God In The Box rouses interfaith conversation in Columbia

Sunday, March 3, 2013 | 5:10 p.m. CST; updated 7:13 p.m. CST, Sunday, March 3, 2013
Volunteers are filmed inside a box for a documentary film about people's thoughts about God. Broadway Christian Church Senior Minister, Tim Carson, took advantage of the influx of visitors in Columbia for the True/False Film Fest to produce the Columbia version of the "God in the Box" documentary. Nathan Lang, the original creator and director of the God in the Box documentary, started the movement two years ago, and many communities have done their own versions of the project.

COLUMBIA — Before the showing of True/False Film Fest's Secret Screening Red on Friday night, some people weren't only wondering what the film might be but also the purpose of a large and mysterious black box.

The structure — about the size of a telephone booth — with God In The Box painted in white across the side, was set up Friday night in the Missouri United Methodist Church to explore what God looks like for Columbia residents and visitors.

Taking advantage of the the festival's crowds, people were invited to step inside the box to share, and even draw, their thoughts about God.

The idea is based on director Nathan Lang’s documentary "God In The Box," for which a crew of filmmakers has been en route across the country for the past two years with the small mobile studio called "The Box."

The main goal of the project is to introduce a safe, nonthreatening conversation about faith and religion, said Tim Carson, senior minister at Broadway Christian Church and coordinator of the local project.

Inside The Box, volunteers tackled questions such as “What does God look like to you?” and “What does God mean to you?” The Box contains pencils, sheets of paper, a large mirror and a video-camera.

Those videos will be then compiled and edited into a short Columbia-based documentary.

The national documentary has proved popular, and other communities, such as Oxford, Ohio, and Bloomington, Ind., have also created their versions of the film.

“When we discovered Lang’s documentary, we knew we wanted to be part of it and bring it in Columbia,” Carson said. “We are one of two sites in Missouri to do so."

Maryville University in St. Louis also created a documentary using the box.

So far, The Box has raised diverse responses, from aversion to intrigue to fascination, he said. On Friday night, about 40 people participated and even more contributed Saturday.

The Box will be set up at Fifth Street Christian Church on Saturday during the Feed the Community monthly event and at the Terrace Retirement Community on March 16.

The national documentary, as well as the Columbia version, will be shown at 7 p.m. March 21 at Ragtag Cinema. Lang will be there to take part in a panel discussion.

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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