When David Walstad, minister of music and senior adults at Parkland Baptist Church in Clovis, was studying music in seminary, he and his wife chose to attend a large church near Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. That decision was partly because they’d never been members of a large church before, but also because he wanted to see how a large church does musical programs.
“We saw that what a large church could do would be able to be scaled back to the capabilities of a smaller church,” Walstad said. “(At Parkland) we do a Christmas musical program but it’s not nearly as involved as the Easter program. We see it as an outreach tool to get our friends and neighbors to come to our church.”
This year’s Easter program is entitled “The Passion: Beyond My Fault.” Scheduled to be performed in the church building at 7 p.m. on April 2 and 4, it presents Barnabas, a visitor to Jerusalem who observes the crucifixion of Christ and then starts asking people one by one what the crucifixion means. Barnabas first asks the Roman centurion who had helped crucify Jesus, moves on to the Roman governor Pilate, and then seeks out the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and Judas for answers. Not satisfied with any of their answers, he finally meets Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who introduce him to the disciples of Christ. He then becomes a witness of the resurrection and Christ’s final command that his followers should make disciples of all nations.
Walstad said his formal training helped him bring larger events to a church that already had a tradition of ministry through drama before he arrived in 1998.
“I believe prior to my coming Parkland had not done productions of this magnitude before,” Walstad said. “We grow a little bit each year.”
Walstad said this years production was timely.
“We have just witnessed the phenomenon of the ‘Passion of the Christ’ film by Mel Gibson,” Walstad said. “That movie, which is very well done, tells us a lot about what happened but raises more questions than it answers.”
Walstad said those who have questions raised by Gibson’s film will be able to have them answered by the Parkland Baptist play.
“I think it was God’s guidance that led us to select this play,” Walstad said.
The key role of Barnabas is played by Sean Friend, 19, who now lives in Clovis and joined Parkland Baptist after traveling with his father’s Air Force career to many different locations.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing drama in high school; this gives me the opportunity to do what I enjoy and to serve God at the same time,” Friend said. “The difference between being a Christian actor and just being in a play somewhere is I’m not just here to do my best so people pat me on the back. It’s all about serving Christ, making his will known to bring others to him.”
Walstad said he was looking for a person with youth and vitality to fill the part and said he was glad to have Friend available.
“We needed someone who could be expressive and humble ,” Friend said. “We felt Sean could fit the bill and were looking for him. I was planning on calling him if he didn’t call us up.”
Walstad said religious drama presentations can reach some people who might not respond to more traditional preaching opportunities.
“Everybody’s different and everybody is going to be reached in a different way,” Walstad said. “Some people will just not come to a church service. The dramatic arts are a way of perhaps getting under someone’s skin and getting through to them.”
Walstad said he was glad to be a part of a presentation such as what the church will be hosting.
“I believe with all of my heart that Jesus is the answer for all of man’s problems, and also that we are approaching nearer and nearer to the end times,” Walstad said. “We know that troubles will come, and it seems like that is more and more what we are seeing as we look around us.”