Youth Team Reunion Brings Founders of Christian Theater Back to Kentucky Roots
One of the few premier Christian theater companies in the world has deep roots in the state of Kentucky. On June 23, the founders of NarroWay Productions are going back to those roots for a special reunion with The CrossRoads Youth Team in Pikeville.
Twenty years ago, Martin and Clark were serving at First Baptist Church, Pikeville, Kentucky, and touring shows with the CrossRoads Youth Team. For the summer of 1993, they led just over 100 teenagers as they traveled and performed with an original show entitled "Twenty Years Ago."
The show was centered around the twenty-year reunion for a high school class from 1973. Twenty years later, it has become the catalyst for a multi-year reunion with former members of the CrossRoads Youth Team and their leaders.
On June 23 of this year, the cast of "Twenty Years Ago," will return to Pikeville for a special twenty-year reunion. The reunion will not only involve those who toured in 1993, but the hundreds who were a part of the CrossRoads Youth Team from its beginning in 1986 until 1997.
Tim Schindler, Associate Pastor of Youth and Ministry Development at Georgetown Baptist Church, and John Lucas, Associate Pastor of Students and Families at First Baptist Church Pikeville, have been instrumental in planning the reunion. Both men are former members of the youth team.
In 2008, Schindler started a Facebook group for former CrossRoads members to reconnect. The possibility of a reunion has been mentioned by several group members since that time. "Then a couple of months ago, I got to thinking," says Schindler, "'This is the twentieth anniversary of 'Twenty Years Ago.' Because of the way the story revolved around a reunion, we should take advantage of this opportunity to do something.'"
Schindler enlisted some key leaders, including Lucas, to begin planning the reunion. Lucas was instrumental in getting the support of the staff at First Baptist Church Pikeville and making local arrangements. "I know that those years in CrossRoads were truly formative for so many of us," says Schindler, "And I'm hoping that this can be an encouragement to all who were fortunate enough to be a part of it."
The former leaders of the CrossRoads Youth Team, Martin and Clark, plan to be in attendance at the special reunion. "We are excited about reconnecting,"
The founders of NarroWay Productions now lead one of the few premier Christian theater companies in the nation. Graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Martin and Clark first served at Cumberland Baptist Church while in seminary. They later worked on staff at First Baptist Church in Whitesburg before being called to Pikeville in 1986.
It was their work in Kentucky that laid the foundation for NarroWay Productions. Each year while serving as church staff, Martin and Clark wrote original scripts and music for their youth teams to perform. Eventually, they also wrote for adult choirs and church-wide productions. "We spent seventeen years working in Kentucky churches," says Martin, "and the last ten of those were with CrossRoads and First Baptist Church, Pikeville. Even then, we called what we wrote, 'A NarroWay Production.'"
Many of those productions, including "Twenty Years Ago," have since been re-written and performed at the professional level by NarroWay. In fact, the show currently featured at the NarroWay Theatre, "Not Just Another Love Story," was originally written for youth in Whitesburg, then revised for CrossRoads in 1994. The show made an even greater transformation when it hit the NarroWay stage.
Much has changed since the original writing of that show, as has the method of writing. Scores once written in pencil on staff paper have been edited on computer and saved to hard drives. Scripts once tediously typed out by hand are tucked away in the NarroWay archives. Clark's orchestrations have become more complex; Martin's scripts, more detailed.
But NarroWay's Kentucky roots do not stop with Martin and Clark and the shows once performed by CrossRoads. Seven former youth team members have been a part of the NarroWay cast since its formation in 1997. Three have played leading roles on the NarroWay stage. Ena Hensley Thompson, of Hensley Real Estate Services in Pikeville, continues to perform at NarroWay. Thompson is a key soloist and has been a part of the cast for sixteen years. She travels weekly to perform in many shows. Brian Johnson, Boys Head Basketball Coach at Lee County High School (KY), played the role of Jesus in biblical productions from 1998 until 2010. James Weddington, a Pikeville native, played another major character on the NarroWay stage for three years before traveling abroad as a missionary.
The Kentucky connection extends into NarroWay's business management team as well. A graduate of Georgetown College, Theater Manager Lora McCoy is originally from Milton, Kentucky. Pat Hammond, Director of Food Services, lived in Kentucky for more than 30 years and served as a chaperone with the CrossRoads Youth Team. Business Manager Virginia Justice is originally from Pikeville and currently resides in Lexington, Kentucky.
Kentucky roots are deeply engrained in the heart of NarroWay Productions. This magnificent theater company is one of the few premier Christian theater companies in the world today. "The Broadway of Christian Entertainment,"
But twenty years ago, NarroWay was simply a name at the bottom of a piece of hand-written sheet music -- music that would be sung by a group of teenagers from Pikeville, Kentucky. Those teenagers would grow up to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, coaches, real-estate agents, bankers, writers, ministers, social workers and leaders of all sorts. They would move to various states across the nation and spend years abroad in foreign countries. Their leaders would move on as well. But for a moment in time, they shared the same stage and sang the same song:
"Live life in such a way, so that twenty years from now you can say, 'because of me this world's a better place, I know, than it was twenty years ago.'" ("Twenty Years Ago," Martin & Clark, 1993)
And they did.
(More information on NarroWay Productions is available online at www.narroway.net or by calling 803.802.2300.)