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Karlstad area has a passion for the Easter Season

By Linda Andersen
People of the Karlstad area have pooled their energies and abilities to present the message of Easter. A choir of nearly forty voices from Karlstad and neighboring towns under the direction of Kathy Englund performed a cantata entitled “This Is Love” at First Lutheran Church on Palm Sunday, April 13.
On Good Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19, people from six area churches will present a play, “Calvary’s Glory.” Actor Ray Wood will speak after the play each evening. Meet a few of the participants and get a feel for the diversity of people, experiences, and motivation behind these productions.
Greenbush native and retired music teacher Kathy (Evans) Englund contributes regularly in the community by serving as an accompanist for Tri-County music events, teaching piano lessons, and playing the organ at Bethel Lutheran Church. This year is her fourth for directing the Easter cantata; before that (since its beginning in 2004) she sang in the choir. She notes that choir members have practiced every Sunday afternoon since the first Sunday in March. She says the “emphasis” of the cantata “is on Christ’s love for the world and the great sacrifice he made on the cross.”
Karlstad native and cantata pianist, Kirstin Olson, teaches elementary music and grades four, five, and six at Heritage Christian School, serves as organist and choir director at First Lutheran Church, and teaches piano lessons. She has served as cantata pianist since the very first cantata and says, “I enjoy it very much. I’m always interested in hearing the voices that come and how they blend together.”
Potato farmer Justin Dagen serves as one of two narrators for the cantata and plays the role of the biblical James in the play. Though a farmer at heart (his family has farmed in Springbook Township for 134 years), he is happy to turn performer to help present the message that “God changes our lives every day if we will let him work in us.”
Mark Hanson, pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle Church and administrator at Heritage Christian, wrote and directs “Calvary’s Glory.” Pastor Mark has a high interest in Christian films. “A good Christian film touches my heart. I want to do things that touch people’s hearts,” he says. His knowledge in the film area acquainted him with Ray Wood, actor in the award winning film Fireproof, whom he has arranged to travel to Karlstad to speak both nights of the play.  
Nick Reitzel’s considerable artistic contributions add much to the play set. A native of the Twin Cities, Nick studied art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and has won a number of awards for his art including having the distinction of winning the first Minnesota Department of Natural Resources walleye stamp contest. He says he has loved working on six plays with Mark and enjoys doing the scenery because it’s “like doing a painting.”
Edmonton, Alberta native Jon Eerkes plays one of the lead roles as the Apostle Peter. A graduate of Dordt College in Iowa, he moved to the area eleven years ago to work at the Nature Conservancy. Of his involvement in the plays he says, “I’ve been in Mark Hanson’s productions now and again…It’s been fun to do what I can. Usually I’ve been the bad guy!”
Neil Wilson, a Stillwater Minnesota native and truck driver who moved with his family to Kittson County in 2000, plays the part of “Josh,” a modern counterpart of Peter. Neil provides indications of the theme of the play as he explains that Josh has “failed a lot” but “God uses imperfect people.” He says they are attempting to “translate biblical truth into modern times.” They want to answer the question, “How does the Bible relate to our lives?”
Perhaps a story on the 2014 passion productions in Karlstad can be best concluded by the words of their directors on the teamwork aspect of the experience. Of the cantata, Kathy Englund states, “It’s an opportunity to worship God with a community of other Christians.”
And, of the play, Pastor Mark says, “I love working with people from the different churches. We can accomplish so much more working together.”
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