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Pastor puts on cloak of Jesus

Bushman portrays Christ in annual Easter play

Bushman portrays Christ in annual Easter play

March 19, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Once a year, Shawn Bushman grows a beard.

This ritual has nothing to do with hunting deer and everything to do with sharing his Christian faith.

The associate pastor at Virginia Avenue Church of God, Bushman has taken a break from shaving right around the beginning of Lent for each of the past 10 years so he'll look the part when he portrays Jesus in "His Story," a play performed at the church each spring.

This year, the free public performances of the 90-minute play will be held at 7 p.m. on March 30, 31 and April 1 at the Hagerstown church. Doors open at 6 p.m.

"We have actually had to turn people away, so we suggest they come early," Bushman said. The church sanctuary seats 450 to 500 people and fills up fast for performances, he said.

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Bushman said he looks out over the audience when he is performing and doesn't recognize most of the people. "They have heard about it through word of mouth and they just come," he said.

Those interested in performing the parts in the play start signing up early in the year, with rehearsals twice a week beginning in early March.

Bushman said some cast members were first members of the audience who came to the performance and were moved to give their lives to God.

"Now, they are in the church as well as in the play," Bushman said.

The first year, the performance was quite small with just a few scenes. Each year, it has grown in commitment as well as scope.

Volunteers have made the scenery, platform extension and many of the costumes that are kept from year to year, stored in the church's drama room.

"At first, we rented some extra costumes and then later, we bought some Roman soldier costumes," Bushman said.

The play includes several speaking parts - Bushman's being the greatest number of lines. There is also prerecorded narration by Pastor A. Paul Harne, as well as a number of nonspeaking parts.

Each year, there are subtle changes in the costumes and the script. And, of course, each year a new baby gets to play the baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem.

"The second year, we had our first real baby as the baby Jesus," said Lisa Miller, who has directed "His Story" for seven years.

That "baby" is Carli Shank, 9, a performer in this year's play, Miller said.

Bushman, 37, began his full-time affiliation with the Virginia Avenue Church of God three years ago. Before that, he was a U.S. Marine, a correctional officer and a part-time pastor.

He and his wife have two children.

"I look forward to the play every year," Bushman said. "It's so very rewarding."

The Virginia Avenue Church of God has been at 17306 Virginia Ave. since 1995 in what used to be a grocery store, and later a sewing factory.

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