Film offers one way of relating spiritual matters to popular culture – and it might just be forming the beginnings of a new missional church in Great Britain.
About 130 miles northwest of London, Hereford Baptist Church has been discovering just what a useful resource film can be.
For almost two years, it has been running a film club to give a space for people to think about a movie’s spiritual impact and significance – and how it might relate to their own lives.
It came about after senior pastor, Rev. Anthony Wareha, took a Gospel and Film course with Spurgeon’s College. He called together a few people to examine what that might look like in Hereford and how it might engage the local community.
The result is Reel Church, when the church hosts a film once a month on a Thursday night, making the most of the church’s large projector screens.
“We have found that lots of people find it a good way to start thinking and talking about life issues,” said Wareha. “We are in a very early experimental phase but we have had some really good evenings watching a range of films.”
For Reel Church, the building is decked out as informally as possible; popcorn and sweets – and sometimes ice cream and hot dogs – are available.
“Cinema-going is about the whole experience, not just the film itself,” explained Wareha.
Following the film, those present discuss their gut reaction and share their opinions of the film. Questions are then used to unpack themes a little more, before thinking about how it engages with the Bible. Do those themes contradict or hold together?
The following week sees a review night, where the church shows more clips and uses resources from Bible Society and others to dig a little deeper.
So far, a range of films have been shown, including “The Boys are Back,” “Stranger than Fiction,” “The Adjustment Bureau” and “The Company Men.”
Around 20 to 25 people are coming each week, including several on the fringes and margins of church life.
But more and more, Wareha said, the church is looking 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.”
Thus, it is looking to try and connect this idea into a local cinema in the town to provide a film club where people would be able to reflect on the film.
“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.
“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,” said Wareha.
“Reel Church has helped us to start that process.”