photo by Dough Wohlenhaus (Photos by Dough Wohlenhaus)

Christian Thomas sported jeans and a T-shirt on stage. He looked more suited to be a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens as opposed to being cast to play Jesus in an Easter play.

In addition to Pilate and the Roman soldiers there was Devlin, (David Campbell) and the men in black who were from “ICON,” and instead of Judas, who in the bible betrayed Jesus with a kiss, there was Jude, an underworld figure, who set Jesus up to be beaten, mugged and then dragged away on the streets of New York.

The characters and dancers all moved to the sounds of rock and hip-hop while disturbing images of hate, evil and death came from two big screens. It was all part of a Southern Maryland adaption of the rock opera “Hero” by members of the South Potomac Church in White Plains, Md.

“We want to have a church, like Jesus envisioned, “ said the church’s pastor, Dave Huffman. “We want a church for people for all times for all places, no matter what the walk, who could find forgiveness, healing, hope and a future.”

From the temptation of Jesus to the Last Supper, watching the production put on by the teenagers and adults from the church and the community in Charles County area was refreshing and telling. For years, White Plains was nothing but a caution light on the way to the Potomac River bridge, but today the church sits in area that draws on diversity even in expressions of Christians faith.

Hero tells a old story in a new way

From the moment one walks into the cavernous sanctuary of South Potomac Church, one knows that nothing is traditional about the people and the platoons of teens at this very racially and culturally diverse church. But what is certain is the sincerity in their faces.

“If Jesus were here, he would be singing at the Raves, he would be going to the homeless shelters and talking to those people, even the people he shouldn’t be talking to,” said Karen Dickson, director of a production that sets the story of Jesus on the streets of New York.

During the Easter season, churches across the District, Maryland and Virginia spends thousands to tell the story of Jesus from birth to the cross, but what was unique about the production was that most the people were from a church that really is an example of how far the Maryland suburbs have changed in the last 20 years.

From the musicians to the members, South Potomac Church is an electric body of believers of more than 500 people who range from Sadiqq Abdullah, a former Muslim, who is a church elder, to Dan Smart, a church member who played Pilate in the production.

Ernest Salee, pastor of Worship & Arts for South Potomac Church, said the production is an extension of the church’s music ministry. “This is a multicultural church and we do everything from rock to reggae to hip-hop to R&B.”

Thomas, a high school student who, along with cast members, sees the production as part of a greater ministry. “Having this production really brings Jesus into a modern setting where we can understand what is going on,” he said.

“The story of Jesus never really changes,” Campbell said. “It was my privilege to make the bad character as bad as I could so the hero Jesus could come through.”

The final performances of “Hero” will be 8 pm Friday and Saturday at the church, which is at 4915 Crain Hwy. (Route 301) in White Plains.

Marleigh Ferguson, who played “Mama Mary,” the mother of Jesus, said: “This is not just a play for fun, this is ministry. We all came together for one mission and one mission only, and that is to preach Christ to others.”