As part of their Eastertide season, Millville United Methodist Church is inviting the community to witness a dramatization of the Last Supper.
“Millville United Methodist Church has been sitting on that corner now for 109 years. Isn’t that amazing? And, for some reason, years and years ago, it was labeled ‘the lighthouse on the corner.’ And we do our best to keep that going,” said Marianne Smith, who directs the Living Last Supper.
The Living Last Supper will be presented at MUMC on Wednesday, March 23, and Thursday, March 24, at 7 p.m.
Smith said that, over the last few Easters, the church has alternated between the Living Last Supper and a play about the 12 female disciples.
“I don’t know how many people could actually tell you how many disciples died an actual death. Or how many were actually martyred or how they were martyred, you know? That’s something they will learn. I don’t think people realize what these men actually gave up, what they walked away from, and they will learn that. It’s informative, it’s stimulating and it’s shocking in some cases. But it’s all necessary to know.”
Smith said the play is drawn from Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper at Santa Maria della Grazie.”
“He picked the moment to paint when Jesus said to all of the disciples, ‘One of you will betray me.’ The hands, the expression of the hands and the faces, is phenomenal. And that’s what we bring to the table,” she said. “In fact, the painting is called ‘The Expression of Hands’ because the hands are so important.
“For Jesus to be betrayed by one of his own 12 is a phenomenal thing. So you can imagine the guilt on Jesus’ face and the shock and dismay and disbelief on others. Then, poor Peter, with his sword ready to kill whoever it is… It’s wild, you know. Everyone reacts so differently.”
Smith said the men who portray the disciples in the Living Last Supper are all members of the congregation who volunteer their time and talent.
“They’re wonderful men. Not only are they doing the play, they’re building the set! It’s wonderful! We’re a very close-knit, very loving, giving, caring church. They knew, when I said I want to do this, they knew I needed 12 men. It’s great. We have a lot of fun.”
MUMC pastor the Rev. Brad Schutt will also be in the Living Last Supper, representing Jesus.
“And he does not speak. No one could really speak for Jesus — you know what I mean? So the narrator speaks. [Schutt] gives communion to the 12 at the Last Supper, and he will give communion at the railing to everyone in the congregation who wants to receive,” said Smith.
“Of course, everyone is welcome to the table. It doesn’t matter what church you go to. Everyone is welcome at the table. There will be music as well — hymns. We’re to have them up on the board so they can join in and feel a part of it. It isn’t like they’re just going to sit there. You’re going to get information, get communion and be a part of it.”
The program runs about an hour and is being offered on both Wednesday and Thursday nights to reach as many people as possible.
“Many other churches have their own services Thursday. This way, everyone has the opportunity to come,” she said, adding that the program has been well-received over the years. “Standing-room only. We had to turn people away at the door. And the people who have seen it before can’t wait to come back and see it again.”
Smith said the script was written by a few ministers, and the church purchased the rights to perform it for the public.
“I just love it so much; it’s a beautiful play. It’s so touching. As many times as I hear it, and as many times as I follow the notes and direct, I learned something new. And the narrator says the exact same thing. The narrator and I both feel that we learn something every single rehearsal. It’s amazing,” she said. “If you’ve seen it once, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it again, because we learn something new every rehearsal.”
Smith said she first brought the play to MUMC after the pastor at the time asked the congregation to use their talents for the Lord.
“Well, I couldn’t think of any talent that I had that I could actually share, other than making for people in that kind of thing. The only other thing I could think of was my mother was an English major — I’ve been in many plays, I’ve been with theater groups. I thought maybe, just maybe, that was something that I could do,” she recalled. “I started out with the women first, and it went over so well that we got this play.”
As for the performances next week, Smith said she hopes the community will be moved to attend and learn what Easter is really about.
“The only thing we really hope for is that someone learns something more than they knew before about the Lord, about the time of Jesus. And if they’re touched, if they want to come to the Lord, we will have someone there to help them at the altar. If they want to give their life to Christ at that moment, we’re ready,” said Smith. “I think the most important thing is that we touch their hearts, and that we bring the true meaning of Easter home to them. That’s our biggest desire.”
Millville United Methodist Church is located at 36405 Clubhouse Road, at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Club House Road in Millville. For more information about the program, call the church office at (302) 539-9077.