Faith & Film Festival

In the summer of 2019, a young pastor from Topeka, KS—Jacob Wampfler—and I approached Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with a big idea. The pitch was this: Let’s have a film festival to help those in the church develop “eyes to see” and appreciate God at work in the 21st-century language of film. Erika Bennett, on her first day on the job as Executive Director of Continuing Education, said, “I don’t know anything about movies. But that’s what continuing education is all about. Let’s do it! A month later, the Faith & Film Festival was on the official calendar! You can read the whole story here
The inaugural event took place on Jan 23-25, 2020. With only six months to plan and no budget or precedent, we gathered 75 early adopters from 16 states. One man drove up from New Orleans after receiving his ticket as a gift from his family. Another couple made the Festival their Christmas present to each other. Many in attendance took my hand and said, “Thank you, thank you, for doing this.” It was no stretch to tell them: “The pleasure is all mine.”
Beloved professor Chuck Arand was just one of many Sem profs who participated in every minute of the Festival. By the end he said, “I’m not a film guy at all but I can see that this is the future. We need to keep doing this!” Between Thursday night and Saturday noon, we screened 11 films. Three we watched and discussed all together—The Rider, Arrival, and First Reformed. Everyone then got to choose two of eight break-out films: Coco, Mother!, The Way, The Florida Project, Children of Men, Leave No Trace, Ben is Back, and Lars & the Real Girl. In their post-Festival surveys, people raved about the great conversations and 99% of them said, YES, I’ll be back and bring a friend! We’ll be capping the registration next year so save the date–Jan 28-30, 2021—and make sure to register early! (All photos below courtesy of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis)


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