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

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!

We are inviting you to join us in creating a 6-part documentary film series on the history and legacy of Pietism, aimed at providing a resource for congregational use in Christian education programs, as well as in seminary curricula. It is also the plan to edit this longer series into a 1-hour documentary version, geared toward a public television audience. Since Pietist movements have always been grassroots, we hope you will join us in this exciting community venture!

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.

We have the story, storytellers, writers, production company and distributor all lined up! We will have an audience! Now we need the funding!

What We Need & What You Get

The total budget for this project is estimated to be $55,820.00. In addition to this campaign, we are awaiting funding from several grants. In early 2015, we set an ambitious “Phase 1” goal of raising $10,000, in order to complete filming on location in Scandinavia and Germany in summer 2015. Thanks to supporters like you, we exceeded that goal, raising over $16,000! This enabled us to complete filming on location in Germany and Scandinavia during several weeks in May and July 2015. The finished project is anticipated in late 2016.

Will you help us with the rest of our fundraising? Your support will be essential! Checks may be sent to Pietisten’s address with “Documentary Film” in the memo line: Pietisten, Inc., 7311 23rd Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

In donating to this campaign, you will be joining the creative community gathered around this project:

  • All donors will receive progress updates.
  • Donors at the $25+ level will also receive an invitation to view the "rough cut" footage from the on-location filming in Europe (anticipated to be held in Chicago – a long distance viewing option will be arranged).
  • Donors at the $50+ level will also receive an invitation to the release party and film viewing event upon completion of the entire project.
  • Donors at the $75+ level will also be named in the film credits.
  • Donors at the $100+ level may select the option to receive a DVD copy of the film upon completion.
  • Donors at the $250+ level may select the option to receive a gift package from Pietisten magazine, which includes a copy of Glen Wiberg's book "Singing the Story," P.P. Waldenström's allegorical novel "Squire Adamsson," and a two-year membership subscription to Pietisten (4 issues).
  • Donors at the $500+ level may select the option to have one of the script writers come to your location (within Illinois, Minnesota, or Washington state) and give a lecture on Pietism and this film project to your congregation or school group.
  • Donors at the $1000+ level may select the option to have one of the script writers come to your location (within the U.S., Canada, or Sweden) and give a lecture on Pietism and this film project to your congregation or school group.


  • Completing the on-location lectures will require long-range planning of up to 2 years following the completion of the project, and will be limited to the speaker's availability. Some extremely remote locations may not be possible.
  • Any remaining funds in excess of expenditures will be used for post-production costs and distribution of this film.
  • If for some reason we are not able to meet our fundraising goals or complete this project, any unused funds will benefit faculty research at North Park Theological Seminary.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you are not able to help with a financial contribution, we still hope you can help us in the following ways:

  • Spread the word about this campaign to your friends, by forwarding, or by re-posting on social media.
  • Pray for this project to be a success and blessing for everyone involved!