UMs warming up for Home Run movie

The Rev. Jorge Acevedo is heading to the movies this weekend with a group of folks from his church. They’ll see Home Run, a fictional film portrayal of a ministry that’s at the core of his United Methodist congregation, Grace Church in Fort Myers, Fla.

Home Run, which opens in 400 theaters on April 19, tells the story of Cory Brand (Scott Elrod), a professional baseball player whose alcoholism and anger issues send his career into tailspin. When he runs into trouble with the law, his agent (Vivica A. Fox) exiles him to a Celebrate Recovery group at a small church in his hometown in Oklahoma.

In Home Run, Scott Elrod (r) stars as Cory Brand, a baseball player who ends up in a Celebrate Recovery group when an alcohol addiction starts to derail his career. Some scenes were shot in two United Methodist churches in Tulsa, Okla., and many of the extras were recruited from UM congregations. PHOTO COURTESY HERO PRODUCTIONS/IMPACT PRODUCTIONS LLC

Celebrate Recovery veterans who screened the film in advance say it’s faithful to the ministry’s spirit.

Home Run “is very real, it’s very relatable, and it’s very powerful with its message of hope,” said the Rev. Chris Buskirk, pastor of Abiding Harvest UMC in Broken Arrow, Okla. “I don’t think this movie is just for addicts. It’s for everybody who needs to get honest about God’s continued work in their soul.”

The film boasts several United Methodist connections, too. Scenes where Cory attends worship services and recovery meetings were shot in two churches in Tulsa: West Tulsa UMC and New Haven UMC, where the film’s producer, Carol Spann Mathews, grew up. Many of the extras in the film were recruited from those and other United Methodist congregations in the area.

And many UM churches around the U.S., like Grace, host Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, which helps those struggling with addiction.

Powerful testimonies

Ms. Mathews, who now attends a non-denominational church, said that testimonies from people in her church’s Celebrate Recovery group inspired her to make the film.

“Every time I heard a testimony, I thought it was such a God story,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to have these testimonies moving a character along in a film?’”

Some of those stories ended up in the scenes of group meetings in Home Run. Actors recount them, but they’re real testimonies from people in Celebrate Recovery, she said.

“It’s all very realistic,” said Glen Grusendorf, director of recovery ministries at Asbury UMC in Tulsa. He praised a scene in Home Run where a woman reveals a dark secret at a Celebrate Recovery meeting.

“Cory sees her as a goody two-shoes who hasn’t known difficulty in her life,” Mr. Grusendorf said. “Only later he finds out she has experienced an incredible hurt.”

Ms. Mathews says that’s a typical perception.

“I think our pews are filled with people who believe they’re the only ones who struggle with these problems,” she said.

Mr. Acevedo, who has not yet seen the film, hopes it will boost awareness of recovery ministries.

“I think every church needs to offer some kind of recovery ministry,” he said. “It’s spiritual malpractice when we offer Jesus the healer without offering the people, the places and the process to heal.” He estimates that one in three people who come through the doors of his church for worship do so by way of recovery programs offered at Grace.

Saddleback Church launched Celebrate Recovery about 20 years ago; today, 19,000 churches offer Celebrate Recovery groups. Leaders say that anyone with “hurts, hang-ups and habits” can benefit from its method. Participants work on problems ranging from addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography, as well as issues relating to abuse, low self-esteem or depression, among others.

The Rev. Bob Feist, senior pastor of Christ UMC in Tulsa, says that at least 250 people from the church will see the movie this weekend.

“We all know people who struggle with compulsive behaviors,” he said. His church hosts a Celebrate Recovery program, providing a safe place “where people can come into the local church to deal with their struggles in a safe context.”

Mr. Buskirk, who has participated in a Celebrate Recovery group himself, says the program offers a “very Wesleyan” approach.

“It’s just a very practical way to give sanctification some traction and some peace,” he said. “It’s a process by which a soul can be purified.”

In the film, Cory Brand’s life turns around, but it’s a gradual change, and Mr. Buskirk says that’s an honest portrayal of recovery.

“It’s a matter of little moments of clarity that accumulate and eventually come to turn a person around,” he said. “It can be a long and difficult battle, but it’s a battle that’s worth it.”


Mary Jacobs

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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