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February 15, 2009

‘Devotional exercise’ brings Gospel to life

By Michelle Martin


When Brad Sherrill set out to memorize the complete Gospel of John, he didn’t know that performing it would become a way of life for the next several years.

“I never thought I’d do it even one time,” said Sherrill, 46. “I felt led to memorize the entire Gospel as a devotional exercise.”

A Methodist who says he is actor because of growing up in a church that had a strong drama program, Sherrill has taken the Gospel of John to churches and theaters across the United States and in other countries for the past eight years.

He will perform it March 15 at St. Cecilia Parish in Mount Prospect.

The production will go something like this: Sherrill, dressed in a denim shirt and slacks, will sit in the audience as the people come in. When it’s time for the performance to begin, he will stand up and walk onto a stage furnished with very simple props.

For the next 2½ hours, he will bring the Gospel to life, starting with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) and ending with, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

Then he will walk off the stage and take his seat.

“This is not about me in the least,” said Sherrill. “It’s about letting the Word come out.”

Sherrill said he grew up in the Chamblee Methodist Church in the Atlanta area — the church he and his parents still belong too. While he didn’t attend as regularly as a young man in his 20s, he never broke completely with the church. But it took until his early 30s to really find himself, he said.

But his participation in church plays as a youth helped lead him to become an actor. It was during a period when he wasn’t working that he began committing the Gospel of John to memory.

“As an actor, I have fairly good memorization skills anyway,” he said. “I read the Bible, and I said, ‘I believe this.’

“This is how it was originally heard before the Gospels were written down,” Sherrill said. “Once it was written down, most people couldn’t afford the book, and most people couldn’t read anyway.”

For information or to buy tickets, call St. Cecilia Parish at (847) 437-6208.