03/31/10 — Local church sets stage for annual Easter weekend event

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Local church sets stage for annual Easter weekend event

By Laura Collins
Published in News on March 31, 2010 1:46 PM

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Whitley Church outreach pastor Jimmy Bryant, in dark shirt, and Hal Veronee spent most of last Friday working on the stage setup for their church's Easter program.

For the eighth year in a row, Whitley Church in Princeton will bring the story of Easter to life.

"The Cross and the Crown," which was written by Outreach and Kid's Church pastor Jimmy Bryant and his wife, Jean, tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of Peter the disciple.

"He depicts the story of Christ and he brings it to life on stage," Bryant said. "We have 170 people in the cast and 100 people working around the cast making it work."

The cast is made up of members of Whitley Church in Princeton and its satellite church The Bridge in Goldsboro.

Perhaps the most noticeable part of the production is the 120-foot mountain that was constructed as part of the set to represent the mountains of Israel.

"It's what we call the 'wow factor' because once you see it, you go 'wow.' It's like nothing you've ever seen," he said.

Throughout the play, Peter, who is played by senior pastor Ferrell Hardison, narrates the story from one level of the mountain while "it comes to life on stage."

The drama incorporates Palm Sunday when Jesus returns to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the garden scene when Jesus is arrested, His judgment and crucifixion. Bryant said the cast goes all out for the Palm Sunday celebration.

"It's the celebration of Jesus as he walks into Jerusalem with dancers. We have anywhere from 30-40 cast members on stage for that scene and 30-40 dancers on the floor," Hardison said.

Bryant added that the writers put a lot of work into the crucifixion scene, making sure it was true to the Biblical story.

"It's really graphic," he said. "It's one of the best I've seen in my life. We don't just bloody Jesus a little bit, we portray him as the Bible does. It says he was just indescribable and mutilated."

The twist to Whitley's Easter production is that it also depicts the crucifixion of Peter, who was hung upside down, according to the Bible.

Bryant said the drama has brought out about 3,000 people every year to see the production and estimates the play generates 200 conversions every year.

"It's just simply one of the best ways we have found to bring people in," he said. "We have a lot of church people that come, but we have a lot of non-church people who come also. This is one of the most effective programs for soul-saving."

The drama will be presented at 7 p.m. tonight through Saturday and at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at Whitley Church, 188 Whitley Church Road, Princeton. Admission is free.