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Nicole da Silva
ALL SAINTS is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.
In spite of the fact that I, myself, am a pastor, I'm not generally enamoured of Christian movies. They're too formulaic and entirely predictable to be truly interesting. But this movie did pique my curiosity. First, because it was a true story about a real church and a real pastor facing a real challenge that's so familiar to many churches today. Second, because it didn't sound as if it was a hard-sell evangelical type of story (it is, after all, about an Episcopalian Church - hardly a hotbed of fundamentalism) but was rather about the real journey of one congregation to redefine its purpose. All Saints was a small and struggling Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee that was slated to close because it could no longer afford its mortgage. Then, suddenly, a large group of refugees from Myanmar - who happened to be Anglican - moved to the community and started attending the church. Together with the pastor, Michael Spurlock (who was newly ordained and had been assigned to All Saints for the sole purpose of guiding them to their end - a sort of pastoral palliative care for a dying congregation), the newcomers transform the church by creating a farm on its property, and using the produce to both feed the refugee population and to produce income for the church, giving the congregation new life and convincing the ecclesiastical powers that be to keep it open as a mission church.
The story isn't exactly an "exciting" one - but it's very faithful and faith-filled. Not in a fundamentalist sense, but in the sense of a diverse group of faithful Christians who work together to find a way to make a difference, and who feel themselves led by God to a new way of being "church." It's a pleasant and inspiring movie to watch. It's not hard-sell Christian. Among those who contribute to the farm are Buddhists and even "nothings" (presumably atheists) along with long time congregational members and members of a presumably evangelical mega-church nearby. But this particular church and its mission drew together all of these folk who in the normal course of things might never have known each other or worked together.
I thought the cast - particularly John Corbett and Cara Buono as Pastor Michael Surlock and his wife Aimee and also Nelson Lee as Ye Win (who was the leader of the refugee population) - were strong, and the story resonated with me and should resonate with anyone concerned about the plight of the church in so many places today and who are looking for a sign that the faith still matters and the church still makes a difference. This movie accomplished that. Well done. 7/10
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