COLUMBIA — What people had to say inside the mysterious black box at the Missouri United Methodist Church during the True/False Film Fest will finally be revealed Thursday night.
Rev. Tim Carson, senior minister at Broadway Christian Church, and his team launched a local “God in the Box” idea at this year’s True/False Film Fest. They asked festival-goers to step into a telephone-booth-sized black box with the words "God in the Box" painted on the outside and answer the questions "What does God mean to you?" and "What does God look like to you?"
About 100 people took part. They stepped into the "box," faced a mirror and a camera and unlimited time to offer answers to those two questions, he said.
The concept came from “God in the Box,” a documentary by Nathan Lang. Both films will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ragtag Cinema, sponsored by DeSpain Cayce Dermatology and Broadway Christian Church. The event is free and will include a question and answer session with Lang and Carson. Rev. Amy Gerhart of Missouri United Methodist Church and Sahba Jilalil of Columbia’s Baha’i Community will also participate in the discussion.
The objective of the national documentary is to explore the fundamental issues surrounding the journey to find God, encouraging a nonviolent conversation about faith and religion, according to Ragtag's website. Carson read about the documentary in a journal and thought, "We just have to bring this here."
After speaking with other documentary fans, Carson and his team were quickly in contact with Lang about bringing a screening of "God in the Box" to Columbia.
But they didn't stop there.
Other places across the country were making their own versions of "God in the Box," and Carson decided to follow suit.
That's how the God box ended up at Missouri United Methodist Church, which housed "The Picturehouse" venue for the film festival. Over the following two weeks, the team also filmed at the Fifth Street Christian Church during its monthly Feed the Community event and the Terrace Retirement Center.
"There's something magical about that God box," Carson said. "People get very thoughtful and honest."
The Columbia version is about 12 minutes long and directed and edited by Caitlin DeSpain, a Broadway Christian Church member and recent graduate in digital media and film studies at Texas Christian University. In the film, every aspect of the religious spectrum is represented and includes skepticism, doubt and more conventional views, Carson said.
The film is not meant to show the "correct" religious view or persuade people to believe a certain idea, he said. Instead, he said the concept is centered on people being honest. Religious and nonreligious alike will be able to embrace it, he predicted.
"It's a snapshot of where we are," he said. "People are being authentic and most will be able to find themselves in the film."
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