The drama program of First Christian Church of Morris has been growing stronger through recent years, as members realize how important a skit or a play can be in putting the word of God into real-life perspective.
Little mini-dramas and readings have become more prevalent in Sunday morning services, and larger dramatic scores are also played out in the church’s Christmas programs. That’s certainly true with this year’s program, “The Hope of Christmas,” which runs Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Dec. 12, 14, 15 and 16.
FCC’s Drama Program went into full-steam about eight years ago, when Coal City High School’s drama, English, and speech teacher, Sue Bolt, retired. A long-time church member, Bolt began organizing, first, adults, then teenagers, into FCC’s drama program. The idea of Sunday morning dramas, Bolt said, is to emphasize the message of the sermon.
A group of members gets together a couple of times a month and brainstorms drama bits, music, and more to go with the sermon.
“I’ve had so many people come up and say to me that they really liked what the minister said on Sunday, and they always remember the drama that went along with it,” Bolt said.
“We have found that people react to things differently. Some people like the music, some like the sermons, and some like the dramas. . . It’s a way to reach everyone in the congregation.”
“It really does enhance the message of Sunday morning services,” FCC Minister Scott Zorn said of the drama program. “A skit can really bring the message to life and make it relevant to their lives.”
One of the great things about the dramas, Bolt said, is that the members who perform in them don’t do it for their own glory or even just for the entertainment of the congregation.
“Everything we do is for God,” she said, “and to reach people through Christ. We always pray we can reach someone in the congregation through the drama.”
Over the course of a year, there are more than 70 members who act in Sunday morning dramas, from age 6 up to their 80’s. When Bolt first began as drama director and coordinator, she introduced acting classes for those on the team. They worked with improvisation and timing and learning lines.
Improvisation is especially important, she said, for when lines are forgotten.
“A lot of people who thought they couldn’t act have become my best actors,” she said. “The best are nervous, because they care.”
Bolt admitted that, after all these years, even she still gets nervous before a performance. Once, her anxiety was so great that it brought on an asthma attack.
Members on the Drama Team are of many varied professions, from students to teachers, a minister’s wife, a manufacturer, an insurance salesman, secretaries, and retirees. Their work is good not just for the congregation, but also for them.
“Everybody needs to be able to write and to speak,” Bolt said. “It builds confidence. And doing the plays and readings draws them closer to God and to the message.”
There will be two dramas at this week’s Christmas Program – one on stage during the program, and the other in the hallway before the program begins.
The earlier program is part of FCC’s Stix Ministry, where young adults and children perform with sticks to tell a story. This time, they will perform, “O, Holy Night,” with a routine of hand movements.
“We sign it,” Bolt explained, “then, with dowel rods, they form the message as stars or they use them as beating rods when the message is about a slave, or as a cane for an older person. . . In the end, they form the entire nativity with them.”
It’s an amazing performance, Bolt said, and one that has brought tears to the eyes of some of the members lucky enough to preview the performance. The Stix members will repeat the performance over and over for those who arrive early for the Christmas program.
The drama of the program itself is a continual one, going throughout the performance. It’s not a series of skits, but one drama. A musical drama.
“It’s a true musical drama,” Minister Zorn said, “where the music and the drama weave in and out of each other, with the story and the music integrated into one. It’s like what you would see in a musical. . . It tells the story of Christmas.”
“The Hope of Christmas” uses a New York City newsstand and its owner, a minister, a homeless teenager, a businessman, a very hostile woman, and a woman who is very intelligent, but wants no part of religion, to tell the story of Christ in a modern setting.
Across from the newsstand is a church that is planning its Christmas program. How each of the characters reacts to the church and its preparations is the subject of the musical. The TNT Dancers will once again be a part of the program, as will the 3-week-old son of one of the church’s ministers, and, of course, the talented FCC choir.
“We have so much wonderful talent here,” Bolt said. “I’m totally amazed at the dedication of these people, and they are so anxious to serve. I am so proud of them. It is really God working.”
“Come celebrate Christmas with us,” Zorn said. “Make it a Christmas tradition. It will help jump-start the season. It will be something fun that people of all ages will enjoy.”
For more information on the Christmas program, “The Hope of Christmas,” or First Christian Church’s drama program, call the church at (815) 942-3454.