Friends of the Groom Turns 25

OCTOBER 1, 2005

This is a special year for us—Friends of the Groom turns 25. I think that calls for a little  statistical nostalgia. This year we presented our 2700th performance. If our address were on the Great White Way, that number would make us the third longest-running non-musical Broadway show in history. Since 1980, we’ve traveled to 36 states and the District of Columbia, with a few side trips to Great Britain and Canada. (We’re still eagerly awaiting that invitation to Hawaii.) Our total mileage just crossed the 500,000 mark—enough to get us to the moon and back. And we’ve conducted over 500 workshops for 29 denominations, not counting schools, colleges, and non-denominational churches. 

But of course, the numbers are just the surface . When I reflect more deeply about the past, I confront a cluttered attic of poignant memories: The succession of terrible vehicles in the early years—a Dodge Dart with a TV tray covering the hole where the floor had rusted through until you could see the road surface whizzing by beneath your feet. Or the Custom Cruiser station wagon whose exhaust leak got so bad on a road trip that the cast got physically ill from the fumes. Or the Volkswagon Vanagon that caught fire in North Carolina filling the vehicle with smoke and forcing a three-day layover at the house of a spontaneously generous Episcopal priest and his wife. Yes, we have often relied on the kindness of strangers. 

And then there’s the memories of disaster on stage: A tightly choreographed rap version of the Prodigal Son story in front of 200 college students that came to an abrupt halt when an a cast member kicked a floor microphone into the pause switch of the boombox. A performance of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I overloaded a pyrotechnic device with flash powder, producing a flaming ball that—by the grace of God—landed in an open trunk instead of in the audience. A performance of the Good Samaritan story at a church’s dinner theater, when the congested leading actress tried Sudafed for the first time, only to discover it produced a reaction of hyperactivity and memory lapses. 

And then there are the joyful memories: The man who said he saw Jesus as a loving figure for the first time after watching the scene Loose Connections; a professional actress who told us she was inspired to pursue theater as a ministry after attending a workshop; the thousands of people who have told us they were delighted, touched, or moved to pray at the end of a weekend together—and best of all, the people who looked beyond our flawed and very human performances, and by the power of the Spirit, somehow saw the face of Christ.  

Thank you to all of you who have lifted us up on the wings of prayer over this quarter century, as well as those whose generosity has sustained us in the journey. We are humbled by your support—and by the kindness of God in giving us this joyful work to do.