A small parish hits the big screen with a story of welcome and transformation

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If you went to the movies last week, you may have seen a preview for a movie about a small Episcopal congregation brought to life when a community of refugees join the parish. As they say, it’s based on a true story.

ACNS:

The true story of how a group of refugees from Burma helped to save an Episcopal church in the US state of Tennessee has been turned into a movie. Distributed by Sony Pictures, All Saints will open in cinemas in north America next week and is also being distributed internationally.

The diocese of Tennessee explains that the All Saints movie “is a fictionalised account of how the congregation of All Saints’ in Smyrna was very close to shutting its doors just a few years ago until a group of refugees from Burma (Myanmar) came to the vicar and asked if they might attend church there. The Karen are a close-knit group of people who found Christ through the Anglican Church in Burma prior to moving to the United States.

“As more and more Karen began to join the congregation of All Saints, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was at work … in a big way. Needed health care services, farming on the church’s land, selling products from the farmed land to create income, and more activities opened up to the new members a vivid experience of what the American dream looks like within a close church family.”

The dioceses added that “many of the characters in the film are recognisable members of the congregation today. The moving story is not a remote or imaginary one but one lived right here within our diocese.”

Washington Post:

A turning point at All Saints came when Karen attendees asked if they could plant crops on the church property. All Saints was built on about 16 acres of bottomland, perfect for farming. The Karen wanted to plant crops to feed their families and perhaps help the church out.

It was a kind of miracle, said Michael Spurlock, who was pastor of All Saints at the time. God, he said, had sent more than 70 expert farmers to the church at their hour of greatest need.

From 2006, Daily News Journal:

SMYRNA — Remnant members of what is now a small All Saints Church were led in service Sunday by Bishop Bertram Herlong of the Diocese of Tennessee just as members of the newly formed St. Patrick’s Anglican Church ACNA met there early and then packed a room at Bob Parks Realty deliberating over a new place to worship.

The two congregations, once one but now divided over theology, had to pass each other between services as they shared the 10-year-old church on Lee Victory Parkway for the first and last time.

“There was no authority or power given to anybody other than the Diocese of Tennessee to close All Saints,” said Herlong to a group of about 35 after the service. “All Saints has not been closed. Only the diocese can do that.”

A month previous, the Rev. Ray Kasch, current minister of St. Patrick’s and the former minister to All Saints, issued a statement that he was closing All Saints because of the liberal direction Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori was taking the national church in allowing gay bishops.

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JC Fisher
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JC Fisher

I'm guessing the movie may not address WHY "very close to shutting its doors" (because the homophobes up & left)? At any rate, I think I'm looking forward to seeing it (I first heard about this film today, in the pages of "Parade" Sunday-supplement. The blurb did not mention that it was an Episcopal parish!)

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