by Dennis Dalman
Late on a frosty Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge sat all alone, writing with a feather pen and scoffing at the wasteful foolishness of Christmas, dismissing human kindness as nothing but humbug.
Just then, he heard the sound of rattling chains and into his house stepped a ghoulish-looking Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, dead for 10 years.
That’s one of the tableau scenes witnessed by visitors to The Living Waters church in Sartell during Ebenezer Scrooge: An Interactive Family Experience. The theatrical event took place Dec. 4-7 in the woods just behind the church. Groups of 20 people – adults and children – would set out every half hour from the church to walk down paths into the woods, stopping at one-room cabin-like structures to witness the drama unfold. Many hundreds of people enjoyed the Scrooge walk.
The story was based, loosely, on Charles Dickens’ famed novella, A Christmas Carol, published to wide acclaim in 1843. That one novella is credited with creating and popularizing the festivities surrounding Christmas celebrations throughout the Western world. It’s also become a perennial cautionary tale about the importance of personal-spiritual redemption, from pinched darkness to expansive light. In the Living Waters version, God is a vital part of Scrooge’s redemption.
The weather for the Scrooge walk was ideal: a frosty chill but not too cold. One of the dramatic highlights was a one-room schoolhouse, with six children sitting in their desks with lessons as their teacher presided. As Scrooge, led by the Ghost of Christmas Past, enters the room, he quickly notices himself – as a boy – sitting in one of the school desks. Behind him sits his sweetheart, Belle. Viewers quickly learn some of the clues to Scrooge’s later mean-spirited behavior. The teacher, with sadness in her voice, tells little Ebenezer he must spend Christmas Day with somebody else, that his father and family won’t be coming to school to pick him up because they have been put into debtor’s prison.
After experiencing more traumas, led by ghosts, Scrooge is finally brought to a gloomy, gated graveyard. Using his lantern for light, he sees the name Ebenezer Scrooge carved on a headstone. Then he hears the scraping, digging sounds of two female gravediggers, gabbing away in lilting Cockney accents about what an old mean tightwad was the man they are about to bury.
Scrooge, taken aback and then terrified, suddenly “sees the light” and vows to become a better man. And, of course, he does – later opening his pocketbook, celebrating Christmas with his nephew’s family and adopting the poor, sickly Tiny Tim Cratchit, son of his clerk, almost as his own child. By the end, all is well and the spirit of Christmas reigns once again.
Ebenezer, which visitors clearly enjoyed, is just one of the annual walk-throughs every Christmas season at The Waters church. Members of the congregation spend many hours creating and then performing for the interactive walking tours.