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Faith and Family: Drama ministry tells stories sans words

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Lineage of Grace Troupe member Charles Albert Jr., playing the part of the evil conscience, acts out a scene from “Mercy Said No” during a rehearsal at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Lineage of Grace Troupe member Charles Albert Jr., playing the part of the evil conscience, acts out a scene from “Mercy Said No” during a rehearsal at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday.

VIDALIA — When members of Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church’s drama ministry tell a story, they don’t talk.

“Jesus was the greatest storyteller,” drama ministry director Malinda Knight said. “He could do things without talking, so we try to act without saying a word.”

The church’s Lineage of Grace drama ministry is a group of teenagers and children who put on musical performances. The performances incorporate the church’s teachings into real-life situations.

Last year, the group performed plays focusing on bullying, cell phone usage and a family struggling with alcohol addiction.

The group’s plays often use music and hand gestures to tell stories rather than through dialogue.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Lineage of Grace Troupe member Raymond Riley Jr., playing the part of Michael the Archangel, battles the evil conscience, played by Charles Albert Jr., in a scene from “Mercy Said No” during a rehearsal at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Lineage of Grace Troupe member Raymond Riley Jr., playing the part of Michael the Archangel, battles the evil conscience, played by Charles Albert Jr., in a scene from “Mercy Said No” during a rehearsal at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday.

Lineage of Grace usually performs at the church in Vidalia, but will travel to Shreveport on July 26 to perform at the Canton Jones Community Praise Party, a gospel concert.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to travel to a place that I’ve never been before,” group member Taylour Morales said. “I like being able to put on plays and sing. In the plays, we get do pray dancing, miming and acting.”

The group received an invitation to perform at the gospel concert after attending a drama ministry workshop in Alexandria, hosted by A and K Mimes.

Lineage of Grace performed a rendition of “Mercy Said No,” by CeCe Winans at the workshop. The performance focuses on a child battling with the temptation of smoking marijuana.

During the play, actor Tylar Polk is tempted to smoke marijuana by Charles Albert Jr., who plays an evil conscience.

Before falling victim to temptation, actor Raymond Riley Jr., playing Saint Michael the Archangel, saves Polk.

The Rev. Raymond Riley, the church’s pastor, said the group provides an opportunity for young church members to turn education into action.

“What usually happens is that children sit in church and then just go home,” Riley said. “The world is changing. This is our way of changing with the world because children learn and understand things more visually than just hearing it.”

Knight said she hopes that the unconventional method of teaching religion makes a permanent impact on the drama ministry members.

“My ultimate goal is to teach through the drama ministry, and then the members use the lessons when they become young adults,” she said.