The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

For local playwright Christmas production is an extension of his police beat

The Christmas story took an urban jazzy twist Saturday night at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden during a musical production titled “The Uncut Coming of Christ,” where the story of the birth of the Christ child was set on the “mean streets” of a big city.

From Joseph arguing with Mary about her sudden pregnancy, to the seedy hotel district where Jesus was born, the production was the vision of writer/director Joshua Jenkins, whose production was inspired by his work as a Prince George’s County police officer.

“This play is not just a production, it is a ministry,” said Jenkins, whose father, the Rev. John K. Jenkins Sr., is senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. “This play starts with our cast, the evangelism that goes on through dance and singing. What we wanted to do is make a practical piece of information for unbelievers, believers, saved as well as the unsaved.”

The production, which featured a cast of more than 200, was filled with music and dance. But then things got serious when Herod dispatched Roman soldiers to kill baby Jesus. In the process, innocent young boys were killed, symbolic of the New Testament account of Herod’s efforts to prevent prophesy– Christ’s birth– from being fulfilled.

While the play highlighted the grittier aspects of the birth of Christ, the script was matched with a musical score, live band and national recording artists who stirred up the crowd. The program included musical performances from recording artists Kim Burrell, Isaac Carree and the brother and sister, duo Darrell and Rhea Walls.

“God just opened up our creativity,” said Anthony Brown, the production’s co-writer and musical director. “These are not your average Sunday morning songs or church play songs. God gave me a gift of that Broadway music thing and that’s kind of what it was. I was hoping that people walk away singing the message.”

While there was a curtain call, the “Uncut Coming of Christ,” concluded with Jenkins holding an altar call where he encouraged people in the audience to give their lives to Christ.

“In the name of Jesus, I ask you to talk to their hearts and allow them to make a conscious decision to accept you right now in the name of Jesus. Amen,” said Jenkins. He said some of the people in the audience were those he arrested in the past.

“Not  all police are bad, they make life altering decisions every day,” said Jenkins, adding that he has people come up to him in church and say, “Do you remember me? You arrested me.”

“When I police I just don’t police from a mode of enforcement. I police from a mode of education and love,” Jenkins said. “I am not just a police officer, I am a man first, I am a playwright, I am a director. I want to change the mindset of what you think about the police.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Anthony Brown.