Before the fan-created flames of hell were set in place, before the combined screams of 75 would-be demons were recorded, before the ambulances and coffins were brought in, the story had power.
Indeed, at one of the early discussions of the drama unfolding at New Haven Baptist Church this week, several members of the cast and crew were so touched by the story that they embraced salvation through Jesus Christ.
The story, "Resurrection Morn," depicts "what he did for us today" through the story of "what he did 2,000 years ago," said Robert Schrader, organizer of the walk-through drama that will be offered at the East Brainerd church Wednesday through Saturday, March 31.
The walk-through is similar to judgment houses sometimes mounted by churches around Halloween.
But Schrader said the New Haven youth group members, who visited one of the Halloween alternatives on Sand Mountain last fall, were "so excited, they didn't want to wait so long" to do their own. And what better time, the group decided, than "surrounding the Easter story."
The script was written by church member Velda Wallace, who had written previous dramas for the congregation.
The scenario finds two members of a church youth group, which had been rehearsing for an Easter drama, facing different fates following their sudden deaths in a car accident. One, who has accepted Christ, enters heaven; the other, who did not take his faith seriously, enters hell.
To illustrate various scenes in the drama, the church will utilize members who are police officers and emergency medical technicians as well as an ambulance, police car and wrecked cars.
Schrader said the drama is not the typical passion play often offered by churches at Easter but rather a presentation that asks, "What will you do with Christ?"
It tells the story, he said, "of how our life and even death will be impacted by our choice to believe in him or not. Whether we do anything with Christ or not does not change what Christ did for us."
Ethan Harris, 15, said he portrays a witness for Christ in the walk-through.
Although he said it's easier "to [witness] this way, because it's all scripted," he's still comfortable witnessing on his own.
Wallace said her primary focus in writing the play was the presentation of "the Gospel of Jesus." She wanted to use simple language so "someone who's never heard [a Gospel presentation] could understand it."
Schrader said he hopes "Resurrection Morn" will draw people to the church who might not come otherwise.
He said attendees, at the end of the walk-through, will be ushered through a room where they can ask questions about salvation, issues in their life or scenes they may have seen, but will be under "no kind of pressure."
"We want this to be what the church was designed to be -- a place of solace," Schrader said.
Free "Resurrection Morn" tours will be offered every 20 minutes between 6:30 and 10 p.m. Tours are 40 to 45 minutes long and extend across the church's campus.
Schrader said members of New Haven Baptist's teen ministry have been the driving force behind the project, which involves around 75 people in rotating casts and crew.
While manned by teens, the drama is "not [specifically] geared toward teens," Schrader said.
"Our No. 1 focus is for people to hear the Gospel," he said. "We want them to go away with their assurance of salvation. We want them to know where they will be going."
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...