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Performer to bring words of Jesus, Bonhoeffer to Bethel stage

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Minister and chaplain turned full-time performing artist Al Staggs will give two presentations on the Bethel College campus as part of the Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.

Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m., Staggs will present The Sermon on the Mount, some of Jesus’ most famous words from the New Testament, delivered in “a conversational, understated manner as though … being spoken for the first time.”

Monday, Nov. 9, at 11 a.m., Staggs will perform in Bethel College’s convocation in A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This one-person play, which Staggs adapted, brings the audience into the prison cell where Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and part of the German resistance to the Nazis before and during World War II, awaits his execution and struggles with questions of evil, injustice and God.

Both presentations take place in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center and are free and open to the public.

Staggs holds a B.A. from Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, an M.R.E. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, a Th.M. from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is currently based in Santa Fe, N.M.

During post-graduate studies, Staggs found himself increasingly drawn to individuals in recent history who had devoted their lives to justice and peace concerns. After two decades of working as a parish minister, he came to terms with his passions for performing and for working for peace and justice, first combining the two by writing and performing A View from the Underside. Since leaving the ministry for full-time performing, Staggs has added characterizations of Clarence Jordan, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Thomas Merton and Walter Rauschenbusch to his repertoire, and says he “finds great satisfaction in bringing these notable figures to life and sharing their relevant messages with audiences throughout the world.”

Staggs recently published a book of his poetry, A Pilgrim in Rome: Cries of Dissent. For more information, see www.alstaggs.com.

The Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series was established in 1969, named for its benefactors, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley of New York, who set it up to honor their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Staley and Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Haynes. Bethel College has been hosting Staley Lectures since 1972.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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