Pastor Jon told us a few weeks ago that gifts are manifested in many ways, and that everyone has a gift to be used in building up the body of Christ. He said the Spirit knows what is needed for a gathered body to do whatever it is that needs to be done. The Spirit must have been working in the fall of 1959 to bring Robert and Bonnie Madden to Beaumont. Robert with his artistic talent and Bonnie with her theater and production skills were just what First Methodist needed to stage some spectacular performances.
In 1970, Don Ford, the Director of Music, asked Bonnie to stage the one-act opera, Menotti's Amahl and the Night Vistors. The request was not unusual because plenty of productions had been done in Rothwell Hall, but this one was to be performed in the sanctuary. Could it be done? The altar was moved into the narthex to make room for sets and stage lights. Robert, Lyle Bohrer, and H.L. Taylor designed and built the sets and even made stage lights from coffee cans. I wondered how the two of them worked together and how Bonnie could communicate to him what she needed in her set designs. She didn't hesitate when she told me he always made it work. I saw a few of his set sketches and they looked like an architect’s rendering. Very impressive!
The orchestra was placed in and around the communion rail and was directed by Don Ford. Fred Simon sang the part of Balthazar, and a young Randy Crim sang the lead. For two nights in December, the sanctuary was filled with standing room only crowds. I wish I could have seen it. I didn’t know this opera and had to do some research. It tells the story of a poor crippled boy, Amahl, who is visited by the Magi on their way to see the Christ child. Amahl has nothing to give as a gift to the Child, so he offers his crutch. He gave what he had, and for this gift, he was miraculously healed and went with the Magi to see the baby. The story touched my heart and to think of it performed in our beautiful sanctuary was powerful. I imagine it was spectacular. A gift of performance from nearly 48 years ago that still inspires and encourages is reason enough to believe the Spirit knows.
Robert and Bonnie enrich the life of our congregation. They use their gifts to provide art and theater, to teach, to serve on committees, and to faithfully contribute their talents in many ways. They indeed are an example of the Spirit knowing what is needed and bringing everything together as only He can.
By Michelle Holland