HOLDEN -- Valarie Dufrene has another name for Good Friday.
She playfully calls it “the mad rush day.”
“That’s when we get everything out of this building and get it all into position,” she said. “We’re here by 7 a.m. and don’t leave until really late at night. We’re like little ants trying to get everything in place.”
What Dufrene is referring to is the living “Stations of the Cross” production, a popular outreach program that First United Pentecostal Church of Holden put on for years in celebration of Easter.
After a multi-year hiatus, it’s making its long-awaited return this weekend.
The drive-thru production will be held on the church’s property at 25555 Softball Field Road from 7:30-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 19-20. During the free program, visitors will drive through the grounds to witness a reenactment of Jesus’ final days on Earth.
Rev. David Blackwell, pastor of First Pentecostal for the last 29 years, said the church is excited to bring back the program, which will feature nearly 100 actors as well as backdrops, costumes, props, sounds, music, “and lots of lights,” Dufrene added.
Blackwell said the church stopped putting on the program a few years before the Great Flood of 2016, when many of the props were eventually destroyed. During the flood, water reached anywhere between 6-24 inches in all of the church’s buildings spread across two locations.
Dufrene said it was Blackwell who pushed the idea of bringing back the program, which drew big crowds and long lines in years past.
But Blackwell credited the church for “totally jumping on board” — this year, nearly everyone in the 100-member congregation is lending a hand, whether by acting, building props, working sounds and lights, or greeting people at the welcome tent.
“It’s encouraging as a pastor to see people get this enthusiasm, especially after the loss of a lot of props they had put so much time into,” Blackwell said. “People are enthused about getting to come back and do this again. It’s a total team effort.”
The recreation is the brainchild of Valarie and her husband Robert. It originated as a “walk through Bethlehem” during the Christmas season before being converted to an Easter production, Valarie said.
“It used to be everybody, regardless of your beliefs, went to church on Easter Sunday,” she said. “That was the thing to do. This is a way to get people into that thought of Jesus and not feeling like you have to go to a church to have that experience. We’re opening the doors of a church without using a building.”
The program will take place on the church’s 15-acre property that holds its multi-purpose building. Visitors will drive through the property and stop at designated areas as actors perform the nine scenes.
Valarie Dufrene said it’ll take cars about “30 to 45 minutes” to complete the drive-thru experience, which will include accompanying songs and scripture readings via bluetooth speakers.
The program will begin with the Passover meal from the Old Testament before taking visitors to the Last Supper. It will then go through the Garden of Gethsemane, Pilot’s Hall, the whipping post scene, the crucifixion, and the burial.
The program will end with women discovering the empty tomb, followed by Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
It’s free and open to the public, Blackwell said.
“Everybody’s welcome,” he said. “Our objective is for people to come and celebrate Easter with us.”