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Church draws children, adults with Lewis series Aaron Cross, Jul 23, 2010
By Aaron Cross United Methodist News Service
In our hearts and minds exists a place filled with magic, wonder and talking lions. But it’s not Narnia; it’s Texas. Who knew?
The folks at New World United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas, that’s who. Throughout May and June, C.S. Lewis fever, also known as “Narniosis,” captivated the entire church.
Led by the Rev. Michael Dawson, New World dedicated those months to sermons, Bible studies and Sunday school activities focusing on C.S. Lewis. They also performed a two-week run of the play Shadowlands by William Nicholson, which deals with some of the interesting aspects of Lewis’ life.
Why C.S. Lewis? After all, when one thinks of the United Methodist Church, the images that come to mind are more likely to be grape juice and John Wesley than fantasy and talking animals. The pastor must be a big fan.
“I’m not a big fan of C.S. Lewis; I prefer Bonhoeffer,” Mr. Dawson said.
OK, there’s goes that theory.
“However, Lewis is popular with the masses, thanks to the movie Shadowlands and the Narnia books and films,” he said. “This was something I wanted to do when the first Narnia film came out. I thought the Shadowlands play would draw people from outside the church. In addition, I wanted to preach a series of sermons on ideas raised by Lewis in his books.”
A sermon based on the existence of wardrobes that lead to a world where lions talk to you rather than attack your car? Well, not exactly. “The overall message would be that God is always with us—in our questions and in our sufferings—and that we can ‘give an accounting for the hope that is within us.’ Lewis’ life and teachings provide a modern example of that,” Mr. Dawson said.
The play, cast almost entirely with professional community actors, complemented the sermons, according to New World children’s ministry director Kim George.
“Shadowlands,” Ms. George said, “deals with the struggle of suffering. When people suffer, oftentimes we ask, ‘Why?’ This play seeks to explore that question and to see how we can stay strong in the face of suffering.”
Ms. George incorporated the first Narnia book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, into the children’s Sunday school program. The six-week series followed the journey of the children going into Narnia and ended with the closing battle.
“This was a combination of stories about the children, along with activities and games to re-emphasize the lessons. We also did some talk-backs with the kids with prayer time to see what they had learned,” Ms. George said. “The children really seemed to enjoy the series and got a lot out of it, even those who had not actually seen the movie beforehand.”
The children’s program was supposed to incorporate the giant wardrobe used in the Shadowlands production, but someone forgot to notify the set builder.
“It ended up being too tall for our Sunday school room,” Ms. George said. “Instead, we used a tall light as a [Narnian] lamppost. It worked rather well to set our scene, and the children got to go see the wardrobe.”
Mr. Cross is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.