By Jessica Brodie
BEAUFORT—One couple is sharing the word of God with the world every Friday and Saturday night through a free first-rate live theater performance, and it’s changing hearts and lives for Christ.
Alan Lathan, the music director at Carteret Street United Methodist Church, and his wife, Hillary, rent space at the historic, now-closed Grace Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Charles Street every weekend, where all are welcome to come watch a fast-paced, movement-oriented musical performance taking the audience from prophesy to the resurrection.
“We go from Christmas to Easter every weekend,” Alan Lathan said. “Our whole thing is we’re teaching the love of Christ and that He’s the answer.”
The show is a one-actor show with Alan, a longtime professional actor, bringing seven biblical characters to life. The chapel is decorated to look like a biblical garden, complete with palm trees. Each character is “a soliloquy and a song,” as Alan said, and each sings a song appropriate to their character.
It begins with David and then onto the angel Gabriel on enunciation; the healed leper who came back to give his thanks; Lazarus who recounts his side of the being brought back to life by Jesus; the angel at the tomb for the resurrection; the Apostle Peter; and finishes with modern man, who synopsizes what we have seen and brings the audience to how the Gospel applies to today.
It is all accomplished in one hour with full costuming, and the music varies from classical and contemporary to soft rock and reggae. Hillary plays all the music.
“We are compelled to do it,” Alan said. “It’s something we actually talked about: Are we really willing to do this every single Friday and Saturday? And we said yes—we have to do this. The world needs this right now. They need this positive Christian message, and He is the only answer.
“There is just too much garbage going on out there.”
Compelled to do this
Alan, an actor and singer for most of his life, and Hillary, a musician as well as a writer director and producer, have been married 22 years and have entertained and done church music for most of their relationship.
One day three years ago, Alan was reflecting on how acting had brought to life an especially difficult script, and the couple had an epiphany—what if they were able to bring the Gospel to life through a multi layered, one-actor performance?
Hillary had seen her husband perform the character Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” many times, and it hit her that there was some of Scrooge’s redemption woven throughout the Bible, such as when the leper was healed.
“I just started writing,” Hillary said. “I was compelled! I couldn't put my computer down, had my Bible by my side; I could hardly keep up with it.”
Alan said she wrote one character a day. Hillary said she felt like God just poured the script through her.
“She was writing nonstop, barely breaking to eat or sleep, and in seven days it was on paper. It was like she was transcribing it, like she was being fed and transcribing it onto the computer screen,” he said.
When she was done, there were seven characters—entirely unplanned, though she said, “I realized after, oh! The spiritual number is seven.”
That was three years ago. Since then, the Lathans put together the full performance, then spent a year or two touring churches all over North and South Carolina, bringing the message wherever they could.
When they found out Grace AME wasn't using their building for worship, an idea struck. They have been using Grace’s space since July 1 and plan to keep going as long as they can. If Alan has his way, that will be forever. It is time-consuming, costly and hard work, but it is fulfilling in a way neither has ever before experienced.
“We cannot not do it,” Hillary said. “It’s like the greatest calling I’ve personally had on my life and the most important work I have done, a culmination of all my years in the arts.”
‘An honor to share the Gospel’
Carteret Street UMC has been “super supportive,” Alan said, with members volunteering weekly as ushers.
The couple says it has been a blessing to have the opportunity to spread God’s love week after week in this way.
“It’s an honor to be able to share the Gospel every weekend with people, some of whom may not go to church,” Hillary said. “Maybe they've been hurt by a church before, but they’ll go see a drama. And then they can see its people that may have hurt them but not Jesus.”
They have found that people are responding to the Gospel message throughout the performance and are coming back to Christ.
“This is the biggest thing for me,” Hillary said.
No reservations are needed, admission is always free and large groups and children are welcome. The Lathans can also arrange for a private viewing or bring the show to a church that cannot travel. Donations are accepted.
Grace AME Chapel is located at 502 Charles St., Beaufort. Show times are 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. To reach out to the Lathans directly, email [email protected], or visit their website at www.musicofforever.org.
By Jessica Brodie