United Methodist church goes Hollywood
On a dry, dusty day in Utopia, Texas, a camera crew is pumping cool air into the 130-year-old Utopia United Methodist Church.
Pastor Gerald Harvey won’t be preaching at his church on this day. Instead, he has joined his congregation as an extra in the film, Seven Days in Utopia, a golf drama starring Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall. The story is based on David Cook’s book, Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia.
It focuses on a young golfer with hopes of one day turning pro. When he finally gets his chance, he blows it big-time in front of a huge crowd. Opting to leave his troubles and the game behind, he winds up stranded in Utopia, Texas, a small town of about 300 people just outside of San Antonio. He meets Johnny, a Yoda-like rancher and — as it turns out — a retired teaching pro played by Duvall. Johnny agrees to help the struggling pro find his game and take a swing at redemption.
“The scene shot at our church was set on Easter Sunday,” says Harvey. “For two days we attended that ‘service,’” he said with a chuckle. “We’re not sure how it’s all going to play out since this particular story line was not in the book. We’re excited to see the finished product. Hopefully it won’t wind up on the cutting-room floor.” The church scene also served as a cameo role for the book’s author who played the church pastor.
Harvey, 72, is retiring this spring. He beams when he talks about what the book and the movie did, not just for the small town, but also for his ministry. He uses the experience — and the game — as a fairway to discuss the gospel with people who may not otherwise experience the love of Christ.
“Several players, who are not connected with any church, occasionally come to our Methodist church,” Harvey says. “They discuss the sermon from that week as we play. I find it a rich opportunity to speak to God’s word. Each time I play with a non-member, I get questions about Scripture or church traditions from my teammates. I can only hope that God is using me to help them in setting their direction toward Christ.”
As for his brush with fame: “I got to sit down and talk with Robert Duvall for a few minutes,” Harvey said. “He’s a nice man. We talked a lot about the weather.”
Seven Days in Utopia opens in theaters Aug. 12, 2011.
- By Curt Harding
RelatedOriginally Posted: Apr 27, 2011