Sacred Stages: A Church, A Theatre, and A Story / by R. Sheth

Directed, Edited, and Produced by Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani

(28 min, 36 sec)

Release Date

March 22, 2014

Screening Premiere Venue

Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple, 77 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

Sacred Stages: A Church, A Theatre, and A Story tells the unique and inspiring story of the relationship between the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple—Chicago's oldest Christian congregation—and Silk Road Rising, a theatre company founded in response to 9/11 that showcases playwrights of Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds. A shared commitment to storytelling, racial and economic justice, and LGBT inclusion characterizes this profound partnership between a religious community and a secular theatre.

Story of the Charred Cross:

The “charred cross” referred to in the documentary film was first a lasting reminder of the KKK’s frightful visit to the lawn of Tougaloo College Chaplain Ed King. But it also became a dramatic symbol of a divided church, which accompanied TC college students to the 1964 General Conference of the Methodist Church. That spring, this mainline Protestant denomination gathered for its quadrennial meeting to decide church law and practice. In 1964 “desegregating the denomination top down” was clearly on the agenda, ending a separate central jurisdiction for African Americans. White pastors from Chicago (Gerald Forshey, Martin Deppe and Jim Reid), who were among the driving voices for desegregation, invited the Tougaloo students to join them in their crusade. At the end of the conference that created a plan of merger that would integrate the church, the college students left the charred cross with Pastor Forshey. He and Deppe wrapped the cross in paper and returned to Chicago. Once home Forshey turned to his artist friend John Kearney, an urban sculptor. Kearney not only epoxied the cross for preservation, but created a human figure to hang on it, a Black Jesus. For 45 years it was a part of the private collection of Forshey and his wife, Florence. Periodically, it was shared with local congregations for display. In October, 2008, on the occasion of the Chicago Temple’s 175th Anniversary, it was permanently gifted to the Chicago Temple for public viewing. In the Forshey’s minds it belonged to the church, a powerful symbol of the struggle all had suffered for its full inclusion of the body of Christ, the church on earth.



Reverend Philip Blackwell

Jann Ingmire

Michael Leech

Megha Ralapati

Malik Gillani

Jamil Khoury

Jonni Miklos

David Rhee

Cheryl Hamada

Rev. Claude King

Adriana Sevahn Nichols

Brenda Russell


Production Team

Directors, Editors and Producers 
Jamil Khoury
alik Gillani

Digital Imaging Technician 
Deann Baker

Production Managers 
Caitlin Duerinck
Corey Pond

Music Composer 
Peter J .Storms

Directors of Photography 
Stephen Combs
Deann Baker

Script Consultant 
Jon Steinhagen