A New Corpus Christi

Plays for Churches

by Norman A. Bert (Author)
©2018 Textbook XVIII, 178 Pages


In the tradition of the medieval cycle plays performed for education, enrichment, and entertainment, A New Corpus Christi: Plays for Churches presents 25 short plays and skits with one or two scripts for each of 21 events in the church year. The scripts range from celebratory pieces to problem plays to liturgical dramas to plays that call for no worship setting accouterments. The scripts will also provide discussion starters for Sunday school classes or small groups. And some of the plays might be grouped together as programs on particular topics such as poverty and homelessness or death and dying. This book also provides a resource for university and seminary courses in liturgics and worship.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Corpus Christi—The Festival and the Play
  • The Concept of A New Corpus Christi
  • Permissions
  • Variety in A New Corpus Christi
  • Venues and Presentation Styles
  • Working With Directors and Choreographers
  • Acknowledgements
  • Part I. Plays For Winter
  • Chapter 1. A Play for the First Sunday in Advent
  • Tsunami: Production Notes
  • Tsunami
  • Chapter 2. Two Plays for Christmas Eve
  • The Search: Production Notes
  • The Search
  • St. Joe and the Christmas Gift: Production Notes
  • Saint Joe and the Christmas Gift
  • Chapter 3. A Play for Christmas Day
  • Outta the Blue: Production Notes
  • Outa the Blue
  • Chapter 4. A Play for New Year’s Day
  • Seven Come Eleven: Production Notes
  • Seven Come Eleven
  • Chapter 5. A Play for Epiphany
  • Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor: Production Notes
  • Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor
  • Chapter 6. Two Plays for the Baptism of the Lord
  • Terlingua: Production Notes
  • Terlingua
  • The Island: Production Notes
  • The Island
  • Chapter 7. A Play for Black History Month
  • Let My People Go!: Production Notes
  • Let My People Go!
  • Part II. Plays for Spring and Summer
  • Chapter 8. A Play for Transfiguration Sunday
  • Revelation: Production Notes
  • Revelation
  • Chapter 9. Three Plays for Lent
  • … Like He Could See Into Me …: Production Notes
  • … Like He Could See Into Me … (Dialog Version)
  • … Like He Could See Into Me … (Monolog Version)
  • The Businessman and the Bag Lady: Production Notes
  • The Businesman and the Bag Lady
  • Blind Guide: Production Notes
  • Blind Guide
  • Chapter 10. An Entrance Liturgy for Palm Sunday
  • Palm Sunday Pageant: Production Notes
  • Palm Sunday Pageant
  • Chapter 11. A Play for Maundy Thursday
  • Necessity: Production Notes
  • Necesity
  • Chapter 12. A Play for Good Friday
  • Last Rites: Production Notes
  • Last Rites
  • Chapter 13. A Play for Easter Vigil
  • Closure: Production Notes
  • Closure
  • Chapter 14. A Play for Easter
  • Beyond Fear: Production Notes
  • Beyond Fear
  • Chapter 15. A Play for the Lord’s Ascension
  • The Dream: Production Notes
  • The Dream
  • Chapter 16. A Celebration for Pentecost
  • Spirit Dance: Production Notes
  • Spirit Dance
  • Part III. Plays for Autumn
  • Chapter 17. A Play for World Communion Sunday
  • The Llano Estacado Blues: Production Notes
  • The Llano Estacado Blues
  • Chapter 18. Two Plays for All Saints Day
  • For All the Saints: Production Notes
  • For All the Saints
  • A Ship on Broadway: Production Notes
  • A Ship on Broadway
  • Chapter 19. A Play for the Feast of Christ the King
  • Gunnin’ fer Doggies: Production Notes
  • Gunnin’ fer Doggies
  • Chapter 20. A Play for Thanksgiving
  • The Thanksgiving Burglar: Production Notes
  • The Thanksgiving Burglar

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Corpus Christi—The Festival and the Play

In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, the church established the Feast of Corpus Christi to commemorate the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Corpus Christi was set for the Thursday occurring 60 days after Easter, a date that would fall somewhere between mid-May and mid-June. The event came to be celebrated with public performances of plays that portrayed all of holy history from creation to last judgment. While an entire Corpus Christi cycle might last 15 hours, it was broken up into brief episodes that were assigned to different trade guilds to prepare and stage. The individual episodes would typically include the creation of the world and the fall of Adam and Eve, a variety of stories from the Hebrew scriptures that were seen as particularly symbolic of Jesus Christ, a number of stories from Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, and a play about the last judgment.

The Corpus Christi performances provided entertainment values of comedy and passion as well as commercial opportunities as people came to town from all around. But the plays also carried deep meanings. Medieval Christians understood that, through the miracle of transubstantiation, God literally ← xi | xii → entered them and their lives as they partook of the sacrament. And in the Corpus Christi plays, they witnessed God entering the world in three distinct events—in creation, in the life and death of Jesus Christ, and in final judgment. Those who looked even deeper might have made other symbolic connections that had to do with the double-ness of acting. For instance, when a performer acted a role—say the role of Noah—he was simultaneously Noah and the tradesman that people knew, and they might be hard pressed to decide which parts of that “Noah” were the man they knew and which belonged to the patriarch. Similarly, in taking communion, they could not distinguish between the bread and the body of Christ that they understood it had become. And both the bread of communion and the actor in a Corpus Christi play echoed the double-ness they understood to be in Christ Jesus who, according to the Creed, was “very God of very God … and was made man.”

In the Reformation, Protestants rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, most protestant countries ceased to celebrate Corpus Christi, and the plays were laid aside to become primarily the focus of scholars.

In the twenty-first century, theatre and drama is back in church. A growing number of churches have drama ministry teams and many more include occasional theatrical performances in their worship services ranging from Christmas pageants to Palm Sunday entrances. This collection of plays, A New Corpus Christi, is part of that rebirth of theatre in the church—with a few, significant differences from the medieval Corpus Christi plays.

The Concept of A New Corpus Christi

A New Corpus Christi presents 25 plays with one or two scripts for each of 21 events in the church year. Many of those events are observances in the liturgical calendar—festival days such as Christmas, Easter, and less-frequently-observed occasions such as the Baptism of the Lord and Christ the King Sunday. A few of the included events such as New Year’s Day, Black History Month, and World Communion Sunday are not, strictly speaking, part of the liturgical calendar but are still celebrated by many Christians in the United States.

In many cases, the plays in this collection are keyed thematically to readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. The Lectionary is a three-year cycle of scriptural readings that is intended to move Christians through the most significant portions of the Bible. For each Sunday or other holy day in the liturgical calendar, the Lectionary sets a reading from the Hebrew scriptures, a ← xii | xiii → psalm, a reading from the New Testament epistles, and one from the Gospels. Interested readers can easily access the Revised Common Lectionary listings via Google on the Web. While most plays in A New Corpus Christi do not actually depict the events in the associated Lectionary readings, an effort has been made for all of the plays to deal with themes in those readings.

Each script in the collection is accompanied by an introduction page. Each introduction first comments on the intended thematic impact of the play and how the play interfaces with the Lectionary readings for that day. This topical introduction is then followed by suggestions for presenting the play including acting considerations, staging ideas, etc.


Contrary to typical theatre practice, the plays in this collection are intended to be performed royalty free and without the producers securing specific performance permission. If you own the book, you have permission to present the plays and you owe no royalties.

Also contrary to typical theatre practice, producers are under no obligation to present the plays exactly as written. Words may be changed and speeches may be cut without obtaining the playwright’s permission.

The playwright and publisher, of course, hope that producers will purchase copies of the book and provide one for each participant in a given play rather than making copies of the scripts.

And whenever possible, the playwright should be credited with having written the script. A simple notice in the bulletin such as “Tsunami by Norman A. Bert” will suffice.

Variety in A New Corpus Christi

The plays in this collection present a wide variety of forms, styles, and impacts. There are very short scenes like Revelation that only take about four minutes to perform and longer one-acts like St. Joe and the Christmas Gift that last close to 20 minutes. There are liturgical dramas like Beyond Fear that assume the presence of choirs, musical instruments, and/or singing congregations, and also playlets like Blind Guide that call for no worship setting accouterments. There are plays on biblical stories like The Search and scenes that make no overt religious references at all like The Thanksgiving Burglar. There are straightforward dramas like A Ship on Broadway and much more stylized ones like Llano ← xiii | xiv → Estacado Blues. There’s a tragedy (For All the Saints), a drama (Outta the Blue), and a satirical comedy (Gunnin’ fer Doggies). There’s even a Palm Sunday pageant and a dance (Spirit Dance). Some of the plays project an orthodox, traditional understanding of Christianity and some are more progressive in their theological viewpoint. Some of the plays make an obvious point, and some are very open-ended. Some are very clearly keyed to a specific festival and some might be used on any number of days. Not all forms, styles, and impacts will serve the needs of all congregations, so those using the book are invited to read all the plays and find the ones that particularly speak to their needs.


XVIII, 178
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVIII, 178 pp.

Biographical notes

Norman A. Bert (Author)

Norman A. Bert received his Ph.D. from Indiana University and teaches playwriting at Texas Tech University.


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198 pages