At All Saints Episcopal Church in Lexington this week, churchgoers celebrated Star Wars Sunday, complete with interplanetary prayer and song. A few miles away, at CenterPointe Christian Church, the minister is giving a series of seven sermons on "The Force."
The two churches are new: CenterPointe opened in November, and All Saints was launched in January. Both have youthful preachers and an unusually high percentage of young people in their pews.
Neither minister endorses all of the movie's spiritual tenets, but they say the film can help them teach spiritual truths to churchgoers -- young and old.
At All Saints, some members of the church board weren't even born in 1977, when the first movie came out. "We all grew up with Star Wars," said the church's 33-year-old pastor, the Rev. Emily Richards. "Star Wars is about the struggle of good and evil, it's about redemption, it's about discipline, it's about a spiritual quest. All of those are important facets of Christianity."
On Sunday, All Saints parishioners sang Jedis for Jesus and prayed for the leaders of "the universe, galaxy, star system, world, country, state and city." They also asked God to make Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls and other Episcopal leaders "as wise as Master Yoda ... as brave as Luke Skywalker and as fair as Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Christians took a pagan winter solstice celebration and turned it into Christmas, and now they're transforming Star Wars and other Hollywood hits, notes Good News Magazine editor Steve Beard.
When the first movie made its debut in 1977, some conservative preachers denounced it.
"The fact that The Force was never (clearly) defined made some conservative evangelical Christians obviously very wary. Magic and power that is not definitely from a divine origin is a spooky subject," said Beard.