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In die Skriflig

On-line version ISSN 2305-0853
Print version ISSN 1018-6441

In Skriflig (Online) vol.44 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2010




He is risen! A play based on Acts 1:1-121


Hy het opgestaan! 'n Drama gebaseer op handelinge 1:1-12



R.G. Branch

School of Biblical Sciences, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West Universit, POTCHEFSTROOM. E-mail:




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.

Key concepts: Ascension, child evangelism, Risen Christ, disciples, drama, Holy Spirit


Hierdie drama is geskryf as uitvoering van 'n versoek om 'n aanbiddingsdiens op Hemelvaartdag, 21 Mei 2009, 'n Donderdag, te hou vir laerskoolkinders tussen die ouderdomme van ses tot dertien jaar, van die Potchefstroom Christenskool - 'n Engelse skool in Potchefstroom. Die aanbiddingsdiens was deel van 'n uitreik van die Gereformeerde Kerk Potchefstroom-Noord, 'n lid van die GKSA (Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika), na twee plaaslike skole. 'n Uur vantevore, op dieselfde dag, het kinders van 'n Afrikaanse skool na 'n diens deur prof. Ben de Klerk geluister. Hierdie artikel word met dankbaarheid aan prof. De Klerk opgedra vir sy diens aan God. Sy lewe getuig werklik van vreugde en eer. Die outeur van hierdie drama het twee-en-'n-half jaar(Julie 2002-Desember 2004) by die Teologiese Fakulteit op die Potchefstroomkampus van die Noordwes-Universiteit deurgebring - aanvanklik met 'n Fulbrightbeurs en later as a gasprofessor van die Teologiese Fakulteit, vir 'n tydperk van agtien maande. Sy was op 'n navorsingsbesoek by haar vorige kollegas toe die uitnodiging gekom het om die diens vir die Potchefstroomse Christenskool op 21 Mei te hanteer. Tydens aankondigings by 'n kapeldiens vir die teologiestudente en Fakulteit vroeër in Mei, het sy n versoek gerig vir "ses sterk, groot, energieke, opgewonde en baie aantreklike manne" om dissipels in haar nuwe drama vir kinders te wees. Die drama is goed deur die kinders ontvang. Dit het deurgaans hulle aandag behou aangesien die verloop vinnig en prettig was. Hulle het iets oor die boek Handelinge en die openingsverhaal geleer, asook oor die Hemelvaart - op n manier wat getrou aan die Bybelse teks is, maartog kontemporêre elemente kreatief inkorporeer. 1. What did I know of the children's background? I knew the children were black South Africans, English speakers, and that their teachers were primarily white women. The children arrived in an orderly way, and I complimented them on their good manners in my opening remarks. 2. What signs of openness to the gospel are seen? I knew the children knew Christian songs and would sing them as part of the service. Anderson adds something that guided my writing and study. To be sure, the Bible is the record and the witness of events that climax the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian, Anderson (2006:11) maintains, "is to understand one's existence in this dramatic context".

Kernbegrippe: OpgestaneChristus, dissipels, drama, Heilige Gee, Hemelvaart, kinderevangelisasie



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List of references

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1 You are welcome to present this play. Please let the author, Robin Gallaher Branch, henceforth referred to in this article as I, know you are doing it. Please give any proceeds to Potchefstroom North Church (GKSA) in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and stipulate that is is for evangelism purposes.
2 Worship is essentially a public, corporate, and dramatic event. Long (2001:43) defines it as follows: a service allows "the drama already present in worship to be brought to the surface and to be more deeply experienced" (italics - Long). This Acts play clearly makes use of the already present drama in Scripture. Von Balthasar (1988:25) adds the insight that drama illuminates Christian theology.
3 The elementary school child by nature is an explorer; a propensity toward adventure naturally readies a child to move on toward new horizons and accept new ways of doing things (Fritz, 1964:145). The Acts play offered children a chance to explore the meaning of their faith with their peers and to see the Scriptures presented in an interactive, noisy, exuberant way (Fritz, 1964:145).
4 The play was an appropriate resource for a worship service because it was a familiar resource and communicated in a way familiar to children. Children are familiar with television news. This effort at familiarity emphasises a chord in child evangelism: a child must feel he belongs; this "belongingness" will then lead a child into new areas of learning (Fritz, 1964:147).
5 Not all experiences in church are equally educative for all age groups of people in a congregation. In other words, a monologue sermon, the regular means of conveying the Biblical message in Protestant circles, may not work for all age groups all the time. There can be positive and negative aspects to public, corporate worship and drama (Brown, 2008:178). The Acts play attempted to create an experience for the children on which they could later fruitfully and creatively reflect (McNabb & Mabry, 1990:51).
6 Research shows that dramatisation helps a child to learn a story and get inside another person (Clark et al., 1986:544). Dramatisation, especially one in which a child participates, helps a child to understand his/her reactions to something and the reactions of other people, too (Clark et al., 1986:544).
7 Perhaps a reason for the play's good reception and the fact that the children left smiling is because it was easily understood. Many children shyly shook my hand; their teachers hugged me as they said their thanks. One theology student in the audience sat crying because he said he saw how the play reached the children.
8 In teaching children, it is important to stress that the Bible is not only a positive book but also a lot of fun (McNabb & Mabry, 1990:21). McNabb and Mabry (1990:21) add that most kids see the Bible as a book of rules to keep them from having fun; but the Bible is not only Good Advice but also Good News!
9 Creativity must have its place in Sunday School and in larger church settings. Creativity is a gift given by God to all in some measure, not just to a few. I believe it is a sin to neglect God's gift. A good working definition of creativity is that it combines something old with something new and the product is something different (Clark et al., 1986:545). Above all, creativity allows one to look at something old like the Biblical text with new eyes and present a wonderful, timeless truth in a new and appropriate way.
10 The children and their teachers expected that a Christian message would be presented. Aldrich (1993:192) lists seven guidelines with subsets about gearing a message of evangelism to an unsaved person; some of his guidelines apply to a group and to children. I considered the following in writing the play:
1. What did I know of the children’s background? I knew the children were black South Africans, English speakers, and that their teachers were primarily white women. The children arrived in an orderly way, and I complimented them on their good manners in my opening remarks.
2. What signs of openness to the gospel are seen? I knew the children knew Christian songs and would sing them as part of the service.
Anderson adds something that guided my writing and study. To be sure, the Bible is the record and the witness of events that climax the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian, Anderson (2006:11) maintains, “is to understand one’s existence in this dramatic context”.

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