Reel Church is for film-lovers who want to start to think about a movie's spiritual impact and significance and how it might relate to their own lives. Hereford Baptist Church's senior pastor, and Reel Church leader, Antony Wareham explains how the initiative is developing as a missional church in its own right.
Reel Church has been running for about 18 months. I have been doing some further studies at Spurgeon's and one of the modules was to do with The Gospel and Film. As a result of that I got together a few people to look at what that might look like in our own context and, from there, we went on to try and make this an opportunity to engage with the local community as a mission work.
It is now available in three different streams because we have found that lots of people find it a good way to start thinking and talking about life issues.
We run the film evening once a month on a Thursday night but it is more than an event because we are seeking to build a Christian community. It is taking place in the church building at the moment as we have got two fantastic projector screens in our main church area and we make the most of that – but we also try to make it as informal as possible. We also have two other halls in the church and they are also kitted out with DVD projectors so we can use those spaces if we want a more intimate setting. Cinema going is about the whole experience, not just the film itself, so popcorn and sweets are available and we have had ice creams and hot dogs in the past. About 20 to 25 people come along on average and we have an equivalent Reel Church for children which is also very popular.
We are in a very early experimental phase but we have had some really good evenings watching a range of films, including The Boys are Back, Stranger than Fiction, The Adjustment Bureau and The Company Men.
We don't preload the evening with a prepared 'study' as such, at first we just examine our gut reaction to the movie and share what we felt. We then use some questions to go on and unpack the themes of the film before thinking about how it engages with the Bible. Do those themes contradict or hold together? We go from film story, to life story, to Scripture.
Further chat tends to take place at what we call our Review Nights which take place a week after the film screening. Once people have had time to 'digest' the movie, we'll show some clips and use resources from Bible Society and others to dig a little deeper.
In another development, other groups within the church are also picking up on the use of film in their life and ministry so Reel Church is affecting those both inside and outside the traditional church community.
Some of the people coming along are those on the fringes and margins of church life and we're really grateful for that but we are looking more and more to reach those we wouldn't normally reach and develop the resulting community as a missional church – a place where people could find their spiritual home. That would still be our aim.
I think we are struggling to keep it missional because Christians can sometimes get so involved in church life that they do not know any non-Christians to invite to something like this. Partly for that reason we are looking to try and connect this idea into a local cinema in the town; in Hereford we have both a cinema chain and a smaller one which is part of a drama centre. In that sort of setting we'd look at providing a Film Club sort of thing where people would be able to reflect on the film and we'd take it from there.
Reel Church hasn't solved all our problems but what we are trying to work through here is that when people want to explore life issues, it doesn’t mean they have to come to our 'normal' type of church to do that. Reel Church has helped us to start that process.