Next weekend, Sept. 28 and 29, guests at First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville will get to take a walk through several scenes from the Old and New Testaments in its presentation of "The Living Bible."
After a 12-year hiatus, The Living Bible is returning to First Presbyterian Church and will feature about 138 church volunteers portraying various Biblical characters, along with live animals like sheep, goats and a donkey.
"We want it to be just a witness and a verification of the scenes of the Bible," said church member Carl Sokoloski.
The Living Bible started in 1985. Gwynne said during the first 16 years, the annual drama was a great way for the church's congregation to get to know one another.
"There were times we'd say, 'We really don't know everybody in the church,'" said Gwynne, noting that during those years, the church had three separate services. These days, there are two concurrent Sunday services at 10 a.m.—one traditional and one contemporary. "This event would allow us to get to know people we may not meet."
The Living Bible often saw up to 1,000 volunteers getting involved in both acting and behind-the-scenes work, Gwynne said. Some of the actors - Gwynne included - even grew their own beards for the production.
It was always a great experience, Gwynne said. One year, when the actor portraying Jesus came out and announced, "Let the little children come unto me," some children crawled under the ropes and went up to listen.
"It can be quite dramatic," said Gwynne.
Eventually, there was a change in leadership at the church, Gwynne said, and "after doing it for 16 years, some of us members were getting long in the tooth."
With this year's production, there are many new church members who haven't experienced The Living Bible and are able to get involved.
The scenes that will be depicted include the Nativity, the Heavenly Host (angels), the Shepherds, the Three Wise Men, Jesus and the Children, The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
There will be pre-recorded music and dialogue, Gwynne said, and people will walk from scene to scene around the perimeter of the church.
Sokoloski, who has been an artist for more than 38 years, is in charge of painting the large sets for the drama. In a true labor of love, Sokoloski has spent about 150 hours painting the sets - and he's not quite done yet.
He said the old sets that had been used for 15 years were painted on pressed cardboard and suffered water and mold damage. Sokoloski said he used photos of those old sets, however, for this year's sets. He started painting them last January and has had a few people assisting him with the work.
The most complex, he said, was for the Last Supper. It's based on the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci and will feature a table on a stage with the painted set as a backdrop.
"It's really very cool," said Sokoloski.
"We're trying to tell the story of what we're about and what Christ is about," said Gwynne.
It's free to attend The Living Bible, which is being funded through church donations. The congregation has donated more than $4,300 for The Living Bible.
"It is really good. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun," said Gwynne.
The Living Bible will take place from 7 to 9 p.m., Sept. 28 and 29. First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville is located at 219 West Maple Ave.