What a dispiriting story from Massachusetts. Matt Fitzgerald, pastor at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ parish there, wrote last month about how he was approached by scouts from an Adam Sandler movie project, who wanted to rent his church for filming. Here, as Fitzgerald tells it, is what they wanted to use his church for:
The film’s plot involves a teenager who impregnates his schoolteacher (the Mary Kay Letourneau story played for comic effect). The wedding scene takes place years later, when the offspring of this illicit union is a grown man getting married. Our sanctuary would be featured in a scene that included a fistfight between a priest and a worshiper whose telephone repeatedly interrupts the marriage ceremony.
He turned them down. But then the production company counteroffered, proposing $60,000 — six times more money for the rental fee. Given that the church really needed the money, and that that was a lot of money, Fitzgerald felt he should really let the deacons in on the decision. I’m not going to tell you exactly what happened in that meeting, because I want you to read Fitzgerald’s account yourself, but it was a beautiful and noble thing how they arrived at the decision to say no to Hollywood and its money. It’s a great story.
But the scene was filmed in another church — a Unitarian Universalist parish in the area. UU World magazine picks up the tale:
Crucifixes are a rare sight in Unitarian Universalist churches, yet one hung over the pews of First Parish in Brookline, Mass., for nearly ten days this June. The crucifix also came with a film crew of nearly 200 people, who were filming on location for the upcoming movie I Hate You, Dad, starring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Leighton Meester.
The script calls for a wedding in a Catholic church. Producers ran into a stumbling block, however, when the Archdiocese of Boston denied the production company use of any local churches. According to representatives from First Parish, the Archdiocese was concerned about offensive statements about the Catholic Church included in the script.
Wait right there. What “offensive statements”? How did this liberal congregation deal with them? Were they concerned at all about their moral responsibility in this case, given that they were not poking fun at their own tradition, but rather being asked to impersonate a Catholic parish here? Dunno. The story doesn’t say. We do learn that:
After negotiations, modifications, and new decorations, the church was ready to play the part. Inside the sanctuary, the film crew installed the crucifix, depictions of the Stations of the Cross, and a freshly painted mural of clouds pierced by a single sunburst over the pulpit. Outside, workers built a garden full of stone fountains and saintly statuettes of Jesus and Mary. A modified sign in front of the church read “Sacred Heart Catholic Church, est. 1717.” (That date is a bit of Hollywood artistic license. The first Catholic Church was not established in Massachusetts until 1803.)
Congratulations First Parish, Brookline, for kicking your Catholic neighbors in the teeth. I hope you enjoy your Hollywood money. The Wellesley church may be poorer in funds for their decision, but they’re richer in integrity.