“is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”

I came across the following in The Buzz, an e-letter from the Methodist Church telling of exciting developments around the Connexion, where the Gospel of Jesus is being shared in new and exciting ways.

It made me wonder, “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”……………………………………….

EVANGELISM – Hope Theatre Cafe 
From: Christchurch URC/Methodist Church, Cardiff
Anne and Darren on stageHope Theatre Cafe is a great, welcoming venue in Cardiff where you can see a Christian performer, theatre company, singer, musician or mime artist. A special evening out at the theatre and a fresh expression of church!Anne Middleton and husband Revd Darren Middleton of the Hope Theatre Cafe believe that the arts have a way of transcending barriers. They see the Cafe very much as a place where people can bring friends and family because it is ‘neutral’ territory’. One audience member said, ironically, ‘you wouldn’t get me in a church’!

Upcoming performances include the Lantern Theatre Company performing The Hiding Place in June and gospel Illusionist, Steve Price, appearing in July. All performers share their message of hope in Jesus, through their own art form.

The winning formula is for the audience to be seated around small tables and treated to free tea, coffee and home-made cakes. The cafe opens at 7pm and the performance starts at 7.30pm. Afterwards prayer and an opportunity to chat is sometimes offered and a few people who have been to performances have since been to church.

Anne and Darren are encouraged that the Hope Theatre Cafe team has committed help from volunteers, especially as it is likely that they will move on within the next two years. Their hope is that, now established, the theatre cafe will continue its successful run for years to come.

E-mail contact: Anne Middleton anne.middleton@live.co.uk
Website: Fresh Expressions www.freshexpressions.org.uk/stories/hopetheatrecafe

 

I find this an exciting project and it has fired my imagination for similar ideas. However many would say that this is only a theatrical experience and not true worship. Whilst I don`t doubt that for a moment, lets look a bit more closely.

Firstly the article reminds us that each performer(s) brings their own understanding of Jesus through their own art form; surely this is simply preaching using gifts and talents the artistes have. We`d expect preaching within the context of Church and surely this is what is happening here.

Secondly, the opportunity to sit around tables in a cafe-style presentation is surely no different to the fellowship people claim to have when they attend a more traditional act of worship. It’s possibly a deeper fellowship because there is probably less inhibitions than there would be across pews or rows of chairs.

Thirdly, tea and coffee (free) can be interpreted as the fellowship meal in Acts 2:42-47

Fourthly, the opportunity for prayer is there for anyone. Now I know some would say that in traditional church the leader tells us when to pray, but surely what often happens is that we all bow our heads and start thinking about all manner of things ! Can this truly be described as prayer ? heart prayer ? I feel that when prayer is offered and someone asks for it then the prayer time is far more personal and meaningful (now that’s opening a can of worms !!).

Fifthly, and it isn`t stated above, I feel that there is the possibility for discipleship development within this expression. It’s probably already happening at the Hope theatre cafe and simply not expressed above. However I think that there are ways in which someones experience in such a place can then be led forward and their faith developed. I note that some have already started coming to Church; brilliant !! but, that cannot be the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim has to be to develop and nurture their faith in Christ, not simply seek `bums on seats`. Now for some that may be developed through Church itself in all its traditional form, but for others it may be through continued attendance at the cafe. Whichever it is we should rejoice at the pilgrimage of faith people are engaged in.

Finally, the government cuts announced this week have got the Arts council up in a panic crying out that it will mean the end of entertainment to the masses. What an opportunity for the Church. Much of the theatre in this country and in other parts of the world began in Christian communities, the medieval mystery plays being one of the finest examples, and here is our chance to take the Gospel back to the people through drama/entertainment/films/and other media. Will we seize the chance ? I hope and pray that enterprising Churches will do so in ways that suit their communities and cultures.

Drama and theatre were amongst my first loves. I`ve acted in and produced shows since the age of about 5 years (so there are one or two performances under my belt !); I`ve had the privilege of touring with a Christian professional theatre group around this country on a couple of occasions so I have seen and been a part of the positive effect of using these mediums to spread the Good News of Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  

So, to come back to my original question…………  “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”, I would want to say an unequivocal YES, YES and YES again. Well done to the Hope Theatre Cafe in Cardiff for this.

Judas from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1990)

 

Hamlet in the 1970`s

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