'Gospel' drama impresses, captivates

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

There was silence in the sanctuary as actor Brad Sherrill offered a rock for someone without sin to "throw" at the accused adulteress. The Atlanta actor's eyes locked with several people's as he walked down the middle of the aisle during his one-man performance of "The Gospel of John."

Berlin Heights resident Tracy McGinley was hesitant at first to bring her two children, Hannah, 8, and Connor, 9, to Sunday's performance at First Presbyterian Church, Norwalk. She wasn't sure how the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion would be portrayed or if Sherrill's drama would hold her children's attention.

"And he definitely did," McGinley said.

The mother said the idea of hearing and watching the New Testament story being performed was impressive. "It brought it to life, more than just reading it," added McGinley, who attends the River of Life, a Norwalk church.

Hannah was impressed that Sherrill could memorize "all those words."

Sherrill, 45, began the performances in 2001. He said it took six hours a day for 4 1/2 straight months "not working any other job" to memorize the more than 20,000 words in the apostle John's account of Jesus' ministry.

To review, he would recite passages while sitting in traffic or standing in line at the bank.

Sherrill initially thought Jesus' quotes, "the words in red," he called them, would be the easiest to memorize. But that wasn't the case the toughest parts to handle have been Jesus' long discourses.

"He would work on a certain theme, but would say the same thing in different ways," the actor explained. "He would say it a different way to reach people."

The Rev. Adrian Doll, First Presbyterian's pastor, appreciated how Sherrill found the humor in the Bible.

Sherrill, as the Samaritan woman at the well, acted flustered in telling residents about her encounter with Jesus. Sherrill also would act confused and had bewildered expressions on his face when he portrayed the disciples or religious authorities reacting to Jesus' teaching.

"It was absolutely captivating to see the artistry and drama of Brad's performance, bringing the Gospel to life. I experience the milieu of human emotion laughter, joy, tears and gratitude of what God has given us in Jesus Christ," Doll said.

Sherrill performs the "The Gospel of John" eight months out of the year. In secular venues, like theaters, he might perform the play six or seven times in a week. There are an average of two to three weekly performances in church settings.

He admits to re-reading the actual book of the Bible "occasionally."

"I read it occasionally because reading it and saying it are different," Sherrill said. "I read more commentaries (more often) than I do read it."

The toughest part of the performance is maintaining his stamina for the nearly 2 1/2 hour drama.

"It's never easy to do," Sherrill said. "It's always a challenge.

"The rewards outweigh the challenges," he continued. "Having the Gospel inside of me ... has transformed me into (having) a real relationship with Christ."

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