Wilton church to host ‘Gospel of Mark Alive’

Courtesy photo The Rev. Bert Marshall, of Brattleboro, Vt.

WILTON – The Book of Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, considered to be the first one written, and is one of the most studied books in the New Testament.

The Rev. Bert Marshall, however, has a unique way to present it: in a storytelling performance.

Marshall, of Brattleboro, Vt., has memorized the book and presents it as theater, with music, action and audience participation. He will present “The Gospel of Mark Alive” at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at the Second Congregational Church.

The performance, which lasts about two hours, is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted to cover costs of the performance.

Marshall is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and former New England regional director of Church World Service, and is interim minister at the Centre Congregational Church, UCC, in Brattleboro.

The Book of Mark, Marshall says in a handout, “retains the evidence of an oral tradition even though in the version of the New Testament it is written down. The other three gospels, Matthew, Luke and John, show evidence of copying.”

Mark writes like a reporter, and is thought to have been a companion of Peter when he was in Rome during the persecutions under Emperor Nero and heard the story from him and other apostles. He tells the story of Christ’s ministry only, with no background, from his baptism to the crucifixion.

Traditional folk tales, such as those of Homer’s “Iliad,” Marshall says, contain formula memory aids and repetitions, but Mark does not; he had to create his own.

The performance isn’t rote, Marshall says – each is different.

“But it is always Mark,” he said. “The telling is influenced by the vibes in the room, audience engagement and energy. I’m making eye contact with people, moving around the room, asking for a response. If the story says, ‘Jesus shouts,’ I shout.”

Marshall has been presenting the story for 12 years. His background includes being a rock musician. He grew up on a farm in Nebraska and dropped out of college to join a rock band, but felt called to the ministry from his teens. In Brattleboro, he drove a truck for Stow Natural Foods, which gave him a lot of time to think. He returned to college to complete his degree at Norwich University before being accepted into Yale Divinity School. He was ordained in 1997.

After the performance, there will be a “talk back,” a time in the Parish Hall for questions and comments. For more information, call 654-9045.

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