knee - is slated for 7 pm. Thursday and Friday at the church, 3917 Washington Road, Martinez. The musical includes more than 100 people performing in the choir, orchestra and cast.
All performances are free and complimentary tickets are available at the church between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
For a unique twist, each time a Passion play is performed, it is written from a different perspective, said Greg Bearden, the church's minister of music.
In 2002, the events were seen through the eyes of Barabbas, the murderer who was freed so Jesus could be crucified.
The play focuses on the crucifixion and resurrection beginning with scenes from Jesus' ministry. This year's story, written by Chris Machen of Nashville, Tenn., is seen through the eyes of a centurion who is responsible for the crucifixion, Bearden said.
"So we sort of watch his story," Bearden said. "We see Jesus through his eyes. In other words, he watches him do miracles, he watches him heal people. In fact, Jesus healed the centurion's servant and he begins to believe that maybe (Jesus) really is the Messiah. But then he is given the assignment crucifying him.
"You really see all the passion and the things that go through his heart as he watches Christ do all of that and ultimately he stands at the foot of the cross and says, 'Surely this man was the son of God.' We see him fall to his knees at the cross and realize that jesus really is who he says he is. It is a real powerful story line and it is real different," Bearden said.
Machen took very little dramatic license in the script, keeping key scenes from liturgy, including Pontius Pilate, the priest and the adultering woman brought before Jesus.
"It is very scripturally accurate," Bearden said.
Harrell said there are some graphic scenes in the performance, but nothing comparing to the graphic scenes in Gibson's movie. He said the beatings and suffering would have been even worse than what Gibson portrayed.
"We focus on the last hours of Jesus, just like the movie The Passion does, except we don't focus on just the passion," Harrell said. "We focus on that, plus the crucifixion. Mainly the thing we focus on is the resurrection.
"It is fairly graphic in that it gets the point across real good."
Harrell added it might be a good idea to refrain from bringing small children who may be bothered by the scourging scene.
Either way, Harrell has high hopes for the musical that has grown bigger and better each year.
"It will be well-done and I think people will really enjoy it," Harrell said.
For more information, call the church at 869-1774 or visit www.abilene1174.org.
Y Easter event
The Family Y Easter Egg-stravaganza will be 10 and 11:15 a.m. Monday to Friday at Camp Lakeside on Lake Thurmond, for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. For information, call 359-2153.
Tickets are now available for Abilene Baptist Church's Passion story, Bow the Knee, which will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The story portrays the life, death and resurrection of Christ from the perspective of the centurion who was instrumental in the crucifixion. For information, call 869-1774.
The Good Shepherd Baptist Church will presents He Reigneth Forevermore, a Passion play and musical that tells the story of the creation, the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Performances are scheduled for April 3 at 2 and 6 p.m. and April 4 at 5 p.m. There is no admission cost, but complimentary tickets are required and an offering will be taken.
Tickets are available at the church, 1714 Olive Road, Augusta; The Medicine Shoppe, 2416 Windsor Spring Road at Rosier Road, Augusta and Salon Lynnique, 125 Davis Road, Martinez.
Call 733-0341 for more information.
First Baptist Church of Evans will hold a Good Friday service 7 p.m. April 9 at the church, Washington Road at Belair. The church will hold an Easter sunrise service 7:30 a.m. April 11, followed by breakfast in the fellowship hall. For information, call 863-1228.
Carrying the cross
Members of Old Union Baptist Church will carry a cross April 10 for three miles from downtown Harlem to the church, at 6095 Old Union Road. The cross will be erected at the church and used during the Easter sunrise service. Participants will meet at 10 a.m. at the traffic signal in Harlem, and members of the community are invited to join. for information, call 556-9055.
Passion and Easter
Marvin United Methodist Church, Belair at Wheeler Road, will present its Passion Scene April 10 on the lawn facing Belair Road. A sunrise Easter service will be 7 a.m. April 11, with Easter services at 9:45 and 11 a.m. An Easter-egg hunt will be 11 a.m. April 11, with a visit from the Easter bunny.
Bible Cathedral, 1116 Furys Ferry Road in Evans, will hold an Easter sunrise service at 7 a.m. April 11. For information, call 863-7090.
Mosaic United Methodist Church will hold two Easter services April 11. A sunrise worship service is scheduled for 7 a.m. at Camp Tanglewood, located on Columbia Road 1 mile west of Belair Road. Breakfast will be served at the Tanglewood pond after the service.
An Easter celebration also is scheduled April 11 at Evans High School. Dress is casual and the Mosaic Band will perform.
Call Mosaic at 877-6468 for more information or directions.
Fort Gordon's Easter sunrise service will be 6:30 a.m. April 11 in Freedom Park on Rice Road. The speaker will be Chaplain Brig. Gen. Jerome A. Heberek, deputy chief of chaplains. The service is open to the public, but seating is limited. In case of rain, the service will be in Alexander Hall. For information, call 791-2945.
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