A Play For Our Time

By Maggie FitzRoy

Is Hell real?
And do some people go there when they die?

Yes, of course, believes Pastor Paul, the leader of a mega-successful evangelical church—until one day, when he has an epiphany, and changes his mind.

That is the basis of the plot of The Christians, a play slated to be performed August 4, 5, and 6 and 11, 12, and 13 in the Contemporary Worship Space at Christ Church. Written by Lucas Hnatch, directed by Christ Church parishioner Everette Street and produced by the Creative Academy at Christ Church, it is a one-act drama about the nature of religious belief and what it means to a person’s life.

“It is so well written, that after watching it, on your way home, it’ll make you think about your own belief systems,” Street says. “That is the goal.”

Street also plays the role of Pastor Paul, who changes his mind about Hell after listening to a missionary’s speech at a church convention. The missionary relayed a story about a man in a poor, violent country who ran into a burning building, successfully rescued people, and then died. The man had not yet been converted to Christianity, so what a shame he was going to Hell, the missionary said. Saving people at the cost of his own life couldn’t get him into Heaven, because he had not yet accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That rubbed Pastor Paul the wrong way, and made him think, Street says. “He has a conversation with God and concludes that Hell is all around us and our job is to help people get out of the hell they are in, and not worry about a cartoon devil.”

But when the pastor, excited about his revelation, preaches a sermon about it, his congregation is horrified and turns on him. “It is so fundamentally opposed to their core belief systems of Heaven and Hell that they can’t stay with him, so most leave,” Street says. “He has to contend with the cost to him personally, and to his church.”

The show includes four other characters, who present different points of view on the issue. They include the pastor’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Gloria Ware; associate pastor Joshua, played by Daniel Carter; Elder Jay, played by Rich Nowell; and a congregant named Jenny, played by Jennifer Latka.

The show’s themes, including love, forgiveness, and non-judgment, are playing out in real life in real churches across America, Street says. One of our key survival mechanisms as a species is to be judgmental about whether something is dangerous or not, and when something radical threatens our beliefs, “we don’t like it.”

Street became involved in community theater ten years ago, performing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Christ Church.

He first played Pastor Paul seven years ago in Saint Augustine, when The Christians was performed twenty times at The Limelight Theater. After each performance, in the lobby, he found himself engaged in deep philosophical conversations, despite the fact that he was only an actor who’d been saying words written by someone else.

Ever since then, Street has wanted to bring the play to Christ Church. It will be performed in the Contemporary Worship Space at 7:30 each night, with recorded background music by the Chancel Choir and Common Ground. Tickets are $20 and available to PURCHASE HERE

“My personal beliefs are more conservative than my character,” Street says. “But I’m fascinated by his mindset. I struggle to decide whether or not I agree, or if possible, to agree a little bit.”

He hopes you’ll come and decide for yourself. “It’s thought provoking,” he says, “and entertaining.”

From left: The Christians cast members Rich Nowell, Everette Street, Daniel Carter, Gloria Ware. Missing: Jennifer Latka.