Some churches in Houston are bringing the Easter Spirit to their community. The Houston Ministerial Alliance, comprised of 10 churches, is offering 1,800 free tickets to see “The Passion of the Christ” during nine 200-seat showings at the Phoenix Theater in Houston, Tx., in April.
"This is our gift to the community during the Easter season," he said. "We don't expect anything in return. We just want to give people a free ticket to something that might change their lives," said Bill Villapiano, HMA president and pastor of Faith Fellowship Church, who organized the idea.
Villapiano was so inspired after hearing the testimony of the Jesus actor, James Caveziel, on the movie. He then began contacting different churches, asking for pledges to buy the tickets.
One of Villapiano’s main reasons for forming the alliance was to ensure money concerns wouldn’t stop people who wanted to watch the movie.
After the arrangements were made to reserve nine showings during the movie’s two-week showing with Steve Cheney, the owner of Phoenix Theatre, The First Baptist Church, which sponsored three of the showings, acted as a clearinghouse to distribute the tickets.
The Rev. Benny Gard of the First Baptist Church explained why his congregation wanted to participate in the giveaway.
"We see this as an outreach to introduce people to Jesus Christ, to reach people who have lost interest in church and to motivate Christians to a deeper walk with Christ," said Gard.
A lot of people did turned out to be interested. Already, as of last Thursday, 1,300 of the 1,800 tickets have been claimed, according to Brenda Skeeters of First Baptist, who is in charge of ticket disbursement. Both Villapiano and Chaney think there may be enough demand to hold the movie over its two-week run or book additional viewings.
The congregation from Soul’s Harbor Church was so inspired by the movie that raising money to fund one showing was not a problem, according to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Cordie Wimberly.
"People from our church who have already seen the movie were awestruck by it and are anxious to share it with their friends and family. We had no trouble raising the money," he said.
Whether people respond to the giveaway or not, the alliance has already proven successful in the inter-denominational support.
"This goes beyond the expected joint Easter service and demonstrates how well this group works across denominational lines," said Villapiano.
For free tickets, contact First Baptist Church, 1241 Hawthorn in Houston at 967-2297.