People of Faith: Christianity in America is getting some local media attention these days. Wheaton College issued a news release this week. Also, Jane Charmelo, a reporter for the Lombardian, our home-town newspaper, ran the following piece in it’s February 15 issue.
‘People of Faith’ explores church history
- by Jane Charmelo, Lombardian and Villa Park Review Newspapers
A new DVD series has been released that takes a look at the history of the American church, produced by documentary videographer Tim Frakes.
“People of Faith: Christianity in America” is a six-part documentary that “takes a look at key themes, controversies and personages in the history of the American church,” he related in a press release.
Frakes described that the series runs over three hours in total length, and “is aimed at church-based adult education classes and small groups in an effort to promote both general knowledge about church history and discussion about the historic, contemporary and future role of the church in American culture and society.”
Frakes, a 18-year resident of Lombard, owns Tim Frakes Productions in Glen Ellyn, and is an award-winning videographer, video producer, script writer and editor. He is a 1984 graduate of Harding University, and his videos can be seen on major TV networks and have been distributed around the world on DVD. The Lombard resident has produced programs in 20 countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Europe and the Middle East, as well as in the United States.
When asked how he got into video production, Frakes responded, “Back in high school in West Chicago, I worked for the West Chicago Press, a weekly local newspaper, and became fascinated with mass media.” “At Harding University, I enrolled in the school of journalism. They required spelling, so I moved to radio. Radio was fun, but television was even more enticing,” he continued, adding, “After college, I went to work for WCFC-TV 38, Channel 38, Chicago, and worked my way up the ladder to become a producer. The rest, [as] they say, is history.”
Frakes mentioned that from 1993-2007 he served as principal videographer for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and in 2007 launched Tim Frakes Productions, which “produces single camera documentary and image video for non-profit, faith-based, broadcast and corporate clients.”
He is also a contributing producer for “30 Good Minutes” on WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago.
Frakes said the “People of Faith” series was commissioned by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, a center for research that also is a program at Wheaton College. It was founded in 1982 by evangelical historians and Wheaton College alumni Mark A. Noll and Nathan O. Hatch.
Frakes said the documentary was funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. an Indiana-based foundation established in 1937 by three members of the (Eli) Lilly family.
He outlined that the series is compiled of six programs, each of which addresses an aspect of the history of the American church, adding that it “tells the story in the American context and from the colonial period forward.”
Frakes said the project had been in the works for about five years, and he came on board about a year-and-a-half ago as producer, editor and director. The series was written by veteran author and executive producer Steve Rabey and Frakes was assisted by documentarian Paul Butler.
“Faith in the New World: From Monarchs to the Marketplace” is a basic historical overview of the church history, according to Frakes, and “Many Mansions” takes a look at the diversity within American Christianity.
“The Challenges of Change” examines the role of innovation in shaping the historic and contemporary church, Frakes highlighted, and “Homegrown Saints” tells the stories of 10 “important and historic” figures throughout the church history, such as John Hughes, Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Rev. Billy Graham, among others.
Lastly, “The Future of Faith” discusses current issues and future directions, Frakes added.
He said the documentary also includes interviews with over 30 scholars and church notables such as Noll, Martin Marty, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Jean Bethke Elshtain and R. Laurence Moore.
The final result, Frakes said modestly, is “a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the history of American Christianity.”
As for the interviews with current church figures, “The scholarship is impeccable,” he added.
Frakes said he believes that “People of Faith” is meant to reach “a broad national audience,” adding that it is geared toward “educational and congregational settings [for] Christians of all stripes.” Frakes noted that the series, which includes study guides and support materials, is available through Vision Video at www.peopleoffaithseries.com. For more information on Tim Frakes Productions, visit his Web site at www.frakesproductions.com or on Twitter @timfrakes.
In October, 2010, Larry Eskridge from the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College asked me to help produce People of Faith: Christianity in America, a six episode video series that tells the story of American Christianity in all its diversity from the colonial period to the present. The series is a fast-paced account of the people, ideas, movements, and organizations that influenced the course of America’s Christians down through the years.
People of Faith: Christianity in America is available through Vision Video. Call 1-800-523-0226 or log on to
http://www.peopleoffaithseries.com to order the 2 DVD set for home or congregational resource library.
The scope of this project is massive. Larry, writer Steve Rabey and producer Paul Butler began the project in 2006, but the sheer weight of the material brought production to a crawl. Larry and Paul asked me to drive the length of the field and move the ball over the goal line (to use a sports metaphor)! My role has been as producer, videographer and editor. Paul did quite a few scholar interviews early on. He also began the editing process on episode 3. Steve Rabey wrote the scripts for all six episodes. After taking over the project I contributed with additional scholar interviews, hours of new worship footage, historical landscape exteriors, hours and hours of editing including narration recording with Tim Lundeen and narrator Maurice England.
Episode 1. Faith in America: From Monarchs to the Marketplace
The people who arrived on the shores of the New World came from many places. They came for many reasons. And most of them brought with them traditions of Christian faith that had been practiced in Europe for centuries. But an interesting thing happened once these new arrivals settled down in this vast and fertile land. The regulation of religious practices that had long been controlled by kings and governments in Europe was now up for grabs.
Over time these people of faith created something in America that had never been seen in the history of the world. They created a nation where this religious freedom gave birth to unprecedented levels of religious diversity, experimentation and competition among churches and religious groups.
These spiritual pioneers laid the foundation for a spiritually diverse New World where faith and practice were no longer controlled by monarchs, but by common, everyday men and women.
Episode 2. Many Mansions
Jesus once told his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” And many Americans have embodied this diversified vision of heaven in the way they look for churches. But how did American religion become so diverse? The answer has a lot to do with the people who came here, and the policies they established.
Episode 3. Rebels with a Cause
Christians have played an important role in American public and political life from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean people of faith always speak with one voice on social issues. In fact, members of various churches and faith traditions have frequently found themselves on opposing sides of these issues—often pursuing different priorities and outcomes. The one thing they do have in common is that people of faith share a common desire to battle principalities and powers to usher in their vision of a better world and often see themselves as “rebels with a cause”.
Episode 4. Challenges and Change
For generation after generation, Americans worked to create a place for faith at the center of public life. But you know what they say: “The only thing that’s constant is change itself.” As times changed, culture changed. So churches and religious groups responded to cultural change by focusing on new issues and challenges.
While Christians applied their faith in new ways to new problems, other people suggested that faith was irrelevant for modern times. But Christians in America were not about to give up. Instead, they reached down deep, re-examined their faith, and explored ways to apply their values to the changing social landscape.
Once Christians in America felt they had created the ideal church or the good society, new developments and challenges arose which upset the status quo and forced them to rethink their beliefs and find new ways to apply them to current conditions.
Episode 5. Home Grown Saints
More than any other nation, America has given its citizens the freedom to shape their religious lives as they see fit. Centuries ago in Europe, religion was largely controlled by popes and potentates. But America has taken a more open approach that has leveled the playing field, allowing anyone and everyone to play a role in the country’s thriving religious life.
America has been home to so many people of faith that it’s challenging to pick out ten of the most influential Christian leaders of the past two and one-half centuries. Home Grown Saints is a short list of ten men and women of faith who had a great impact on the shape of Christian faith in America.
Episode 6. The Future of Christianity
Christianity spread throughout the world over the past 2,000 years. And it has thrived in America over the past two centuries. But what does the future hold for faith? We asked Catholic, Protestant and evangelical experts eight questions about the future of Christian faith in America.
People of Faith: Christianity in America is designed for use in congregational settings, adult forums and Sunday school classes. Featuring leading authors and scholars of American Church History including:
Martin Marty: University of Chicago
Curtis Evans: University of Chicago
Mark Noll: University of Notre Dame
Scott Appleby: University of Notre Dame
Jean Bethke Elshtain: University of Chicago
Joel Carpenter: Calvin College
Philip Gleason: University of Notre Dame
Thomas Kidd: Baylor University
Darren Dochuk: Purdue University
Kathryn Long: Wheaton College.