Passion Play unites local Christian churches

Hannah Grover
Melissa Neil, left, and Lora Hodges perform during an April 1, 2015, Passion Play performance at the McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Each year, local Christians come together to re-enact the biblical story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

Known as the Passion Play, the event has gained popularity, and includes both Spanish and English presentations. This year, the performances will begin with Spanish presentations on March 19. English presentations will follow starting March 21.

The Passion Play of the Four Corners is one of several plays put on by Passion Play International throughout the year and around the world.

The play brings members of various denominations of Christian churches together, said Johnathan Dobbs, the pastor of Aztec Church of Christ. He said this is important because people can be overwhelmed by the variety of churches.

"There's almost a church on every corner," Dobbs said.

He said that while there are so many churches that have differing views on the Bible and their faith, they are able to come together and show that they are still united in faith.

Since early this year, the cast has been rehearsing at the Mesa View Baptist Church in Farmington, which is one of more than 40 churches that come together to make the Passion Play happen each year.

“It is truly the only time of the year that all of the churches that are involved work together,” said Tom Dierdorf, the senior pastor of the Mesa View Baptist Church.

Gabriel Varela, playing Jesus, offers bread and wine to his disciples during an April 1, 2015, Passion Play performance at the McGee Park Convention Center in Farmington.

While Dierdorf’s role is mainly behind the scenes, Dobbs is playing Nicodemus in this year's play. During the trial of Jesus, the biblical character reminds others that the law requires them to hear Jesus' arguments before condemning him. In the Bible, Nicodemus also helps prepare Jesus' body for burial.

"Nicodemus, even though he was such a staunch follower of the law, saw Jesus for who he was," Dobbs said about the character he plays.

This is the third year Dobbs has participated in the play.

"It allows people to engage the story in more than just an intellectual level," he said.

Dobbs said the play also enables Christians to share their faith with non-Christians because admission is free.

Dierdorf echoed that sentiment and said that while the Passion Play has become an annual tradition for some Four Corners Christian families, it is intended to reach out to non-Christians. Because of that, the play is performed in a public location rather than at a church. Dierdorf said that helps non-Christians feel more comfortable. This year's play will be staged at the McGee Park Convention Center.

While it is meant as an evangelical ministry, the Passion Play is also important for Christians, Dierdorf said. He said that it reminds Christians of the roots of their faith.

“I need to hear the story every year, just like anyone else,” Dierdorf said.

Jesus, portrayed by Derrick Adams, is sentenced to death during an April 1, 2015, Passion Play performance at the McGee Park Convention Center.

As a pastor, Dobbs said he enjoys the opportunity the play provides the community.

"This, to me, is a great ministry that I would love to see continue from generation to generation in this community," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

If you go

What: Passion Play of the Four Corners

Spanish presentations: 7 p.m. March 19 and 20

English presentations: 7 p.m. March 21-26

Where: McGee Park Convention Center, 41 County Road 5568

Cost: Free, however offerings will be accepted

More info: