By Sharon Mager
GLEN BURNIE, Md.—Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Md., has been wowing the community with yearly Christmas plays, mostly original, for over a quarter of a century. After finishing up this year’s packed out show, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, they’re taking it on the road—all the way to Westernport. The church will host a huge Christmas festival and then present the play at Bruce Outreach Center (BOC) on Dec. 16.
FBC has been partnering with BOC, regularly serving through mission trips for years, out of which has developed strong relationships.
“We have a deep connection and love for them,” Raymond Higgins, FBC’s worship/family care pastor, said. “Bruce Outreach Center overlooks the whole city and when they do something, the whole city responds,” he said. FBC will have a Christmas festival with music, inflatables, games, and pictures with Santa before the play, which Higgins said is a great outreach because it’s not “churchy.” Yet, it still gets the message across.
Higgins and his son Jeff, who serves as FBC’s worship/missions pastor, have written most of FBC’s plays over the past 26 years.
“We’ve always felt that storytelling is the best way to break down walls, especially if you can use comedy effectively. We try to do musicals that are not preachy, and that don’t feel like a cantata or a church musical. We’ve always tried to tell a story that has relatable characters and that people can be drawn in…that touches their own story,” Raymond said. Those types of musicals just weren’t available on the market, so they wrote their own, making sure they’d smoothly transition into the musical numbers.
“I went to a seminar awhile back, and the speaker said that of all of the entertainment industries, we (Christians) have the best story to tell, but oftentimes we do it the least effectively. There is a great need for good writing,” Raymond said.
“Jeff has a gift for quick dialogue. His plays have been exceptional. They’re far better than what you see packaged,” said Raymond.
The church is blessed with an orchestra that can assemble for the Christmas and Easter productions. Often students from Peabody and other community musicians are brought in to fill gaps. This year, because of the dinner theater venue, and space restrictions, they chose to use “canned” music. (Should you explain canned? Is it performance tracks?)
Asked what his favorites have been through the years, Raymond mentions “I’ll be Home for Christmas” set in World War II. Raymond said his father was a WWII veteran, so that was special.
“I like that era. People had a much simpler and much healthier ethic in terms of faith, work and life expectations,” he said, sharing the cast had fun dressing up in that era’s clothing, especially the ladies who wore the hats. That also was the “big band” era, and the orchestra and cast had a great time with the music and choreography.
The show, “Two from Galilee,” he said, was an effective musical for a first century Mary and Joseph story. “We always love things that are from the time of Christ.”
A particularly special play was “A Christmas Wreath,” Raymond recollected.
“Jeff, for years, wanted to do something like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ We found a way to do it as a dream sequence.” Raymond said the play goes from a happy Christmas Eve song to a church and a funeral, and it gets a bit heavy.
In the story, Raymond said, “a man’s wife had died on the way to see the birth of their grandchild, and he was angry, asking God, ‘Why?’ He was crying out to God— ‘Tell me why this happened!’” The man prayed, went to sleep, and in a dream, angels appear to encourage the man and help him understand a bit more. Raymond said the show lightened and included comedy.
“The story came out of my own experience of my wife, Jan, Jeff’s mother, dying. It made it more profound with the weight of the man crying out to God and not wanting to put out the wreath because it reminded him of his wife,” he added.
The church repeats some musicals, perhaps seven to eight years apart. They are all a huge hit, selling out within days. This year, the church changed the venue to a dinner theater and served hot meals, soft drinks and desserts. Prior to the show, Jeff emceed trivia games and Senior Pastor Tim Byer, who played Charlie Brown, tossed out prizes. “Snoopy” also circulated through the room, giving out candy canes.
Bruce Outreach Center Pastor Steffan Carr said, “We’re really excited; this is something we don’t get a whole lot of out this way.”
The church is always seeking ways to reach out to the town. “We’re trying to build a bridge to our community with the Gospel using entertainment and recreation,” he said.
“We are blessed to have friends and partners like Faith. They were instrumental in getting our auditorium ready for worship five years ago, and they were instrumental in getting our daycare center up and running this year. They are like family to us.”
FBC partners with BOC through the North American Mission Board’s Mission Service Corp program supporting Carr and his wife Leslie in their ministry at BOC.