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For the past five years, Lighthouse Community Baptist Church has celebrated Easter with a traditional play portraying typical Easter scenes like the Last Supper. This year, Lori Jones, wife of Pastor Ray Jones, has organized something new.
The church will celebrate Easter with an adaptation of the medieval morality tale "Everyman." Performances of the play will be held 7 p.m. on Holy Thursday, April 17 and Good Friday, April 18 at the church on Pequot Trail in Pawcatuck. The event is free and open to the public.
In the play, Everyman leads a charmed life. But his bright future is suddenly put on hold when he receives an unexpected diagnosis. Faced with his own mortality, Everyman begins to search for the meaning of his life while dealing with unresolved issues from his past and the uncertainty of his future.
The new play allows the church to not only showcase the talent of younger members of its congregation, but also to appeal to a wider audience with a contemporary story and themes, according to Ray Jones.
"We have all these teens in our church (who) are very talented and gifted in the arts," Jones said. "We wanted to do something different this year to involve our young people and show that we have a message that speaks to them as well."
Adapting the original play to suit a modern audience was a collaboration between the pastor, his wife and Chris Salaun, a friend from when the three attended North Stonington Christian Academy together.
In developing the original story, Salaun and the Joneses wanted to bring Biblical connections to the complications of modern life.
"One of the themes (of the play) is silence," said Salaun. "Our phones and our TVs drown that silence out, and that's sort of where God waits. At the beginning, Everyman is terrified of this silence. He immediately distracts himself. At the end of the play, he's able to embrace this silence."
The habits of distraction are familiar to members of the church's congregation, particularly the younger set, said Lori Jones.
"There's so much noise in our lives all the time," she said. "We're constantly filling our lives up with noise. So if there is a voice trying to get our attention its hard to hear in this (commotion) that we've created around ourselves."
The play will feature 10 high school and middle school students from Stonington, North Stonington, Ledyard, New London and Westerly. Students who might otherwise have been spending time with digital distractions have instead spent the past few months rehearsing together.
"They're really spending so much time together working on this thing," said Ray Jones. "It's an opportunity for everybody to utilize their gifts and talents through the Lord but also for the community. It's an opportunity to develop their talents."
The play also lets Lori Jones express and develop her talents, said Ray Jones.
"This just became an artistic outlet for her," he said.
The daughter of a pastor, Lori Jones has been involved with churches all her life. This is the third year that she has helped to create an original play for Lighthouse Baptist Church's Easter celebration.
"She has worked really hard with her church to incorporate the arts with her church as much as possible," said Salaun, who first became friends with Jones through the theater program at their high school. "She has really stretched her wings; I see her as being such a confident leader now."
In creating the play, Jones said that as much as she wanted to convey themes of Easter, she wanted to entertain the audience without being too sermonizing.
"It's not a preachy kind of play at all. It's subtle," said Jones, who hopes people will leave with questions that will make them think about their own beliefs. "It is extremely symbolic. It's not meant to be taken literally."
Jones hopes that a play that forces people to think will also encourage them ask questions, especially the younger audience and actors who Jones said are at an age when asking questions can be difficult but important.
"In past generations we were constantly told not to ask, not to doubt. But we have doubts and there are really hard things about the Bible and in Christian history," she said. "There are really difficult things about our religion to work through and you can't be afraid when kids ask the hard questions."