Movies that have the pedigree of being focused on faith or Christianity turn me off. There is a sense within them that does not ring true with me.
However, I found one that I have to say that I liked.
"All Saints" is the true story about a dying congregation. The attendance is down to 12. It's an Episcopal church, and the diocese makes the decision to disband the church and sell the building.
They appoint Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), a man who comes to the pastoral role later in life, to be the rector to shut down church operations and oversee the disbanding of the church.
While doing that work, the church is visited by a group of Burmese refugees who have settled in the area.
Their leader, Ye Win (Nelson Lee), tells Spurlock that they are Anglican, as Burma was once a colony of England. They have come to the church seeking help.
Spurlock begins helping the Karen, which is their ethnic group, to find housing and jobs. As he works with the group, he sees an opportunity to do something that may save the church.
The church has much land surrounding it. The Karen are farmers. Spurlock decides to plant crops on the church land as a means of saving it.
All of this comes about because Spurlock says he heard God's voice. Yet, he is not fully convinced walking into an unknown so he talks to the bishops about this, which brings about problems.
There also is the trouble within his congregation. One of his members, Forest (Barry Corbin), is a retired farmer; he tries to tell Spurlock what he is getting into and how hard it will be. Spurlock does not listen to Forest's counsel and ends up alienating Forest, who leaves the church.
The movie does not try to make Spurlock out to be a hero or a savior. He is flawed in many ways. One of his biggest flaws is an unwillingness to ask for the help of others. And his vision gets tested both by circumstances he cannot control and things he can.
What makes this movie a cut above most Christian/faith movies is its touch of realism. There are no moments where people are driven to their knees by a force they cannot explain. Nor are there moments of supernatural wonder.
What is here is a pastor trying to fulfill what he saw as being his job. And even he speaks about his doubts and he has to learn.
What we see is a God that moves in "mysterious ways" and not in supernatural ways. God does not show up as many would think he ought. And God does some things that try the faith of all involved, especially the pastor.
It is a realistic depiction of what it is like trying to do church today. It is messy, confusing and many times frustrating.
Yet, in the end, there is something reassuring that comes because of the attempt to follow God to where it is that God leads, even if the way is not clear and the outcome is totally uncertain.
I would highly recommend this movie to any church that would like to see what happens when the mission field comes knocking at their door. It is important to see how a struggling church manages to turn itself around in a powerful way.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements
Director: Steve Gomer
Writer: Steve Armour
Cast: Cara Buono (Aimee Spurlock), John Corbett (Michael Spurlock), Barry Corbin (Forest), Nelson Lee (Ye Win), Gregory Alan Williams (Bishop Eldon Thompson).