38 Injured in “Pentecost Pageant”

Written by Chris Brenna : June 13, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the first place winner in the satire category for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

Bismark, ND

Severe property damage and several emergency hospitalizations for variously acquired injuries were the sad result of a “Pentecost Pageant” held by Timber Creek Ridge Baptist Church just outside of Bismark, ND last weekend. After over ten years of successful Easter pageants both in audience size and subsequent boosts in attendance for the congregation’s Sunday services, Timber Creek Ridge Baptist Church, led by senior pastor Greg Danielson, had hoped this recent effort to “branch out” in the pageant genre would yield similar results.

Unfortunately, the pageant seemed doomed from the start, first when a depiction of the “tongues of fire” described in the biblical book of Acts ended in eight pageant participants engulfed in flames. Later, several purportedly drunk participants activated an industrial strength wind tunnel fan at a power level and speed that exceeded the manufacturer’s suggestion and aimed it at the audience. Danielson, who has pastored the church for almost twelve years, explained that the fan had been rented from a local company to simulate the “violent wind” also described in the book of Acts, but was remiss to discover that some of the pageant members had made a clear “interpretive error” by taking “they are full of sweet wine,” a phrase in the same chapter of the biblical book, in entirely the wrong way. Said audience member Barry Bedeau: “I’ve always enjoyed the Easter pageant; we come every year. I wasn’t in the rows effected by the fan, but I heard it blew them away!” Barry followed this comment with raucous laughter, followed by a look of obvious shame. Twenty-two people suffered crushed bones and other injuries from the fan activation.

This is not the first failed attempt for this local church at expanding the religious pageant format, as the “Left Behind” pageant two years ago attests. “We never even performed our ‘Book of Revelation’ pageant, not because of injuries but because it was too darn expensive,” says Danielson. “The costs alone were horrendous…you just don’t know how hard it is to try and fit a horse with a giant paper mache locust costume (not to mention having to dye it red later), but the real death knell for that project was when we asked Mary Dillard to play the ‘whore of Babylon.’ We figured since she smoked pot in college, she would really know how to play it, but she didn’t see it that way.” The church is still known in the Protestant circles of Bismark as the “blood bank,” after the pageant sub-committee’s ordered for one hundred blood capsules for that project was misread with “three more zeros after the one.”

Given this latest disaster, the church’s “pageant subcommittee” says it is hesitant to give the green light to new pageant ideas. “Before last weekend, we had all sorts of ideas for new pageants,” says Deb Torgerson, the pageant chairperson. “We even thought about doing a depiction of Elisha calling she-bears from the wilderness to maul the youth from 2 Kings, since Tammy’s uncle has that domesticated grizzly on his ranch, but now I just don’t know. It would help out our youth pastor with the respect issues he’s been dealing with, but with the luck we’ve been having lately, it’s not going to happen any time soon.” For now, Timber Creek Ridge Baptist intends to stick to their ever-popular Easter pageants. “We know how to perform those…it’s never any problem. Dan Hitchens looks almost exactly like Jim Caviezel, so he’s a shoe-in for Jesus,” says Danielson. “But, I guess now I know not to ask Mary Dillard to play Mary Magdalene…geez…”

Author Bio: Christopher Brenna is a graduate student in History of Christianity at Luther Seminary and holds a master of divinity from Bethel Seminary. He was a member of Missio Dei in the early years, but now lives in Rochester, MN.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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