By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NEW MARKET — For the 19th year, cars gathered at New Market Baptist Church here to drive through “The Trail to the Empty Tomb.”
This year, about 650 people viewed the presentation on two nights. One night was rained out, but that has only happened one other time over the years, explained J.W. Taylor, pastor. The presentation has been offered in various kinds of weather other than rain, even in snow, but none of the actors have ever been hurt and even gotten sick, reported Becky Finley, director.
Most years about 1,200 people view the Easter presentation. This year about 325 of those who attended the event had never viewed it before.
The Trail to the Empty Tomb includes 11 scenes, beginning with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem through His ascension into heaven. As cars leave the presentation, they view one final scene not nearly as elaborate as the others. At the exit sits a lawn chair in which lays a person’s clothes. A pair of shoes sit in front of the chair. A sign by the chair reads, “Don’t be left behind,” referring to the rapture.
A few years ago the church developed a CD with recorded narration for the presentation. Each car is offered the CD and even a CD player if their car doesn’t have one. Also each car is given a brochure with the same information printed as well as the plan of salvation, explained Taylor.
Other improvements added recently were a powerful though hidden heater for the person portraying those being crucified, if needed, and a searchlight to mark the location of the church though it is located on Highway 11E.
Sets have been added and improved over the years, said Taylor and Finley. About 200 volunteers work on the Easter presentation. New Market Baptist draws about 500 people on Sunday mornings.
Finley said she initiated the ministry after viewing a Christmas drive-through drama at another church which was “off the beaten path. … God put it on my heart for us to do that,” she said, referring to her church. Though she had never spoken in her Sunday School class at New Market Baptist though she had attended for about 10 years, she shared her conviction and asked for help which was soon offered.
One year a teenage girl who was walking through the drama made a profession of faith at the end of the presentation.
“That makes it all worthwhile,” said Finley.
Taylor said he stands at the exit and speaks to the passengers of each car.
“I get to see their expressions and to talk to them,” said Taylor. “They often thank me and the church. Often I get to water the gospel seed that has been planted and discuss the Lord with them.”
Over the years, many new visitors to the church say they came because they viewed The Trail to the Empty Tomb, he added.