Aerialists are part of the production of "The Thorn," which will be at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center April 22-23. Photo courtesy "The Thorn."
Aerialists are part of the production of "The Thorn," which will be at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center April 22-23. Photo courtesy "The Thorn."

Dance, acrobatics tell story of ‘The Thorn’

It’s a story that people know, but John Bolin is pretty sure they’ve never seen it told this way.       

“The Thorn” presents the story of Jesus from the Biblical rendering of creation through Jesus’s resurrection to the Book of Acts with performers such as aerialists, classically trained dancers, actors, martial artists and a humorous narrator.

A scene from “The Thorn” @KrisRae

“’The Thorn’ is a cultural event as much as a Christian event. It’s not a church service. There’s no altar call or worship songs. It’s a performing arts event,” said Bolin, who created the production that will be at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center April 22-23.  “It feels more like theater than church for sure.”

“The Thorn” began in a modest way – as a skit during a Wednesday night youth service.

“I wasn’t a great preacher, so we’d do a lot of these illustrated sermons,” said Bolin, who was a volunteer youth pastor at the time. “They had video and music acting and dance to keep these high school and college kids’ attention.”

The pastor heard about the skit and wondered if he could do it for the entire church for Easter, and he said “yes.”

 That was 25 years ago.

“The Thorn” Photo @KrisRae

 “The Thorn” was the Easter production for about a decade before Bolin and his wife, Sarah, decided to take it outside their church to others.

 And that lasted for another decade.

 Then, COVID hit, and the world shut down.

After the pause, the Bolins tried to get “The Thorn” going again; the pastors they’d worked with before initially agreed to open up their churches again, but then they changed their minds.

Bolin admits it was discouraging.

“We wondered if ‘The Thorn’ could continue,” he said.

Bringing “The Thorn” to a church required a lot of effort on the church’s behalf and for some it was “too much for them to handle. We wondered if we should pack it up or what if we could put this in performing arts centers. And I wondered if the public would show up,” he said.

The Bolins took a huge leap of faith and took out a large loan to make the production happen, hiring “world class” performers who’ve trained at top schools.

He said he considered quitting several times, and his wife said while he could, but she refused.

“The Thorn” hit the road in the spring of 2023, selling out auditoriums in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.

Before COVID, Bolin said five cities in a tour would’ve been great, but this spring alone, it will be in about 25 cities with more people seeing it than they could’ve imagined.

People will laugh and cry during “The Thorn” according to its creator. Photo courtesy “The Thorn.”

“When we shifted the production from local churches to performing arts centers, it went from one denomination or one church or just Christians to a broad audience. Protestants sit next to Catholics; Baptist sit next to charismatics, churched people sit next to unchurched…It’s beautiful to watch what God is doing,” he said.

When Bolin looks back over the 25 years in awe, he shares one regret.

“There was not a lot of forethought in the name. I thought it was going to be a skit on a Wednesday night one time in 1997. If I would‘ve known what it was going to be now, I would’ve picked a better name,” he said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for more than 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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