(By Kathy Larson, The Layman). This is the kind of movie The Church needs to be making.
I’ve been reviewing faith-based movies for several years now, and I find myself often disappointed in the quality of the acting and the storyline. All Saints was like a breath of fresh air in the faith-based movie world. The story was compelling and well-told and lead actor John Corbett was believable and three-dimensional as a salesman-turned-pastor with a little bit of a problem-with-authority kind of edge to him, but the heart of Jesus.
But even more importantly, this is a story of The Church being The Church. All Saints is the true story of Michael Spurlock, a salesman who left his previous career after frequent clashes with his superiors and became an Episcopal priest. His first assignment is simple. There is a church in Smyrna, TN that is dying and all he has to do is help the congregation through the transition the sale of the property and all of its assets. But, pretty early on in what should have been a short assignment, some unexpected visitors appear at All Saints – a group of Karen (pronounced kuh-REN, which everyone in the movie is constantly getting confused with Korean) farmers, refugees from Burma who had been converted by missionaries back in Burma, who are in dire need of food.
Spurlock knows he’s supposed to be closing the church, not growing it. He’s supposed to be selling off what they have and making money, not spending it. But he cannot help but feel that God brought the Karen to All Saints for a reason and God specifically put him at All Saints for such a time as this. He is consistently reminded of Jesus’s call to feed the hungry, serve the poor, and take in refugees.
Spurlock and the Karen leader, Ye Win, start a small farm on the church property with the goal to feed the Karen people and sell the rest to save the church. He fights the ecclesiastical authority of the church to give them more time to make it to harvest, he battles self-doubt and worry and physical obstacles like not realizing how expensive and how hard farming is. He makes incredible personal sacrifices and pours his whole life and heart into the project. Spurlock for sure wasn’t perfect, but his choices and his passion just oozed the love of Jesus right off of the movie screen.
I saw this movie at a preview for church leaders back in May, just a few months after the Executive Order to institute a temporary ban on all refugees. The political world was still very much arguing about refugees. The Church was even arguing about refugees. It struck a chord with me in a way that it may not have at a different time and place. I left the theater thinking, this is a story The Church needs to hear. And it’s one The Church needs to tell to the world. Not political arguments and theological pontificating, but a real story of real people showing the love of Christ. And experiencing it in return. Because one of the most poignant points the film makes is that Spurlock and the people of All Saints received so much more than they gave. A church that was dying became a vibrant community of believers working together for a common goal. They became a family. What real Church is. And what all of us need, even more than food.
Though the refugee crisis is not quite as much in the forefront of our minds right now as it was a few months ago, this story could not be more important for The Church to hear and see. It’s a call to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To not just talk about what Jesus would or wouldn’t do, but do it. The Church needs more movies like this. But even more, The Church needs more people like Michael Spurlock and Ye Win.
How you can help with the refugee crisis: http://www.allsaintsmovie.com/partners
All Saints trailer:
The Reconnect with Carmen LaBerge: Meet Rev. Michael Spurlock from All Saints movie