Forced from the pulpit by illness, pastor has writing, drama ministry

The Rev. Lance Brown writes, produces and directs theatrical plays that he hopes will minister to audiences’ souls while generating funding for various church ministries.

Through the Public Awareness Theatre ministry he founded in 1984, he has developed six plays that his team of traveling actors has presented in 39 states, he said. The ministry functions out of Baton Rouge, but the cast and director are based in Atlanta.

Since leaving Detroit after 11 years and moving to his native Baton Rouge about 15 months ago, Brown is preparing to stage “Circle of Love” on May 4 at McKinley High School auditorium, 800 E. McKinley St., and May 5 at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Highway.

“Due to a serious illness in 1997, I was blessed to receive a disability leave of absence from the United Methodist Church,” Brown said. “Per doctor’s recommendation, I have been unable to return to the pulpit. However, the Lord reinvented me to be used in a different phase of ministry. God developed my gift of creative writing, which has turned into a strong theatrical ministry.”

The McKinley High School alumnus said in “Circle of Love,” the play’s couples find themselves at odds over issues, including hairstyles and placement of tattoos, issues they ultimately work through.

“The play is life from the beginning to the end and shows how they lose God in all of this,” Brown said.

The Rev. Herman Kelly, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, invited Brown to stage the play and fundraiser in the old south Baton Rouge community because he thought it might make an impact on audiences.

“The play is on how God comes into your life and changes your life,” Kelly said.

Brown said the profits generated from each of his plays are used to support and enhance various church ministries.

“We are touching people’s lives and hearts,” Brown said. “ We avail ourselves to people who have a true need and when we were approached by Bethel AME, I gladly accepted.”

He will continue to travel throughout the country and in Louisiana this year staging his other productions which are, “One Child’s Prayer,” about an abused child; “I’m Saved,” a church’s spiritual journey; “The First Semester,” freshmen facing tough choices and issues at a predominately white college; “Sunset High,” challenges facing middle school students; and “Love Doesn’t Have to Hurt,” about a woman dealing with domestic violence on a college campus.

The plays’ characters experience problems and seemingly insurmountable challenges, including domestic violence, child abuse and relationship ills that ultimately turn them toward a relationship with God.

Audience response has been favorable, Brown said.

“It brings tears to my eyes and joy when someone comes up to you and says, ‘Thank you, because I’m a victim of domestic abuse,’ and that they are not going to take it anymore. Every production we deal with is about people who have dealt with some of these issues,” Brown said.

His productions are presented on college campuses, municipal auditoriums and in high schools.

As an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, Brown said he has ministered in many facets, including as a chaplain at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center and as a pastor in several churches throughout the state. He and his wife, the Rev. Pat Brown, earned doctorates in ministry from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, he said.

She is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as business manager and tour director for Public Awareness Theatre.

“I have observed Dr. Lance sit down at the desk and begin writing,” she said. “Within several hours, he’s written a complete two-act play. Within two to two and a half weeks, the script is ready to be given to a cast to begin rehearsals.”

Together, the Browns believe that a serving ministry is one that meets the needs of God, regardless of denomination, race or creed, Lance Brown said.

“People identify ministry as a pulpit ministry and now I’m doing my theater ministry and I love it,” he said. “The most rewarding thing happening to me is having freedom and flexibility. It is a helping hand ministry. I can provide a quality theater ministry and the churches don’t have to finance it.”