God's Glory, Neighbor's Good: The Story of Pietism

Now available on DVD and streaming from Amazon.

Project Summary

Have you ever talked about a "personal relationship with God"? Does your faith inspire you to acts of compassion and justice for your neighbor? Have you ever studied the Bible in your home with friends or family?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your Christian faith has likely been influenced by Pietism. Pietism (from the word piety) is originally a movement within Lutheranism that began in Germany in the 1600s and spread to North America and around the world, impacting many different church denominations. The Pietist movement combined an emphasis on the centrality of scripture with a commitment to individual transformation and vibrant congregational living – exactly the kind of story of faith that is worth rediscovering today!

Sample Scenes

Photo Gallery

See photos from the film's production.

The Impact

This project has great potential to inform the contemporary discussion of faith and visions for the future. In today's postmodern religious landscape, mainstream denominational identities are giving way to a diversity of forms and practices. While there are merits to many of these trends, to be sure, there are also challenges, particularly in that narrating Christian history becomes difficult outside of denominational and institutional contexts. "Evangelical Christianity," though often invoked and spoken for in research as well as politics, needs to be defined in more nuanced and creative ways than has been the case in the past. We feel that this documentary series on Pietism will be an enriching resource that can help to give shape and definition to Christian congregations both within the traditional denominations, as well as within non-denominational contexts.

The story of Pietism is rich, diverse, relevant, and worth being told!

Our Team and the Scope of the Project

Our team is comprised of two script writers, Dr. Michelle A. Clifton-Soderstrom, professor of theology and ethics at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and Dr. Mark Safstrom, lecturer in Swedish and Scandinavian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our executive producer is Dave Oseland and our filmmaker is Tim Frakes (www.frakesproductions.com). This project is being conducted under the aegis of North Park Theological Seminary, and with the support and advocacy of Pietisten magazine.

Our research on Pietism is motivated by a desire to make this heritage of German and Scandinavian Pietism accessible to a North American audience, particularly as it relates to the history and present-day identity and ethos of the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Free Church, and the Baptist General Conference (Converge Worldwide). The rich connections and parallels between these communities and the Moravian and Methodist traditions will also be highlighted in our film.

We believe the time is right for such a documentary series because there is currently a network of scholars who have been working together on the topic of Pietism over the past decade, such as at several conferences and colloquia at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN and at North Park. The result of these meetings is that we have a ready-made ecumenical community of people who have been discussing Pietism from multiple denominational backgrounds and disciplines. These scholars and clergy will be interviewed in the documentary, giving a rich perspective on the legacy of Pietism in their respective contexts.

Our script writers have completed extensive research on location in Germany and Scandinavia and have become intimately familiar with the locations that will be filmed in this series. In addition to the centers of classical Pietism, such as Halle and Herrnhut in Germany, we will also be including some of the lesser-told stories from Scandinavia and from the immigrant communities across North America. The historiography of Pietism has often been dominated by focus on German Pietists, and particularly male subjects. We will be designing our series in such a way as to shine the light on the women who were involved in these movements, as well as the marginal, but significant voices from Scandinavia. Thus, this project will complement, rather than duplicate, past research.

While there have been wonderful documentaries made about other Christian traditions by other filmmakers on topics such as the Shakers, Quakers and Methodists, there is a conspicuous lack of such materials on Pietism. Our documentary will conclude with contemporary accounts and interviews of pastors and scholars who will trace and discuss the legacy of Pietism as it relates to North American Christianity in the twenty-first century.