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Local church to portray life of Jesus Christ

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By Geoff Hamill

For Kyle Claunch and his congregation, serving God comes first, as it should.

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Claunch, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church on Perryville Road, is working with his approximately 75-member church to put on a show that is much larger in scope than the church is in number. Although they are taking on a very large task, Claunch said he and the church members are doing it all to please God.

“Our goal, our purpose, is to recognize as a church that we have a story to tell, and a message to share,” Claunch said. “We just want to exalt the name of Jesus Christ. One way we can do that is to tell that story in a creative fashion.”

Creative is one way to describe the program put on by Bethlehem Baptist over the past three years. Claunch said about 50 members of his congregation are involved in putting on the story of the life of Jesus Christ in a special presentation entitled, “Alive 2009: Son of David, Son of God” as an outdoor drama. The program will be in four stages, and is unique because it will not be done on the church stage, but instead, on the church lawn. Visitors to see the program will drive through the four stages and experience members of the church portraying four important stages of the life of Jesus, which include his birth, his miracles in healing, his crucifixion, and finally, his resurrection, which Claunch called the most complex stage of the production, and includes lighting effects and angels that “appear out of nowhere.”

Visitors don’t have to worry about hearing the program because they will be provided with a compact disc to play in their vehicle as they drive through, and if they don’t have a CD player, that’s OK, too.

“We will provide small boom boxes with CD players for anyone who needs it, and they will give those back, as well as the CD, at the end of the program,” Claunch said. Claunch himself will be greeting visitors with a CD player and/or disc when they arrive.

The idea for the drive-thru program came from Claunch, and was inspired by a similar program his father, also a pastor, conducted when Kyle was a young boy growing up in First Baptist Church in Slidell, La.

“We adapted the idea a little bit for our situation, and there’s really nothing else like it in this region, so it seemed like a very good thing to do, and it’s been very successful,” Claunch added.

In the three years of presenting the free program, he said attendance averages around 500 people each season. Previously, the program was presented at Christmas, then at Easter, but the church members found that to be just too much work for such a small group in a short time.

“We built sets, and there was quite a bit of construction and setup. The ladies of the church made the costumes, and there was really a lot of work. We started several months in advance,” he said. Now the program is done once each year at Easter.

The program lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, according to Claunch, and he said the weather will have little effect on the show, unless heavy rains come. A light rain, and even snow, will not stop the program.

“We’ve done it in mid-April before with a light snow falling, and we can do it with a light rain, but a heavy rain will force us to stop for safety,” he said.

The program is free of charge, and will be presented April 9, 10, and 11 from 8:30 to 9:45 p.m. each night. Visitors can arrive any time to drive through and experience the story of the life of Christ. In the event of inclement weather, visitors should call the church at (859) 336-3191 where a recorded message will inform them if the program is being delayed.

“We just want God to look down and see that his son is being exalted, and to please the heart of the Father, whether we have 10 people or 10,000,” Claunch concluded.