Church shares Passion with Crucifixion

By Greg Gelpi

Read the News Daily next weekend for a compilation of religious-based Easter observances in Clayton County.

Nailed to a cross and executed publicly, Jesus died an agonizing death, a death a local church will bring to life.

Bringing history, religion and a blockbuster movie to the church altar, Jonesboro First United Methodist Church will perform the Passion, a recreation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection and the Life will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the church, 142 S. Main St., Jonesboro.

"My goal is not to screw it up for God," Jeff Jenkins, who plays Jesus, said. He added that he is "not worthy" to portray Jesus.

The productions are under the direction of Beth Bowen, the church's choir director, along with Lloyd Tarpley, the minister of music and orchestra director.

"This is a very lyrical, dramatic telling of the Easter story beginning with Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist up to and through the Lord's death and resurrection," Bowen said. "We have a number of very talented people who have been working hard on this production. It promises to be one of the most moving efforts that have ever presented. Those who witness this marvelous story will be blessed."

The performances will include the character of Jesus hanging from a cross, a dramatization of His crucifixion.

Jenkins, a Lockheed Martin engineer by day, assumes the role of Jesus for both nights.

Although Jenkins said he has portrayed Jesus before, this will be the first time he is "crucified."

"We just hope that the people who come to see this will get the point that Jesus did this for each one of us," Jenkins said.

He explained that the performances won't have the violence or graphic nature of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the hit movie.

The musical performance will feature scenes from Jesus' life and will include an orchestra accompaniment, song and dance.

"Getting into the role physically and spiritually" has been a challenge, Jenkins said, but the most difficult will be showing the human aspect of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He agonized over his coming crucifixion.

Reenacting the life and stories of Jesus won't be any easier for local attorney David Brown, who is playing the part of a Roman soldier.

Brown said he feels "somewhat odd" being one of the soldiers to hoist the character of Jesus up on the cross.

The play is stirring passions in all of its participants.

Eagle's Landing High School student Kelly Codette will present the empty tomb of Jesus to the world as an angel.

"I'm happy and excited about it," Codette said. "I feel honored to be an angel."

And making her debut as a soloist, Suzanne Rice, 9, will sing alongside Jesus as He preaches to the children.

"I'm nervous a little bit," Rice said.

She is sharing the stage with her little sister Jaclyn, 7, and her father Richard, who plays Andrew.

The productions are free and open to the public.