Moreland Church Marks Milestone
The Moreland Baptist Church marked a milestone on Maundy Thursday when it presented its 25th dramatization of “The Last Supper.”
In addition to assigning cast members, an extensive crew is required to stage the event. Directing for the 21st year, it was J. Howard Langdon who’d seen the production elsewhere and suggested adding it to the church’s ministry. “After 25 years, the message is fresh and personal, the plan is to continue,” Langdon said.
Taken from Leonardo De Vinci’s portrait of “The Last Supper,” the stage setting is of an upper room where Jesus gathered the disciples for a Passover meal and announced one of them would soon betray Him.
One by one the disciples delivered a soliloquy while in the focus of a spotlight. They introduced themselves, spoke of their occupation and reminisced of how and when they’d become a follower of Christ. Each was perplexed by the Lord’s news of eminent betrayal and ended orations with the question, “Lord, is it I?”
More than fifty men have filled 13 cast spots over the years. Noting longtime performers during this silver anniversary were David Snyder, Harvey Stauffer, Jr., Gregory Houseknecht, David Shultz and Lynn Reece.
David Snyder was in the original production. “For 23-years, I’ve had the part of Thaddeus. My wife volunteered me thinking I’d make a great disciple and the rest is history,” he said.
Snyder shared comments heard over time, one being “People can’t believe we can stay still for an hour,” explaining when all stage lights are up the cast remains motionless. “People come from a wide area, when we see them repeatedly it’s encouraging,” he said.
Describing his character, Snyder said, “Thaddeus felt unworthy to be numbered among the apostles, but was happy to be one.”
Harvey Stauffer was also in the first production, spending 18-years as Philip the Galilean who became a follower after hearing John the Baptist preaching about Jesus and His future kingdom.
Noting the interim leading up to dramas Stauffer said, “We have good times at early practices but get serious as the date nears. Hopefully the message gets through to people, I recall feeling the audience’s reaction during the programs.”
Greg Houseknecht, a 14-year veteran, was Nathaniel for nine years before switching to the part of John, replacing former pastor Carl Harris. “John was a fisherman and brother of James the sons of Zebedee. He wrote the Gospel of John, was considered the beloved and part of Christ’s inner circle,” Houseknecht said. His feeling on staging the drama is, “It makes it personal.”
David Shultz is Thomas, labeled doubting Thomas, who vocally bemoans the fact his positive attributes go unrecognized. Thomas feels he’s not taken seriously by his fellow disciples. Being a 14-year member of the cast, Shultz said, “It’s been rewarding and fulfilling to be a part. People pack the house, some return while others are new. I hear gasps from the audience when stage lights go on.”
Lynn Reece, also in his 14th year, admitted to being invited to participate, and to the director he jokingly said, “If the part of Jesus ever becomes available, let me know.” And the next year, it did. “I believe it’s a good ministry. It follows Biblical lines and includes a history of De Vinci’s painting,” Reece said.
The central figure has no lines but at the conclusion, breaks bread and passes the cup as the group commemorates Passover.
Following the dramatization, Director Langdon read from a poem, its final sentence asks, “And bearing His own cross, He goes to die, Whose is the guilt, the everlasting shame, Or should we all cry out, Lord is it I?”