And Interview with Corey Walton about our Spoken Word Ministry

If you’ve been attending Evergreen, you’ve probably noticed that we occasionally have spoken word/dramatic readings featured. Maybe you’re wondering how this ministry got started, or where they find their scripts. Here’s an interview with Corey Walton, who is the leader of our spoken word ministry. 

How did you get interested in the stage?

 I got bit by the drama bug way back in grammar school! I’ve been doing some form of stage/theater pretty much all my life.  When I moved to Minnesota in 1999 for a job transfer, one of my first orders of business was to research the theater scene. I started auditioning for everything that appealed to me! It was an exciting time in my life because Minnesota has so much to offer in performance arts. I even got a chance to do some work in independent films. The options were, and still are, unlimited.

How did the spoken word ministry begin at Evergreen?

Our spoken word ministry began with an obedient act to God. A few years ago, Jeff Reed was moved by the Holy Spirit to share spiritual thoughts in a creative piece he performed for our church.  I was so touched by the piece that I went up to Jeff after that Friday night service and told him how much power I felt in his words. We exchanged phone numbers and starting sharing ideas of how we could use the art of spoken word as a ministry for the church. But it all started with Jeff’s obedient act to God.

What would you say to the other creative people wondering how to use their gifts for the Lord?

You’d be surprised at what a simple conversation might lead to. But if you have something to offer, no one will know unless you take that first step. For anyone wondering how to use their creative gifts for the Lord, I recommend just reaching out to someone and share your idea! Have a conversation with anyone already involved in one of the creative ministries at Evergreen or with one of the pastors.  It’s also helpful to be prepared to share a sample of your work. In other words, show ‘em what you can do!  

Spencer, Brent, and all of the pastors have been so amazing and supportive of our ministry since day one! Like it says in 1 Peter 4:10: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” There is no reason to be apprehensive.  Just go for it!

How do you come up with the ideas for the spoken word pieces?

As far as ideas for substance, the pastors’ outlines for each series are the best place to begin mining for ideas. What’s great about the outline is that it includes corresponding scripture passages. So you get insight on the message behind the message! I have a pretty good Application Bible, so I’ll also read that and a few other things to get a firm understanding of the supporting passages.  Since the primary goal of each spoken word piece is to support the pastor’s message as best we can, it really helps to know what the pastor’s key points will be when he delivers the message. I usually try to identify four-five themes or mini-messages in the pastor’s outline to create my own working outline to write the spoken word. Once I’m comfortable with the themes, I pray and get to writing!

Once you have an idea for the piece, what is the creative process?

With a working outline, I just start filling in the blanks.  I try to keep three things in mind when I write: 1) The piece must convey and support the pastor’s message. 2) I try to keep it around four-six minutes long. 3) I try to make it entertaining! It usually takes me about 10 hours to write a five-minute piece. I usually spread that over a week’s time.

Once it’s written, we have to decide what the piece will look like on stage. That determination is usually made in one of two ways.  Sometimes when I am writing it, I already have some vision in my mind on how it could be performed onstage. It usually pops into my head as soon as I start to write. But other times, nothing definite comes to me. So I’ll finish the piece and hand it off to Kirsten Phillips, my co-collaborator. Kirsten is so good at getting the words off the page and on to the stage. Even if I already have a vision in mind, she’ll say something like, “I like that, but instead of doing this on page two, why don’t we try this instead?” Her script ideas are amazing! I always end up liking what’s written, so much more, after Kirsten has gotten ahold of it.

Once we’re both comfortable with the words and the performance concepts, we start memorizing the lines and rehearsing the heck out of it! If we’re performing in more of a “recital” format (i.e. reading the material to the audience in dramatic fashion), rehearsing is more about repetition—getting used to the words and each other’s delivery and cadence. But if we’re performing the material as a skit, rehearsing will also involve “blocking” the scene. (“Blocking” is a theater term for deciding the actors’ movements on stage to accompany the dialogue.) Over the years we’ve worked together, Kirsten and I have pretty much settled into our roles. I write the script and she directs the performance.  But what’s so cool is that over time, for certain pieces, we’ve switched roles! That seems to keep it fresh.


Spencer Bernard