PARKERSBURG- In an effort to reach the community in a different way, Fairlawn Baptist Church set up a ministry that uses puppets to get out a spiritual message.
Denis Higgins created the church's puppet ministry, called The Outstretched Hands of God, 12 years ago.
"A lot of people hear about puppets and they think it's some funny little character coming up and acting the fool and making people laugh," Higgins said. "With ours we try to have a real message in there. Some of our scripts have funny parts in some of the things we do to keep the audience involved."
Angela Burdiss, left, watches as her daughter Elizabeth Burdiss works with a prop in the puppet room at Fairlawn Baptist Church.
Recently, members of the puppet team were part of a mission trip to the town of Pana, Ill. They were, from left, Elizabeth Burdiss, Austin Parnell, Denis Higgins, Taylor Spade, Angela Burdiss, Karmen Spade and Eric Duranta.
Higgins said the programs do not include foul language or off color humor.
While he has no background in puppets, Higgins said he was inspired to begin the ministry after seeing a movie children at the church were watching.
"One night I was working with the children in one of our other programs and we were watching a movie," he said. "In that movie there was a puppet doing some things and the more I looked at it I said 'I can do that' and it started from there."
Higgins said they started with simple programs and took them to other churches and area festivals.
Higgins said the team usually consists of 11 members, adults and youth. He said the puppets are purchased but they have made some puppets for special programs.
Overall the group has 60 puppets and the average size is two feet tall. All of the puppets are professionally made. Some were custom made for a Christmas program using black light. He said the maker they use most gives each puppet a story.
"The puppets we buy actually have a lineage," he said. "They come with a name and background."
Higgins said the scripts they use are purchased.
"We have taken parts of them for our shows," he said. "We have not written our own scripts yet. There are a lot of scripts out there, so we don't need to reinvent the wheel."
Higgins said since the puppet shows are part of the ministry of Fairlawn Baptist Church, the shows have a message.
"Everything we do has a Christian message to it," he said. "Or there is something in it, maybe a tiny little snippet or the whole program."
Higgins said the puppet ministry will perform at the Harvest Moon Festival for the third year and will make its first appearance at the Honey Festival. They will be at the annual Fraternal Order of Police picnic in August.
"Our group name is 'The Outstretched Hands of God' and within the group we have a puppet band called 'Rock Solid,'" he said. "They will be the program we will have at each appearance. The music we will use is called 'Righteous Pop Music' which are popular songs with Christian lyrics substituted for the original lyrics."