Woodward, Okla. —
This November a local church is hosting a "Faith in Film Festival."
Each Sunday this month, Becky Pierson, pastor of New Horizon United Methodist Church, will be presenting a sermon based off a different major motion picture.
This Sunday, Pierson will begin with a sermon on "Finding Our New Way of Life" based on the Disney-Pixar animated movie "Up."
"In the movie, Carl, who is the main character, has to learn how to let go because his wife just passed on. He goes on a journey in which he realize he can either hold on to the old way or embrace a new life," Pierson said. "It's the same in Christianity, where you leave the hurt and brokenness of your old life behind and embrace a new life in Christ."
On Nov. 11, Pierson's sermon will focus on passing judgement as it examines themes from the classic movie "12 Angry Men," in which a jury is forced to face its own biases when trying to decide whether to convict a man accused of murder.
"I'll be talking about what kind of times that we've passed judgement on others and even as Christian's passed judgement on Christ, and comparing that to the movie where the jurors are passing judgement on the guy, assuming he did it because he's Puerto Rican and back then they didn't like Puerto Ricans.
On Nov. 18, she said she will discuss "the sin of racism," using examples from "The Help," in which a white woman in the civil rights era of the 1960s seeks to write a book from the perspective of African-American maids, including what they think about the white families they served as well as the hardships they faced.
"As Christ's followers, we believe that no one should ever be considered unequal or less than another and you should never judge someone by the color of their skin or ethnicity," Pierson said.
The pastor plans on wrapping up the festival with a "knockout" sermon based off of the 2006-release "Rocky Balboa."
"With the Rocky movie, I'll be sharing how even when you think you're down and out, you can fight your way back," she said.
The public is invited to attend the cinematic sermon series, with services beginning at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday.
"We want to make sure everyone knows they are welcomed and accepted here," Pierson said, inviting everyone to "show up at 10:30, grab your cup of coffee, find a seat and join us."
NOT A STUFFY CHURCH
Pierson said she believes the Faith in Film Festival is the perfect opportunity for people to visit New Horizon United Methodist Church.
"For those people who may be looking for a Church home or who would like to explore Christianity, I think this is a great way to get started because it will allow people to experience a different kind of church," she said, adding, "A lot of people think of church as a stuffy place and we're definitely not stuffy at all."
Instead, Pierson said she would describe her congregation as "creative" and "fun."
She said visitors will be able to see that first-hand during the festival, and they'll see it from the first moment they enter the church.
"We're going to go all out and transform our sanctuary into a movie set each week. Which for this Sunday, since we're starting with 'Up,' means we're going to just fill it with so many balloons," she said. "And for '12 Angry Men,' we're going to set up a big table in the center of the sanctuary to represent the jury table."
Pierson said the church is taking this extra step in decorating the sanctuary because she believes it will help to engage people.
"That's one of our core believes of our church, we believe we need to be in the world working and engaging with people as we share the message of God's love," she said.
THE POWER OF STORYTELLING
This is the 3rd year that the New Horizon church has held the Faith in Film Festival, as Pierson said she started the festival after becoming pastor at the church in 2010.
She said the sermon series grew out of her own passion for movies.
"My congregation will tell you that I quote from movies all the time," Pierson said, noting "I'm a movie buff; I love to watch movies because I love storytelling."
Storytelling is important, she said, because it helps people to connect with each other. That's why she believes the best movies aren't great just because of the acting or special effects, but because of the story they tell, a story which the audience relates to and identifies with.
In that way, she said the movie's story becomes a part of the viewer's own personal story.
The same is true with Christianity, Pierson said, noting that God uses stories to teach and inspire people. By connecting with the stories that God shares in the Bible, she said people can learn what it means to be a Christian.
However, she believes God's lessons extend beyond the pages of the Bible and that Christian messages can be found everywhere, even in secular movies.
"Whenever I watch a movie, I think how can I use this to tell the Gospel, to preach to others, how can I use it in a sermon, how can I use it as an example of God calling us to action?" Pierson said. "Because even in secular movies, I believe the Lord has something to teach us about how we deal with other people."