Local Pageant Reaches Larger Audience Than Anticipated

Post a Comment » Written on December 29th, 2008     
Filed under: News
ARVADA, CO (December 29, 2008) – Mary Cunningham, worship arts director at Arvada Covenant Church, hoped the congregation’s Christmas pageant would be an outreach to others in the community earlier this month. She just never imagined it would reach out to people as far away as New York, Hawaii, and Texas, as well as internationally.

But newspapers across the country featured an Associated Press story on members of the production, “Bethlehem’s Big Night,” who have participated despite their own economic setbacks. Newspapers included the Honolulu Advertiser, Houston Chronicle, Kansas City Star, Washington Times, and the International Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times.

Arvada oneSteve Erickson, who plays an angel in the play, says “I didn’t think a whole lot about it” when the reporter was interviewing him and other performers. So he was surprised when one of the performers, who had traveled to Illinois, called to say their pageant had made the local paper.

The performance is set in Bethlehem, where two inns are competing during hard times. At one point in the production, a character declares, “Economic turmoil, political chaos. Some things never change.”

The article notes that, “One innkeeper’s wife has a nine-month-old baby and can’t find work, but she chipped in making costumes and props.” In addition, “The understudy to Mary’s mother was laid off and her husband moved out of state to find work, but she was still backstage memorizing lines at the last rehearsal.”

Erickson’s character, Harold the Cloud Stomper, provides comic relief. It wasn’t funny, however, when Erickson lost his job with a real estate company at the first of the year. He has been more fortunate than some – he has been able to do some part-time consulting work for the firm. His wife still is looking for work, however.

Pastor John Martz says the country’s economic woes have taken a toll on his congregation just like everywhere else. “We have business owners whose businesses have just tanked.” Retirees who live off of investments have seen their funds drop dramatically.

Arvada twoCunningham says even putting on the production was more challenging financially this year. The reporter learned of the pageant when he saw Cunningham had posted an ad on Craigslist, an online classified advertising website, because she was seeking someone to donate fake fur for shepherds’ vests.

The church hopes the pageant will reach out to area residents. As many as a third of the 1,500 people who attended the three performances were in the church for the first time, Cunningham says.

She notes that because the pageant was free, it gave families the opportunity to enjoy a night out that they might not otherwise have been able to afford.

More than 100 people participate in the production and associated church activities, Cunningham says. “We have some of the best people in the world to work with,” she adds. “Their heart for the Lord is just always shining through.”

That was no more evident than when a stranger walked into the rehearsal. According to the AP story, the man said, “I’m really sorry to bother you. I was just laid off, my wife has been laid off, my daughter lost her job, and we have a family of seven. I’ve got a two-year-old and a baby that’s six months.”

He told the performers he needed diapers, milk, and infant formula. “Practice came to a halt,” the story relates. “The food bank was opened. A choir member dug a few dollars out of his wallet. ‘You need to buy diapers and milk for your kids,’” he said.

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