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Church’s ‘Titanic Moment’ connected with Sept. 11

LUFKIN, Texas (BP)–When Carpenter’s Way Baptist Church staged its production of “Titanic Moment,” they never dreamed how significant the timing would be. Opening night of the five-day run was Sept. 9, 2001. Two days later, the world reacted in horror to the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field.

The message of the production that had been 13 months in the making: “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Be prepared for your Titanic moment.”

A number of people gave their lives to Christ and many more asked for counseling regarding assurance of salvation as a result of the combined tragedies — one historically reenacted in the church production, one unfolding before their eyes on television, reported Rick Williams, pastor of Carpenter’s Way in Lufkin, Texas.

The idea for Titanic Moment was born during a trip to Orlando when Williams and his wife, Melody, visited “Titanic: The Exhibition.” Characters dressed in period costume walked people through the exhibit, giving them insight into how the passengers felt and thought. Apparently, many of the passengers in 1912 believed they’d sit in the lifeboats for a few hours while the crew repaired the “unsinkable” ship and then continue on their journey. The comment that grabbed Williams’ attention was, “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Sensing a powerful message for a “gospel-hardened culture,” Williams returned to his church to convene a meeting with his staff where the idea began to take shape. Nancy Mize, the church’s director of drama ministry, wrote the script, and things snowballed from there.

The idea of using interactive drama is not new to Baptist churches; many have adopted that genre as a regular part of worship. Drama, like music, has a way of connecting with people on a deeper level, of engaging more than their intellect and appealing to their heart. However, few churches attempt anything as large as the Titanic production in Lufkin. Almost one-quarter of the church’s members became part of the cast. Most of the 130 people in the play had never been on stage in their lives.

For churches interested in hosting a drama production, regardless of the grandness of the scale, Carpenter’s Way Church has some ABCs to pass along that might help:

— Ask a challenging question and expect a response.

— Choose a message that packs a punch. The phrase “Titanic Moment” became a catchword all over Lufkin, Williams said. Especially after the terrorist attacks, “not knowing when your Titanic moment may come” was a timely message.

Williams’ desire to bring people face to face with their own mortality was key. At the end of the presentation, he asked the audience to check the back of their boarding passes/tickets. If their pass had the symbol of a cross, they didn’t survive. Rick posed two questions to the group, “Did you live or die? If you died, where are you spending eternity?”

— Be as professional as possible.

Pay attention to details. Carpenter’s Way had authentic costumes. “The wardrobe was Broadway quality,” Mize said. Makeup clinics were held months in advance. “Dialect coaches taught Texans to talk like Brits — no mean feat,” she laughed. The set included a grand staircase built by church members. There’s much more to drama than actors. Proficiency is needed in many areas: from set design and construction to lighting and sound, from wardrobe to makeup, from filming of video sequences to web pages, from music to Irish dancers and more. There’s a job for everyone.

— Commit your resources.

Invest in success. Carpenter’s Way invested almost 2 percent of its annual budget as well as 13 months of dedicated work. Was it worth it? Ask the many people who came to faith in Christ. Ask the scores of lukewarm Christians who recommitted their lives to a deeper walk of faith. Finally, ask the cast who discovered the joy of service in a whole new arena as they tried drama for the first time and found they liked the fit.

For a closer look at the cast and more information about Titanic Moment, visit www.titanicmoment.com.
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and speaker living in Cochrane, Alberta. Reprinted from On Mission magazine, North American Mission Board, SBC. For more information go to www.onmission.com. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TITANIC ASSERTION and SEAWORTHY HOPE.

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  • Connie Cavanaugh