In die Skriflig
On-line version ISSN 1018-6441
BRANCH, R.G.. He is risen! A play based on Acts 1:1-12. In Skriflig (Online) [online]. 2010, vol.44, n.1, pp. 229-258. ISSN 1018-6441.
This play was written in response to a request to conduct a worship service2 on Ascension Day, 21 May 2009, a Thursday, forprimary school children, ages six to thirteen, from the Potchefstroom Christian School, an English-speaking school in Potchefstroom.3 The worship service was part of an outreach of Potchefstroom North congregation, a member of the GKSA (Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika), to two local schools.4 An hour earlier on the same day, children from an Afrikaans-speaking school heard a sermon by Prof. Ben de Klerk. This article is dedicated to Professor De Klerk with thanks for his service to the Lord. Truly, his life exemplifies joy and honour. According to Wheeler (1997: the inside of the front cover), characteristics of the audience, ages 6-13, are as follows: A six year old can understand the concepts of space, time, and the material world. Children ages 7-11 begin to develop an awareness of logical necessities; they can appreciate a symbolic knowledge that allows for generalisation. Children ages ten and up can form hypotheses, make assumptions, and draw conclusions. Furthermore, elementary school children are able to remember facts, know the sequence of events, and discover meaning in both (Stonehouse, 1998:162). The author of the play spent two and a half years (July 2002-December 2004) with the Faculty of Theology at the North-West University in Potchefstroom - first on a Fulbright Fellowship and then as an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Theology for a finite term of 18 months. She was back for a visit doing research with her former colleagues when the invitation came to conduct the service for Potchefstroom Christian School on 21 May.5 During announcements at a chapel service for theology students and faculty earlier in May, she asked for "six strong, broad, energetic, excited, and very handsome men" to be disciples in her new play for children.6 Young men responded and rehearsals commenced. As I wrote the Acts play, I kept in mind insights and definitions that Quash (2005:3-4) gives: "Drama displays human actions and temporal events in specific contexts. Theodramatics concerns itself with human actions (people), temporal events (time), and their specific contexts (place) in relation to God's purpose" (italics - Quash). McNabb and Mabry (1990:22) stress that the Bible is an understandable book for children; the job of a teacher is to present it as understandable and timeless. They add that Bible stories are open to interpretation and contain various levels of truth. "There is often more than one valid way of looking at a particular passage." (McNabb & Mabry, 1990:23.) Drama offers one such way. The play was well received by the children.7 It kept their attention because it was fast-moving and fun.8 They learned a bit about the book of Acts and its opening story, the ascension, in a manner faithful to the Biblical text and yet one that creatively9 incorporated contemporary elements.10 Some teachers, however, hesitate to use drama. Reasons given are that it's a waste of time and control of a classroom may be in jeopardy. But Clark et al. (1986:545) say that those who refuse to use drama and plays in which a child participates as an actor or viewer display a lack of trust in their young charges and in themselves. Over the centuries the Christian church has developed many different orders of worship. However, according to Long (2001:47-48) who stresses its public and liturgical aspects, any order can be considered a good avenue of worship if "worship is an acted-out story, a piece of community theater". The positive feedback indicated the play's success. The play's dialogue is upbeat, short, and kept its audience - children - in mind. Similarly, Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt decided to write his memoir, Angela's Ashes, like a child. "Children are almost deadly in their detachment from the world," he commented. "They tell the truth, and somehow that lodged in my subconscious when I started writing the book." (McCourt quoted in Grossman, 2009:21.) Similarly, this Acts play was written with a detachment from the text and with children in mind. It contains short sentences, active verbs, questions, exclamations, rowdiness, wonder, and a sense of live action. Why is it fun? The Bible contains lots of adventure stories, many of them in the book of Acts. In the story that this play depicts, the disciples saw something amazing: Jesus whom they had seen die was now alive and was rising into heaven. They greeted these miracles with wonder and joy. Truly, the ascension of Jesus set them off on the adventure of their lives.
Keywords : Ascension; child evangelism; Risen Christ; disciples; drama; Holy Spirit; drama; Heilige Gees; Hemelvaart; kinderevangelisasie.