Bethlehem Freewill Baptist to continue drive-thru Easter program

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
Bethlehem Freewill Baptist Church has held a drive-thru Easter drama for the last 20 years. Using over 70 actors and 16 different scenes the church will continue this tradition after taking last year off due to the pandemic.

The pandemic put a hold on Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church's yearly drive-thru Easter drama in 2020, but this year they are ready to continue the tradition. 

The church will put on its Easter drive-thru program 7-9 p.m. April 1-3. Bethlehem Freewill Baptist Church is at 3130 Pointer Trail East in Van Buren.

For 20 years the church has put on a drive-thru drama portraying the life of Jesus from his birth to the ascension. What started as a simple portrayal of only the birth has grown into 16 different live scenes with over 70 actors. 

Now that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said that he expects the mask mandate to end on March 31, the church took the opportunity to bring their production back.

"Hopefully this will entice people to come," said Wendell Welburn, who manages promotion for the event.

When guests arrive, they are provided a souvenir printed handout of the drive-through drama, which describes the theme of each scene as they drive thru the production, or they can log on to the church website at bethlehemfwbc.com and listen to the scene descriptions on their cell phone. 

The church uses live animals and costumes sewn by members of the church. When the production was just starting with their single scene Pastor Randall Ray would take a donkey down to the nearby Taco Bell and talk with the customers in costume. 

He would invite people to come and see their production in character.

"As people exit, they drive around the church and are invited inside for refreshments," Welburn said.

In 2019, the church saw 199 vehicles come through their production. Adding in the number of people in the vehicles adds up to over 1,000 viewers. 

It normally takes the church about two weeks to prepare for the event. Volunteers help set up the lighting and the scenes. 

"We tell people that it's better to wait until dark," said Welburn. "It's a lot more visual."