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Church rents out theater, connects Advent series to 'Narnia' books

Church rents out theater, connects Advent series to 'Narnia' books

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church rents out theater, connects Advent series to 'Narnia' books

Dec. 23, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0418}

An e-Review Feature
By John De Marco**

While most churches have encouraged worshipers to check out the blockbuster film version of C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia," First United Methodist Church of Ormond Beach has brought them inside the Wardrobe. Literally.

Lewis' series of "Narnia" books has been a classic for decades, touching the hearts and minds of children and adults both within and beyond the walls of Christianity. The new movie is based on "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," the first book in the series.

ORMOND BEACH — First United Methodist Church is transformed into the wardrobe of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Members of the church built at wardrobe that was attached to the entrance of the sanctuary. The lampost featured in the story can be seen throuh the wardrobe doors. Photo by the Rev. Jay Therell, Photo #05-290.

The church's worship arts team brainstormed how to connect an Advent series with the recent premier of the Walt Disney production. That gave birth to the homemade construction of a large wardrobe, lamppost and other movie-related scenery within the church's sanctuary. The "sets" have been installed throughout the entire Advent series, titled "What If There Were No Christmas?"

The church also rented out two showings of the film Dec. 11 for the community in a local movie theater. Nearly 550 people attended, many from Ormond Beach elementary schools. Teachers had helped pass the word about the opportunity to parents and students.

The church distributed a 10,000-piece mailer to promote the Advent series, and on Christmas Eve, everyone attending the church's worship services will receive a free copy of the new book "Knowing Aslan," which draws connections between Aslan the lion, the central character in the book, and Jesus Christ. The church ordered 1,200 copies.

"We've turned the front doors of our sanctuary into the wardrobe, so people must pass through them to get into the sanctuary," said the Rev. Jay Therell, associate pastor of the church. He was partially inspired by an Orlando pastors' gathering that discussed ideas for using the new film as an outreach tool.
"Inside, there is a lamppost next to the Chrismon tree with a snowy vignette. All ages in the church are studying the book: children, youth and adults. It's been fun for me because I love the books,"  he said.

Therell said those who attended the free movie were extremely appreciative when the film was over and added, "The movie was awesome. I was very pleased that it stayed as close to the book as it did."

The Rev. Annette Pendergrass, senior pastor of the church, said the youth in her Bible study who saw the movie were very impressed. "They made all sorts of connections, right down to the presence of the two little girls who watched as Aslan was sacrificed and were there when he came back to life."

Pendergrass said that connection relates to the women watching as Jesus died on the cross and who were the first at the tomb Easter morning. 

"As I left the movie theater that day, I could hear the children and youth around me discussing the movie and how when Aslan died and came back to life it was just like Jesus dying on the cross and then rising again. They clearly got it," she said.

Pendergrass said the group also discussed the world's assumptions about victory and power in life, compared to the way Jesus and Aslan modeled them "from a place of self-giving vulnerability."

The church gave people attending the movie a handout inviting them to worship at the church Christmas Eve. Members also received large postcards each Sunday in Advent that they could give to friends and family as invitations to Christmas Eve services. 

The Narnia focus also caught the attention of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, which wrote an article titled "The Lion, the Witch and the Methodists."

"To my knowledge, we're the only church in the community that's doing this," Therell said. "We've had a lot of new faces show up during Advent. It's been good."


This article relates to Media and Christian Themes.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.