BELTON—For 80 years, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor has held its annual Easter pageant during Holy Week. Regardless of weather or other circumstances, the pageant—which typically draws thousands to the Belton campus—never has been cancelled.
When it became obvious restrictions related to COVID-19 would make a traditional pageant impossible, organizers began brainstorming how—rather than cancel the event—they might make it extraordinary.
“We didn’t want this tradition that has gone on for 80 years to just not happen,” Precious Anselm, this year’s pageant director said.
Organizers decided the 2020 Easter pageant would be presented online, featuring footage from past productions and testimonials from people who have been involved in the pageant over the years.
‘Look a little different’ this year
The website for the 81st Annual Easter Pageant Experience promised the event would “look a little different” this year. It stated a special production would be livestreamed April 8 at 5:30 p.m.
UMHB posted a video inviting anyone who has ever taken part in the Easter pageant to submit stories about their experiences. While organizers were not sure how much footage to expect, the response was overwhelming, with dozens of submissions sent within the first few days.
“It’s been really eye-opening and inspiring to see how many videos we’ve gotten,” Anselm said. “We’ve heard from people who were involved more than 30 years ago.”
The pageant organizers not only received videos from students and alumni who served as cast members or helped with productions, but also heard from members of the community for whom the pageant has become a cherished Holy Week tradition.
“It goes to show that at every Easter Pageant, seeds are being planted,” Anselm said. “We are hearing stories of people who found salvation or came closer to God through this tradition.”
Anselm acknowledged the 2020 pageant was not the production she first imagined last year, but she expressed faith it would be powerful.
“It was easy to get into the mindset of being upset, but it’s clear that the Lord is doing something here,” Anselm said. “He has a plan that is bigger than mine.”
Emma Spellings, who was cast in the role of Mary this year, agreed. While “stay at home” orders meant this year’s pageant would not draw crowds physically as in years past, it also meant more people would be at home and able to watch it live together.
“I have a very strong feeling that all of this is going to be used by the Lord for kingdom growing,” Spellings said. “That’s been really sweet to think about that.”
For more information about this year’s Easter Pageant Experience, visit the event’s official website: umhb.edu/easter-pageant.