Members of a Covington Theological Seminary class recently put feet to a classroom lesson by performing a biblical drama written by their professor.
Nearly a dozen members of a fall-semester black theology class at the seminary's Southeast Tennessee extension campus performed "The Three BMWs" at New Monumental Baptist Church.
Based on a saga in the eighth chapter of Acts, it was written by the Rev. Victor J. Caldwell, 80, pastor emeritus of New Monumental Baptist, and has nothing to do with an automobile made by Bavarian Motor Works.
Instead, it deals with a powerful eunuch in charge of the Ethiopian treasury who went to Jerusalem to worship as a Jew. There, he encountered Philip, who converted him to be a believer in Jesus Christ and an advocate for the Christian faith.
"[The eunuch] was a BMW, a black man working," said Caldwell. "He wanted to be a BMW, a black man worshiping. He went back [from Jerusalem] as a BMW, a black man witnessing."
The reference, said the pastor, came from the joke about the black woman who wanted to get married. Asked what she desired in a husband, she replied that she wanted a BMW -- a black man working.
The lesson of the play, said Caldwell, who had initially preached about it when he was pastor at New Monumental Baptist, is that "when you meet Christ, you want to share him with others."
"The Three BMWs" is the longtime pastor's 23rd play. He said the medium has proven the right one for him.
"You just get inspired," he said.
Although only four members of the cast had acting experience, they all took to the play with gusto, not only because it was part of their semester grade but because it was a new experience.
The group included four pastors and many others who minister in some way at their churches. All are working on bachelor's or master's degrees or doctorates at the seminary, which is in the Jones-Spence Resource Center on Beech Street.
Michael Bennette, an associate minister at New Monumental and assistant to the dean of the Covington Seminary branch, said a drama can provide a lasting impression of a biblical story.
"Once you look at it as the persons act it out," he said, "as you read [the same story in] the Bible, you have a better grasp of what's going on."
The Rev. Bethel Hendricks and the Rev. Mary Baker Hendricks, husband and wife pastors of area Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, will be graduating from Covenant Seminary with their doctorates later this year.
"Since we preach it," Mrs. Hendricks said, "[the play] just reinforces what we [say]."
Mr. Hendricks said the play is also important because it focuses on a black subject, the eunuch, and also brings in another black character, Simon of Cyrene, the man who helped Jesus carry his cross to Golgotha, where he was crucified.
Black biblical characters, he said, are not widely known, and the play offers that added exposure.
Several cast members said the new experience was valuable in itself.
"It's a great opportunity to learn how to act," said Charles Payne, "and to have oneness with the group."
He said it's also an opportunity to show off what the class has learned and what Covington has produced.
"It's exciting to entertain the audience," said Raymond Moore, pastor of New St. Mary Primitive Baptist Church.