By Tova Fruchtman
Local residents can watch Atlanta actor Brad Sherrill perform “The Gospel of John” — a word-for-word, one-man show — at 6 p.m. Sunday at Marshall Auditorium.
The event is sponsored by the Clovis Christian Ministerial Alliance, and many local churches will cancel their evening service to allow members to attend the free show, according to a press release from the alliance.
Sherrill will perform the entire Gospel — about 20,000 words — in a 2 1/2-hour performance.
Rev. Jim Kelly, pastor of the Community Church of Brethren, stumbled across John Sherrill’s Web site, while looking for a movie about the Gospel of John his daughter told him about. He said he thought it would be a good thing to bring to the community.
Rev. Lance Clemmons, chair of the Ministerial Alliance, agreed the show would be a good idea for Clovis. “To see the whole Gospel from beginning to end performed in a visual way will be very uplifting,” he said.
Sherrill, voted Atlanta Magazine’s best dramatic actor, had been acting in shows in Atlanta for years before he took 4 1/2 months off work in 2000 to memorize the fourth Gospel from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.
“I really felt that God wanted me to learn the whole Gospel of John to further my connection to God,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill chose the Gospel of John because he was particularly moved by chapters 14 through 16, he said. He also said Luke and Matthew were too long, and Mark was done often.
“I think it’s interesting that John told us why he wrote his gospel — so we can believe Jesus Christ is the son of God,” Clemmons said.
Kelly found this aspect of the Gospel of John particularly intriguing: John 20: 31 says John wrote the Gospel “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Over the past four years the performance has had four theater runs — two in Atlanta, one in Washington D.C., and one in New York City.
Bruce Weber, a critic for The New York Times, did not recommend the show for nonbelievers. “If you don’t already believe when you walk in, you’re not going to find the show theatrically satisfying,” he wrote in a column.
Kathy Janich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution disagreed. “Nonbelievers should be able to appreciate it for its craft and energy, but be aware that it might not be to everyone’s taste.”
Janich called the show an “amazing achievement.” She wrote, “If they’d taught Gospel like this in Catholic school, I might have paid attention.”
Sherrill said men and women in the audience often cry during the performance.
He said one of his favorite audience reactions occurred at a church. After the performance an older woman came up to him and said, “I just turned 96 years old and I think that God kept me alive long enough to hear this.”
Sherrill said the performance in Clovis, along with one in Albuquerque on Saturday, is exciting because they are the first in New Mexico. “I’m very thrilled,” he said.
“Even if you know the story you come expecting to hear it in a fresh way,” Sherrill said.