TERRE HAUTE —
An onerous cross dragged along the ground, as a bloodied man portraying Jesus hauled it uphill to the site of his own crucifixion.
A crowd of nearly 50 people watched, participating as spectators in the annual Easter ministry’s re-enactment “Passion in the Park.”
Lori Aplin, co-director of Senior Education Ministries, was busy fixing robes and gear Thursday evening as the first performances got under way. Now in its fourth year, “Passion in the Park” brings a cast of 40 representing half a dozen churches to Fairbanks Park for live, interactive dramas. Walking along trails in the park, visitors watch the story of Jesus’ final days unfold before them, even feeling the sting as Pontius Pilate shouts at them, “His blood is on your hands! Yours and yours! Not mine!”
The Easter drama began with three performances Thursday night. That schedule was repeated Friday and Saturday and concludes with final performances of the play at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. today.
“No donation, no fee,” Aplin said proudly before the initial performance. “God’s grace is free, so it wouldn’t be right to charge for this.”
Attendance has fluctuated over the years, largely based on weather, she said, noting a couple of particularly strong seasons with more than 1,000 participants walking alongside actors portraying Christ, his mother Mary and Judas as well as other figures from the biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Led through the park by Larry Richmond, pastor of the Family Worship Center in Brazil, participants are spoken to directly by the characters, including numerous pleas from Christ’s mother as he is beaten and flogged by Roman guards.
Edgar Guy, a member of Cross Tabernacle Church, was dressed in the regalia of a Roman soldier, ready to play the “bad guy” for what he said is a great cause.
“It’s a real eye-opener to what Jesus did for us,” the fourth-year veteran said. People watching the physical brutality endured by Christ on the way to his death get a new perspective of the Easter holiday, he said, a different version of “the greatest love story ever told.”
But the story is more than a play, Richmond said throughout the 45-minute walk, remarking that the value of the performance would not be measured in terms of acting quality, rather in the spiritual effect conveyed.
“This is a ministry,” he said of the drama, adding that the Christmas holiday, important as it is, would be a moot point without the resurrection miracle on Easter Sunday.
Christians celebrate the Easter weekend each year to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, and his subsequent resurrection three days later, on Sunday. An actress portraying Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, only to meet with the risen Christ later.
The performance is followed by fellowship and refreshments, as well as a chance to share and discuss.
Terry Head, a member of Oregon Baptist Church, said the performance was heartfelt by all involved.
“I think it was tremendously done,” he said after taking in a performance of the play. Outside the amphitheater along the Wabash River, Head said witnessing the other side of the traditional holiday makes for an impressive experience. “It’s a true demonstration of Christianity.”
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• More tonight: The final performances of the “Passion in the Park” are today at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Each performance lasts about 45 minutes and is free to the public. The route begins east of the amphitheater at Fairbanks Park.