Religion

Debate over afterlife puts church through hell in “The Christians”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clearly Presbyterians don’t believe in bad karma. Otherwise the pastors and board of the First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green would have thought thrice about hosting a production of “The Christians,” a drama about a church being ripped apart. The church lived up to its declaration on its sign outside as a welcoming congregation, and welcomed Broken Spectacle Productions into its sanctuary. Luke Hnath’s 2015 play “The Christians” is being presented Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. in the church’s sanctuary. Tickets at the door are $20 and $15 for students. Tickets in advance are $15. Visit brokenspectacle.com. That’s a fortuitous setting for the play. After a small choir (William Cagle, Beth Felerski, and Lorna Patterson) directed by pianist Connor Long has offered a couple hymns, the pastor, Paul (Jim Trumm) steps out and greets the congregation. Given the stage is a sanctuary a moment of confusion ensues – is this a service or a performance? Trumm’s Paul is a warm, reassuring figure, glib but not quite unctuous. He’s certainly proud of what he’s built. As he details in the opening lines of his sermon, he built this church from a handful of worshippers in a storefront into a congregation of thousands with a church that has a bookstore, coffee shop and parking lot big enough to get lost in. This Sunday is one of celebration, he tells the congregation, because the mortgage on the church has finally been paid off. And the Sunday is notable as well because he is announcing a dramatic change in theology – he no longer believes in hell. Paul arrived at this epiphany not on the road to Damascus, but in a bathroom in an Orlando hotel. At a conference he heard a missionary lament that a boy, who burned to death in the process of saving his younger sister, would not go to heaven because he was not a Christian, not saved. Paul says that is incompatible with a loving God. “We are no longer that kind…


Broken Spectacle troupe brings “The Christians” to First Presbyterian

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Broken Spectacle Productions has staged plays in a bar, a lounge that served as a hookah lounge, and an empty storefront with one electrical outlet. The troupe makes it work. The company is peripatetic by design. Making it work is part Broken Spectacle’s mission statement. As Jonathan Chambers, who launched the theater company in 2014 with his wife Sara Lipinski Chambers, explains “It’s always about the plays and the spaces.” “We identify projects we want to do, then find spaces that are suitable,” he said. Chambers said Sara Chambers is always ordering and reading new plays. Last summer they came across “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath. He read it and knew immediately it was a play they should produce. “It ticks a lot of our boxes for us. It’s a new play that’s dealing with issues we’re interested in.” “The Christians,” which is structured around a sermon, “treats the issue of faith and people of faith with integrity, so it’s not making fun of belief,” he said. “In some respects the play is an argument that’s very old. If God is all loving, how can he send people to hell?” Chambers said they also realized “this is not a bar show.” Broken Spectacle will stage “The Christians” at First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green, Thursday, Jan. 12 and Friday Jan 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets at the door are $20 and $15 for students. Tickets in advance are $15. Visit brokenspectacle.com. Knowing they wanted to stage the play set in a church in a church, they approached First Presbyterian. Chambers said they knew the church was a welcoming congregation, and its involvement in community projects such as Not In Our Town made it an attractive collaborator. Also First Presbyterian is the home congregation of cast members Jim and Libby Dachik, so they brokered the conversation with the pastors, Gary and Mary Jane Saunders. The response was enthusiastic, but the proposal had to be approved by others in the church as well. The main issue…


Community lifts voices in First Presbyterian “Messiah” sing-along

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The season’s first snowstorm couldn’t stop music lovers from gathering Sunday to sing-along to holiday music for the ages. A sing-along performance of G. F. Handel’s “Messiah” drew a few dozen to the First Presbyterian Church to listen and sing-along on the choruses. They were joined by the church’s chancel choir, soloists, organ and an 11-piece orchestra. Inside they all found the warmth of the festive atmosphere, and beloved strains of music. As musicologist Christopher Williams, who was singing in the choir, noted in his introductory remarks, “Messiah” is associated with both the Christmas and Easter season. That means its strains, especially the climatic “Hallelujah” chorus, are familiar both to listeners and to singers. The sing-along is intended to bring those two groups together in a spirit of harmony and in literal harmony. The Rev. Gary Saunders, the church’s co-pastor, said that the event fit well into the church’s belief in fostering community and creativity. Josh Wang, the church’s choir director, credited co-pastor Mary Jane Saunders with first suggesting the church stage the performance. She had attended such performances in the past and felt it would work in Bowling Green. Wang, in his first year in his position, was already contemplating a program for the Christmas season, and this fit the bill. “It’s so popular, really beloved music,” he said. So many people have sung it and having them sing the choruses “makes it a more meaningful experience for everyone.” Also, the sing-along makes the event more casual than the usual concert presentation. Not that the soloists, choir and orchestra were casual about preparation. “It was wonderful to be part of something this big,” said Nancy Hess, a member of choir. She enjoyed the challenge of preparing the music. “Obviously we strive for accuracy, and as good a performance as we can,” Wang said. The performance included almost all of the oratorio’s first section, and “The Trumpet Will Sound” and the “Hallelujah” chorus from the final section. Among the soloists was professional singer Diane…


‘Come to the Stable’ features hundreds of Nativities

(Submitted for ‘Come to the Stable’) New church construction is not halting Bowling Green Alliance’s annual display of Nativities, “Come to the Stable.” For the 16th year, hundreds of Nativities and creches from around the world will be on display Dec. 8-11 in the church’s current sanctuary. A new sanctuary and an all-purpose room are being built just to the west of its current site, and while that has limited parking by a few spaces, it did not stop planning of the Nativity show. The free event opens Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.  Guests have all day Dec. 9 (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and 10 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to see it before it concludes Dec. 11 from noon to 3 p.m. Bowling Green Alliance will hold two shorter worship services Dec. 11, at 9 and 10:30 a.m., because of limited space in the sanctuary. “Come to the Stable” also features free refreshments, live and recorded Christmas music, and drawings for Nativities.  Food items and donations to the BG Christian Food Pantry are welcomed. The church is handicapped accessible. “This event is our free gift to the community, and anyone from far and wide, to help remind us all what the season is truly about,” explained Sherrie Binkley of Perrysburg, who has been involved in the event since its founding.  “It’s like a labor of love that we are pleased to do this for the community.” She noted the ambiance of the votive candles, miniature white lights and Christmas music “has a calming effect and is an opportunity to push the ‘pause button’ on the fast paced, hectic hustle and bustle.” The Nativities range from the reverent to the whimsical, making the display ideal for all ages.  A Native American-themed crèche shows Baby Jesus as a papoose visited by hunters instead of shepherds, while an Amazon River-themed one shows Mary and Joseph with Jesus on a raft, accompanied by a monkey and turtle. Large groups planning to attend may wish to call the church ahead…


First United Methodist spreads the Gospel with rousing “Godspell”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News “Godspell” turns the good news into happy talk. The musical, directed by Janine Baughman, is on stage at the First United Methodist Church Thursday through Saturday. The 34th annual dinner theater is sold out, but there will be about 20 tickets for show and dessert only available each night. Tickets will be $15 at the door. This after dinner seating will be at 6:45 p.m. With a book by John-Michael Tebelak and most of the music by Stephen Schwartz, the musical’s take on the Gospel is very much in the spirit of  1971 when it was created, free-spirited, free-wheeling. The show opens with a gaggle of philosophers, each spouting fragments of their philosophy creating a cacophony of abstraction. As “Tower of Babble” proceeds, they each take turns climbing a tall ladder center stage. Then John the Baptist (Will Baughman) enters, carrying a water gun, skirting the audience as he approaches the stage. He sets about baptizing the cast who have now shed their personas as philosophers. Now they are just folks, wide-eyed and happy. Baughman brings a big goofy charm to John, and then to Judas. The last to arrive is Jesus (Michael Barlos). Barlos conveys a charisma that instantly captivates the crowd and the audience. He exudes a warmth and tolerance, like a favorite teacher. He loves the rambunctiousness of his disciples, but knows when to firmly but lovingly draw the line. The cast is a team of individuals. They all have their own way of smiling, and each gets a chance to shine in a song that reveals more personality. We feel we’re getting to know them. But it really is how they work together as a group that gives the production its lift. Other cast members are: Andrew Austin, Daniel Carder, Mara Connor, D. Ward Ensign, Courtney Gilliland, Cassie Greenlee, Garrett Leininger, Emily Popp, Tyler Strayer and Sherel White. There’s a palpable joy in their interplay as they act out parables. They even pull in audience members to help them. Throughout they…


Actor Frank Runyeon to present “Acts of Mercy” at St. Aloysius, Oct. 9-11

Submitted by St. ALOYSIUS PARISH St. Aloysius Parish, 150 S. Enterprise St., Bowling Green will present “Acts of Mercy” with veteran TV actor Frank Runyeon, Oct. 9 through 11 at 7 p.m. each night. “Acts of Mercy”presents, in dramatic performance over three nights, classic stories of our faith, highlighting the theme of God’s mercy, featuring selections from The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Luke, and The Letter of James. The performances are: “JOHN: Signs of Mercy,” Sunday, Oct 9, proclaims how God has shown mercy to mankind in the life of Jesus. Adults and school-aged children sit on the edge of their seats as the action unfolds in the darkness and candlelight… “LUKE: Stories of Mercy,” Monday, Oct. 10, enacts famous stories from Luke’s Travel Narrative (Chapters 9-19), interwoven with stories from Frank’s own life– to help us hear these parables as stories about our lives here and now. “JAMES: Works of Mercy,” Tuesday, Oct. 11, is set outside Caesarea in an early house-church filled with characters, after the stoning of Stephen. James calls the people in his church to become a People of Mercy who “do the Work of God,” and know the joy of living in God’s love. The mission concludes with a Conversation with the Actor. Frank reflects on our experience of God’s Word as drama these three nights, and discusses why oral performance is an appropriate way to hear God’s Word: as spoken by a Person who is present, addressing us personally, in love. Runyeon has received national acclaim for his work as a translator and performer of Biblical texts over the past 20 years. He has performed the Gospel for hundreds of thousands of people in virtually every state in America. He is probably still best known, however, for his many roles on television. He starred for seven years as Steve Andropoulos on “As the World Turns” opposite Meg Ryan, and for four years as Father Michael Donnelly on the Emmy-award-winning “Santa Barbara.” He also appeared opposite Emma Samms on “General Hospital” as playboy Simon Romero….


Presbyterians to dedicate church windows

(As submitted by First Presbyterian Church in BG) On October 2 at 2:00 p.m., First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green will hold a special service dedicating the newly restored stained glass windows.   The windows, created by the Henry Keck Glass Studio of Syracuse, NY, were installed in 1938, and have been restored by the Bigelow Glass Company of Findlay as the crowning piece of an all-church capital campaign in 2012.  The project took 20 months with a cost of $150,000, involving over 20,000 pieces of glass. The restoration will help anchor the role of the church as a historic religious and community center in downtown Bowling Green. Co-pastor Rev. Gary Saunders says, “We are a church deeply committed to our city and our downtown neighborhood.  It is our profound hope that the restored windows will be a gift to the entire Bowling Green community as the light shines through them to beautify our town.”  The city council has been invited, and the service will feature special remarks by Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards. The dedication ceremony will also be the debut of the book “A Bible in Glass” that describes the windows in detail and tells the history of their installation.  The layout of the book was done by Ethan Jordan, with the introduction by Marcy St. John and the text by co-pastor Rev. Mary Jane Saunders.  The books will be available for purchase following the service. Each of the twenty-four windows includes a scene from the life of Christ, a historical church symbol and a verse of scripture.  The twelve windows on the north side are now visible to the community from W. Wooster Street, following the demolition of the former Junior High School and the creation of a green space. These windows depict scenes from the life of Jesus, while the twelve on the south side are themed on his parables and miracles. The dedication service is designed as a community event, and all are welcome.  Guest soloist Diane Martin McEwen will offer a special musical piece.  Following…


Pastors Mary Jane and Gary Saunders honored for working to make BG better for everyone

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News On receiving the I Love BG Award with his wife, Pastor Mary Jane Saunders, Pastor Gary Saunders sounded what could have been the keynote for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s Mid-Year Meeting and Awards Program. “We’re better together,” he said. And that in one way or another was a message that came through in all the award presentations. Fitting for the award that she and her husband were receiving, Pastor Mary Jane Saunders said that when they first moved to Bowling Green to  assume the pulpit at First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, they “immediately fell in love with the community and wanted to become involved.” “We were called by a church dedicated to justice and inclusion,” she said.  “This church has been supportive, not just supportive but encouraging. It’s because of First Presbyterian that we’ve been able to be active.” Sheilah Crowley, last year’s I Love BG award winner, detailed that involvement in her introduction. They have been leaders in the BG Ministerial Association, the campaign to stop the repeal of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, Not In Our Town, the city’s Human Relations Commission, the interfaith breakfast and the Presbytery of Maumee Valley. Gary Saunders said that guiding “our life journey together” has been a belief that “diversity is an opportunity not a problem.” “To the extent we can grasp that and live it out, we can all step forward together,” he said. After the luncheon, held at Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids, Mary Jane Saunders said it was the people who made the couple fall in love with Bowling Green. “There are people who share a vision of wanting the community to be better for everybody, and they’re willing to work for it, not just talk about it.” Not In Our Town embodies that. “It’s a grassroots thing,” Gary Saunders said.  It bubbled up both on campus and in the community.  “It’s a vehicle to gather together and express what our best self is. That’s what Not In Our Town is…


Lisa Chavers taps into love of relationships for first book

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Lisa Chavers holds onto friendships. She’s still is in touch with her best friend for first grade. Her 87-year-old mother says that Chavers, who turns 57 on July 4th, I “the most relational” person she knows. That’s not just because Chavers keeps in touch with people, but also because she thinks deeply about those relationships, what sustains them and how they shift over time, and sometimes how to discard them. The retired Bowling Green State University administrator has put those thoughts into a book “The Rhythm of Relationships.” She’ll have a reception and book signing for the book Saturday, July 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. “Over time, relationships can develop their own rhythm, pace, cadence, and unique sound,” she writes early in the book, and through its spare 105 pages, she explores how this happens. It’s told through the lens of her own life, growing up in Cleveland, both in the city and often visiting extended family in rural Twinsburg. A major aspect of her life is being a devote Christian. That’s how she was raised. “I know what I am and what I was trained to be from youth, a God-fearing young lady,” she said. Her acceptance of Jesus Christ as her savior in 1978 is so crucial it is in the first sentence of her introduction. She cites the Bible. But, she said, the Bible is a book, the Lord is a living presence. Still as much as she draws sustenance from her faith, Chavers aims to enlighten those who don’t share it into the importance of relationships and how they change and how that change needs to be addressed. As much as the book is the work of a lifetime, she traces its origin though back to a class in mission work at her parish, the Covenant Church in Maumee. She wrote a paper on her experience in Jamaica. On the top, the teacher, whom Chavers held in high esteemed,…


Earth Week opens with Creation Care Celebration

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Creation Care Celebration, which marked the beginning of Earth Week activities in Bowling Green, focused on the possibilities. Honored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event’s sponsors, were those who were already making a difference locally, and statewide. The keynote speaker spoke about what churches could do to preserve the environment. And a series of workshops were offered on household options for taking action. Stumbling blocks were mentioned – the state’s renewable energy standards are on hold. But the two state legislators in attendance State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown, both Republicans said they were in favor of lifting the hold on them and letting them take effect. The keynote speaker Greg Hitzhusen of Ohio State University’s School of Environment & Natural Resources, spoke of a pastor in Idaho who took the initiative to put saving the environment at the center of his church’s mission. He discovered, Hitzhusen said, less resistance than he expected. Now 10 years later he’s experiencing fierce backlash to his efforts. “How do we overcome these obstacles?” Hitzhusen wondered. The speaker, who is involved in the Interfaith Light and Power movement, focused his talk on what works. “Build on your strengths,” he said. That means finding what expertise is within the congregation that can spearhead efforts. The United Church of Christ in Sylvania used the expertise of Al Compaan, a leading researcher in photovoltaics, to initiate a solar project. “Do what makes sense for your community,” he said. Even simple measure can help. Saving money on energy can help a church keep its doors open and support its other missions, he said. “When we learn about energy savings in our houses of worship,” he said, “we can learn to save energy in our households.” But he faced his own obstacles in pursuing his vocation of blending faith with environmentalism. Raised a Presbyterian, he had a beloved pastor warn him about the “blue demon.” The pastor was concerned that concentrating on environmental ministry would lead to…