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New resources for churches to use Aretha Franklin film

Churches are being offered £100 towards to the screening of the new Aretha Franklin film Amazing Grace ...

‘Extraordinary’, ‘transcendent’, ‘spine-tingling’. This is just some of the praise from reviewers of Amazing Grace, the film of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 recording of what became the best-selling live gospel album of all time, writes Ethos Media.

Intimately filmed in a small church before a local congregation and brought to our screens just as it was recorded almost 50 years ago, why has the film provoked such a positive response from contemporary film critics?

Its huge impact is clearly due to Aretha’s deeply personal rendition of so many powerful gospel songs such as What a friend we have in Jesus and Precious Lord take my hand.

Singing at the church pulpit, with a cross in front of her and a mural of Jesus behind her, Aretha uses her extraordinary voice to draw out the message of the music. No wonder Rolling Stone magazine says: “It will make you feel as if you’ve seen the face of God”.

Halfway through, her father Rev C.L. Franklin, gives a short talk in which he refers to criticism of Aretha that she should come back to church (until 1961 she had mainly sung gospel songs, but in the intervening decade she had recorded a string of ‘secular’ hits). Quite rightly, he says, “she never left the church”.

Certainly, Aretha faced many trials and challenges in her life and faith. And one can palpably feel them through this intimate recording of her emotional rendition of these powerful songs. Watching it on the big screen, we are not distant observers of a slickly packaged musical performance. Rather we feel right there with her, in the midst of the intimate reality of an open-hearted woman honestly expressing, through her music, the grace that she has received – the amazing grace through which we glimpse the face of God.

Now, churches are being offered £100 from ourscreen to help them host their own screening at their local cinema, and Ethos Media have a Viewer's Guide available – order from CPO here – to help churches make the most of the opportunity. Find out more at https://ethosmedia.org/AmazingGrace/

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