7 of My Favourite Shows/Films on Faith and Life

I love watching TV and movies, probably more than I should. But don't judge me. There are a lot of good shows out there with profound stories, whether fictional or based on real life. Sometimes it takes work to find those shows. Other times they're right under our noses.

I grew up a pastor's kid who now as an adult currently works for the church. I've been fascinated with the way Christians and the Church have been depicted on screen. Sometimes cynically. Sometimes cheesy and questionable (I'm looking at you, "God's Not Dead" and friends). But other times, I've seen some really insightful portrayals of the Christian faith.

So, here's my list of the 7 shows or movies I think do a pretty good job at taking us behind the scenes with of the church and those a part of it. Here we go:

sister act.jpg

1. "Sister Act" (1992, comedy)
Classic 90s cinema. Whoopi Goldberg stars as a lounge singer forced to hide out in a Roman Catholic convent under witness protection. What I love about this film is that explores a number of themes including: redemption, forgiveness, and dealing with change.
What I likeMy favorite part is watching St. Catherine's Church struggle to adapt to the world around them. It takes an "outsider" to help them see things in a new way. The Church in real life struggles with this big time. It really shows that the very people we margnalize (intentionally or not) can add value to the faith community.

2. "Rev." (BBC TV series, 2010-2014, sit-com)
The Rev. Adam Smallbone is a Church of England (Anglican) priest, newly appointed to the busy, inner-city parish St Saviour's in East London. He's a fish out of water coming from a small town. The show explores his struggles in the parish with a small, "eclectic" congregation. 
What I like: The show depicts legit pressures of being a pastor in a more post-Christian city while comedically depicted the other 6 days of a pastor's week.
Favourite episodes: Season 1, Ep. 2 "Jesus Is Awesome." & Season 3, Ep. 5-6 (season finale that explores Holy Week).

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3. "The Preacher's Wife" (1996, comedy, drama)
An angel (Denzel Washington) sent to help a Baptist pastor (Courtney B. Vance) with a struggle congregation and struggling faith accidentally falls in love with the preacher's wife (Whitney Houston).
What I like: Pastors and their spouses go through a lot when in ministry together. This shows a glimpse that congregants don't often get to see. Truthfully, it can be a real part of clergy home life.

4. "The Exorcist" (FOX TV series, 2016-present, suspense)
The Rance family gets involved with the Catholic church when it feels there's a demonic presence in its home. This show is connected with the 1973 film of the same name, but I won't tell you how.
What I like: Stay with me on this one. While it definitely explores demonic possession, the real story is about a priest and a family's faith in everyday life with loss, pain, and the past.
Favourite episode: Season 1, Ep. 10, "Chapter Ten: Three Rooms."

5. "Black-ish" (ABC TV series, 2014-present, sit-com)
"Andre 'Dre' Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a suburban home. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?"
What I like: Specific to this topic, watch season 2-episode 5 "Churched" and season 3-episode 2 "God." The first explores the Johnson's attempting to re-engage with church (filled with shenanigans, of course). The second explores Zoey (the oldest child) struggling with whether or not she believes in God.

6. "Hillsong: Let Hope Rise" (documentary, 2016)
This is a documentary on the Australia-based band from Hillsong Church and their rise to prominence as a band and church.
What I like: Worship music and leaders get a lot of flack (sometimes from face-value judgements). The film goes behind the scenes with the band members and pastors to talk about the real life sacrifices of following God's call on their lives. I also like that the film was shot by someone who isn't a Christian, so it has a more objective storytelling perspective.

7. "Doubt" (drama, 2008)
A Catholic school principal questions a priest's ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student.
What I like: Philip Seymour Hoffman. Meryl Streep. Amy Adams. Viola Davis. My goodness. The cast alone is worth the watch. The theme of doubt permeates this film. Some people hold that faith and doubt can't share the same space. I just don't believe that's true. Life is complicated and this film depicts this complexity—making you even question what you think you know.

If you're not religious, these are good stories regardless. I hope you see something redeeming in these stories that you can apply in your life's journey.
If you're pastor or church worker, watch with eyes that see your congregation more than just their pew.
If you're a regular church member/attender, watch with eyes that see your pastor or church staff as normal people with issues just. like. you.

Hopefully, this will lead us all to living a more authentic life for the world to see.

Comment on your favourites below!

Camp Spark | Brand Refresh

Camp Spark is a camping event for middle and high school students that I have the honour of co-leading. In July 2015, we launched the new camp along with the brand. At the time, it was a functional design to help us launch the vision: to be the light in the world. However, the "functional" design was just that and temporary.

To view my original post on the original Camp Spark design process, CLICK HERE.

The original design was very fluid. A sketched/hand drawn design. It was a fun design to get us started and by all accounts, it has been very effective. However, it had a couple of issues. First, because of the hand drawn nature, the stylized lightbulb lacked clean lines. This makes it harder to recognize in smaller sizes and far away. Secondly, the circle surrounding the wordmark and icon make it feel constricted. Overall, I felt the functional design wasn't the best it could be.

  Previous design (July 2015)

Previous design (July 2015)

So, after some time and consideration, I refreshed (more so touched up) the design. The lines in lightbulb are even and the inner circle is gone. The "be the light" tagline font was changed to match the more rounded nature of the icon. This font is called Typo Round. I thought the "Camp Spark" font, Luna, still fit well. Plus, I thought it was important for something other than the color scheme to carry over from the previous design.

  Refreshed design (Oct 2016)

Refreshed design (Oct 2016)

The original design maybe would have lasted another few years before aging. I'm confident that this design, which is much more controlled and fine-tuned, will last longer. The previous design was still very new, but I realized it was time to mature the design to more than just functional. While I do not regret creating the original design, I would not recommend refreshing a visual brand this quickly. Take as much time as possible to refine the imaging.


1 Thing to Remember When Your White Daughter Brings a Black Guy Home for Dinner

On August 8th, The Gospel Coalition posted an article written by a 53-year-old white mother entitled "When God Sends Your White Daughter a Black Husband." In the article, Gaye Clark shares her experience of meeting her black son-in-law, then proceeds to share "8 things to remember when your white daughter brings a black man home for dinner."

DISCLAIMER: I do not think Mrs. Clark is a racist. I'm quite sure she is a wonderful mother attempting to share her story of faith, hope, and love in a world that needs those things. (I actually have questions for The Gospel Coalition, but moving right along.) But you see, words mean things and with issues such as this, we need to be more graceful with our words.

So, I have 3 overarching problems with this article:

  1. Mrs. Clark centers it around the young man's blackness as an issue as opposed to sharing more introspection.
  2. She does not speak to the nuanced and underlying social commentary on race.
  3. Theologically, the article presumes God uses black men (and men of colour for that matter) as a testing mechanism for a white person's faith.

So, here are my responses to the "8 things to remember" as listed in the article. I encourage you to go read the article first for more context.

  1. "Remember your theology."
    Agreed, but for some they may need to shift their theology. Remember: churches were once incubators and facilitators of racism (some still are). Yes, we serve a God who created us in God's likeness, but God also loves justice, especially for the marginalized.
  2. "Remember to rejoice in all things."
    Presuming you're referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, is my race in the category of good things or bad things?
  3. "Remember no Christian marriage is promised a trial-free life."
    True, however, I would prefer to not center my marriage around others' prejudice. 
  4. "Remember to be patient with family members." Absolutely, but challenge them. Calling out "Uncle Fred's" bigotry doesn't dehumanize him. His prejudice dehumanizes me and people like me.
  5. "Remember your daughter's ultimate loyalty is not to you or your family, but to the Lord."
    I don't want you to be colour blind. I want my wife and her family to love me and be loyal to me for who I am—a black man (although that's not all that I am. See: intersectionality).
  6. "Remember the groom's family."
    Consider being like family to the groom yourself.
  7. "Remember heaven's demographics."
    To our detriment as Christians, we so often ponder what heaven is like at the expense of neglecting a desire for "[God's] kingdom come, [God's] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).
  8. "Remember to die to your expectations."
    No. Live into exceeding and altering your expectations. People of colour are not to be tolerated and suffered through. 

Now, here are 3 things Mrs. Clark could've done more in the article (even 3 things you may want to consider as you have conversations):

  1. Focus on how systemic racism has shaped her own world. Reflect on from whence this disconnect came.
  2. Challenge the Church to do better in dialogue and action with regard to race issues.
  3. Share her platform with her son-in-law to openly discuss racial dynamics.

"But Keith, you're not African American, so what is it to you?"
True. I did not grow up in the United States of America. I grew up in The Bahamas—a country where people of African ancestry are the majority. However, I do have African American family, friends, and colleagues. While we may not share many personal experiences, we have a shared history. (See...the ships just dropped our ancestors off to different ports, know. Slavery and such.) If I can listen, learn, and advocate for my black and brown American brothers and sisters, surely you (as a white American) ought to do the same. Some of you may tense up from feeling embarrassment or guilt. Relax. I'm not here to attack you or Mrs. Clark. I'm simply out here delivering a message—a message that, should you choose to receive it, can help change the world.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
— Martin Niemöller

So, if you are a mother (or father) of a white daughter, here's 1 thing to remember if she happens to brings a guy like me (i.e. a black man) home for dinner:

I am not your daughter's burden.
I would hope for us (and our families) to be blessings to one another.
And you know what? I think God does, too.

Creating Camp Spark

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I co-lead a camp during the winter and summer. As of June 2015, the camp event transitioned it's name to Camp Spark. The name and tagline "Be The Light" come from a Bible passage:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:14-16 (New Revised Standard Version)

I was really excited about creating and helping to launch this new brand. In this post, I want to share the behind the scenes process to the final product and then show some implementations. Let's start with some initial sketches. I used the iPad app Paper by FiftyThree (highly recommended). The stylus is Pencil by FiftyThree. I definitely wanted to incorporate something that resembled a light source or shiny object—a spark, the Sun, lightbulbs, etc.

The idea evolved from a stylized word-mark to a light bulb and icon/emblem concept. After deciding on the direction I thought was best, I exported and vectorized the Paper drawings. This led to the creation of the final concept:

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I went through a number of yellows. This tone of yellow seemed to be bright and warm—welcoming even. With the typeface, I didn't want it to be taken too seriously. Camp Spark is a youth camp and the imaging should reflect the fun times that kids have. The font "Luna" is a great handwriting script type.

Now, for some implementations.

LED Bracelets. We used these on the closing day's worship service.

 Image used for projection. Background image:  Josh Byers via Unsplash

Image used for projection.
Background image: Josh Byers via Unsplash

 Thank you cards

Thank you cards

I'm excited about where the brand is going.
I'm even more excited about the message it carries.