By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
A church in Mt. Olive will have close to 5,000 visitors in October, if the trend continues.
The visitors come from as far as Decatur and Selma to see the Judgement House, staged annually at First Baptist Church of Mt. Olive.
Norma Huguley, volunteer director of Mt. Olive’s Judgement House for the ninth consecutive year, said the church sent invitations to 5,000 churches this year to attend the event.
Judgement House is a drama that churches perform with the purpose of making people look closely at their own lives and consider what happens after death.
Most of them have intense Hell and Heaven scenes, and of course, judgement scenes.
Mt. Olive’s production requires roughly 350 volunteers every year, which is a majority of the church’s 500-550 weekly attendees.
Huguley noted that some of Judgement House’s volunteers are from other churches and even other cities.
Not all of the volunteers are actors. Some volunteers cook for the actors and workers during practice, while others build sets or do other jobs.
Huguley said there are about 20 ministry teams centered just around Judgement House, for “everything from parking to prayer.”
In addition, the church’s classrooms, fellowship hall and other rooms are disrupted for several months every year for Judgement House.
“We literally tear down and rebuild a large portion of our educational space,” said First Baptist Church of Mt. Olive pastor Doug Moore.
But he said the tremendous undertaking is worth it.
Last year, 4,954 people attended the event, with 266 people becoming Christians.
The first year, in 1999, 3,000 people attended and 134 people became Christians.
The totals from 1999 to 2007 include 34,362 visitors to Judgement House with 1,784 people becoming Christians.
Moore said the event benefits not only visitors, but his church as well.
“Our people pull together with a common goal,” Moore said. “Relationships are built between people in a church our size that never would have been built.”
Moore said that Judgement House brings a “a spirit of oneness from the little children to senior adults.”
One of the most senior volunteers is Huguley’s mother, Lucille Heptinstall. At age 85, Heptinstall helps cook meals for Judgement House workers.
Huguley and student minister Brian Burdette did not want to give away the plot for this year’s Judgement House, but they said the theme this year is, “In the game of life, there’s no overtime.”
The seven-scene walk-through drama will start at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, 18-19, 22-23, 25-26, 29, 31 and Nov. 1-2.
The church recommends that groups make reservations to see Judgement House, but it is not required.
To make reservations, call 631-4557.
There is a $5 suggested donation.
By Melanie Patterson
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