Methodists Celebrate 14-year Ecumenical Effort: Regional Production of the Passion of Christ
Lake Palestine UMC of Chandler, First UMC of Chandler and Wesley House of Tyler will again join other congregations to commemorate the life-changing message of the Easter season.
On Palm Sunday weekend each year, the population of Chandler, TX often increases by over 50% as friends and neighbors from near and far come to see the outdoor production of the Passion of Christ in an outdoor amphitheater-like setting on the grounds of Lake Palestine UMC. “We usually see 700-1,000 a night,” says one of the longtime volunteer organizers, Jim Morton, “depending on weather.” According to Rev. Pam Cline, work is well underway for the upcoming performances on March 18, 19, and 20.
The free community event began with 20 feet of scenery and now features 90 feet. The group of churches and organizations involved initially took turns hosting the powerful drama, however, Lake Palestine UMC has become the ideal “home” for the event. “Our 22-acre campus on the shores of the lake provide an authentic backdrop and plenty of parking,” adds Jim. The event grows each year in terms of scope and now involves a dozen churches as well as the Tyler Wesley Foundations. This year, the director is from Green Acres Baptist Church, and the cast and crew of about 90 come from the ecumenical mix of sponsoring organizations. In previous years, actors have traveled distances as far away as Oklahoma to participate. Other churches providing various people and monetary resources include FUMC Methodist of Chandler, St. Boniface Catholic Church of Chandler, First Baptist of Mabank.
According to Jim, attendees receive a printed booklet at the event that features paid advertising in support of the production. The advertising money is used for costumes, props, publicity, grounds keeping, stage rental and food for participants during long rehearsals. Attendees are also encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to area food banks.
“The last time we produced this a storm kicked up out on the lake behind the cross just as Christ was being crucified in the story, and I believe we all experienced holy goose bumps at the timing,” notes Jim. “This really is an awesome undertaking that brings the community together on stage and in the audience. It involves people of all faiths and ages and helps us in our common quest – to glorify God.”