Dubbed the ‘Blaster Pastor’, fireworks expert Chris Pearce is also a Methodist local preacher who uses his passion for pyrotechnics in church services. SHARON BARNARD talks to him (from a safe distance)
When did you first become interested in fireworks and how did your business, Jubilee Fireworks, get started?
Fireworks have been a lifelong interest. Some of my earliest and strongest memories relate to Bonfire Night, which I thought had a magical quality.
I began a small fireworks business in 1987, alongside my main employment as a science teacher. In those early days, we did about 10 displays a year – now we stage over 200, including massive shows outside the UK.
In 2010 we have already staged shows in the Philippines (Manila) and Monte Carlo.
I was encouraged in the early days by Rev Ron Lancaster of Kimbolton Fireworks who, as well as being Britain's leading firework authority (he was awarded the MBE), was chaplain of Kimbolton School. Aged 85, Ron still takes services in his local parish. So, there is an early Christian connection.
When did you become a Methodist preacher?
I ‘qualified’ in 1997. Perhaps a better description would be that I became ‘fully accredited' after a few years in training. I am now the Local Preachers’ Secretary for the Tipton Circuit, based in the West Midlands and I take services on a regular basis.
How have you used fireworks to illustrate various aspects of the Christian faith?
Fire is a potent symbol in the Bible – you can think in terms of its cleansing or refining power. Also, Moses encountered God in a burning bush.
Turning to the New Testament, there are strong associations with the Day of Pentecost. A controlled flame burn is a good way of illustrating the power of the Spirit, for example.
I have to be careful not just to be an 'entertainer' – there always has to be a solid message and reason for using pyrotechnic effects. So I only use fireworks occasionally, when the time is right.
Safety is also a big consideration; not all churches are suitable and you have to understand exactly what the individual fireworks do. Most are 'theatrical' effects, specially constructed for indoor use.
What sort of reaction have you had from congregations?
Generally good. I can't recall anyone ever saying that using pyrotechnics in church was inappropriate. It's just a way of reinforcing a message – a 'visual metaphor' if you like.
Provided that it’s in context, congregations respond well – particularly children. I am sure that some people don't like it, but being Christians they are too polite to criticise!
You’ve won a number of awards, and just recently Jubilee Fireworks won the prestigious International Firework Competition in Monaco. How did that feel?
I suppose it’s rather like winning a medal at the Olympics: it’s nice to get recognition for your work. A firework display is an art form and this is recognised more in parts of Europe and the Far East.
We are striving to enhance the experience of our UK audiences to appreciate the inherent artistic qualities in fireworks shows where, traditionally, it has been a rather damp experience in November!
Do you have a favourite firework?
Strangely enough, no. It’s rather like asking a chef if he or she has a favourite ingredient. I love all types of fireworks. What is important is how the individual effects are combined to complement each other in a display.
Aerial shells (which produce the big chrysanthemum bursts in the sky) are probably the most impressive fireworks, but even the humble fountain has an inherent beauty.
For further information about Jubilee Fireworks visit www.jubileefireworks.com or call 01384 402255.
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