Ah! It’s been said, that books pick you! Yes, they do and so do movies in this age of downloads and streaming. And All Saints was so timely; one’s belief finds thirst quenching sparking water. Timely for me in my microcosm, am sure it talks in deeper and urgent tones to others too.
So, to the movie:
Michael’s (John Corbett) first assignment as newly ordained Parish priest, is a small job: clean up the church and its premise and ready it for the market. He sets out to do so earnestly. Ah! Right, cleanup has been reduced to this these days, not quite what Christ did with the rope around his waist, whipping the merchants out of His father’s house alone. Today the merchants own it fully. In our small church by the park, the voluntary position of the treasurer is usually with the guys who love money – they will treat it with care, like handing over the keys to the thief and he is thus reformed. Well, that theory is as whopped as all those solutions that grow back hair or pills that will rid you of envy and jealousy.
No big deal, there are only a few people who come in on Sunday mornings. I have heard this being said of the church I go to as well: it’s a church of just senior citizens and a handful of them. We should ask them to move to a church close by and do something else with the large plot that houses the church. The small difference being that in our case there is so much devious activity in an already demonic thought fueled atmosphere, thankfully not so with All Saints.
And Michael works at being a good priest, works out a couple of nice sermons and talk to the few old who still continue to hang in there on Sundays, before they are sent off to a larger parish. close by. Yes, you sigh, sitting here in a new urbane India, it seems the initial scenes of the movie is where we (our church) would be at in less than 5 years from now, if we continue down on the road we are on. The west has, we assume again, easily let go off its churches for more creative purposes. We see our future played out in another land’s history, and with the prayers of waiting on the messiah to come as our only hope in our rather stubborn apathy. Our solutions are all outside. Like a visiting priest who told me the other day, the solutions to the trouble the South Indian churches finds itself will come from the laity. I almost choked on my smile. This small congregation of ours believed our solution was the next Clergy in flowing shining white robes. So there goes that!! So, we continue looking into the dark clouds that offer no rain.
Like empty hopes filled to the brim with superhero movies, I waited for a bishop/messiah to step in and give this tale which was also turning melancholy with the misty-eyed -camera looking sadly on at the small congregation. No! Messiah is not coming! But Yes! God is at work though.
And into this gloom several refugees come in, misery does love company! They’re members of the Karen people group, farmers from Burma who’ve been transplanted to the little town of Smyrna, Tenn. They don’t speak much English but they are Anglicans. And its right fit for Anglicans in this episcopal Church.
And about this time God starts to talk to Michael. One rainy night and he reads the signs and His voice in the thunder. The roads will smoothen out with god on your side, the angels will plough you land! We think, and we will sit through like we do at sermons that are soothing, like common candy, sweet only for as long as it lasts and soon forgotten. Michael now just has to say and the red sea would part! Well, if our Christian/life journey were to be thus, would not Christ have turned those stones to bread? Michael all inspired and with the light bursting out of him meets the bishop and tells him, that he will make a Church of All Saints, the property should not go on the market. Ah! The red sea lays still to the gesturing of his rod!
Yes, the story, true story, is more the real gospel, quite unlike the tele-evengalical spiel that ends with your cheque books and their promise of comfort and lots of money pouring straight out of our leaky roof and into our bank balance. This movie does not attempt to proselytize, just tell a transforming tale is all. The story is well told, and no, it’s not just a ‘Christian’ story, it’s a story of transformation, of love, and the reassurance that in humanity is our hope.
Oh yes, the movie is based on a true story and adapted for the screen wonderfully. Many of the church goers that are shown in the movie are from the actual congregation and the real-life Karen refugees from Burma too. It was filmed at the actual All Saints’ Church where the events took place, located outside of Nashville. It is definite impetus for sagging faith, most definitely for guys living in urban milieus; going with the generalization that all cities are just the clone of a big city we aspired to be and become, Became!
And importantly God’s voice was not in the thunder; the voice is so finely intertwined in the lives of all who have now become part of the community and from there comes salvation. The strength: to withstand the lashing of the storm, to bear a loved one leaving, the disappointments. There are thanksgivings and joy of providence of grace, there is all of it and the light that makes life come alive with meaning, God with you.
And meanwhile in a small town in Bangalore, in our little church amidst the apathy there rests this hope that the present priest will go and then will come a new shepherd and a sheep whose fleece will from years of apathy suddenly start to sparkle and crackle. God does work in mysterious ways, but it still would need us to put our hands and voices into what he called us to. We presently have left the church to come to when you absolutely nothing else to do, we come looking for some fun amidst weltering flowers expecting them to all perk up for us. Ah! Well, it’s beautiful to find momentary solace and a stirring in our hearts from the goings-on on the silver screen. Hopefully, and until such time as we heed that voice inside so dulled with material possession and consumeristic delight. And the hollow eyes and emptiness inside we continue to beg the outside to fill.
So going back to the story, it lives in you; am writing about this movie, month after I have seen it. It continues to be the flickering little light in my finding love and warmth in my brotherhood – at the moment cold awaiting the messiah from a pool that’s already quite deplete. Yes, as bad as the water table of our city, 2nd in line in the list of cities to run out of water after Cape Town. And Cape Town already has been hit. And like empty court verdicts that we think are cures, we await the man in white cloth to wake up the living-dead. While we continue to sing the lord inside to sleep, with songs of new cars for bad roads, and one more house in the country (good investment boss!!! She said! – to the Janis Joplin tune) But ofcourse there’s hope: there were only 25 members when Michael Spurlock took over as pastor and a mortgage it couldn’t afford. We have a few more than that at our Services.
All Saints reiterates the truth (that humans are gregarious) that we are meant to live together and we are made humans to be thus, there are no answers in cutting and running away and hiding behind material fortress. Nay! NO!
A good nice cinema: not preachy and the message not taking anything away from the script. A very enjoyable uplifting tale! could easily fit into list of : ‘movies at lent’.
Elijah at Horeb: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:12
the link to the reel / real: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/all-saints/