Come Sunday
UU Church Today, Society & Culture

Come Sunday: Telling the story of ‘Heretics’ and Oral Roberts

“This movie is based on an adaptation of one of the most difficult, challenging, and unexpected phases and stages of my ministry life and spiritual growth. I have expanded even beyond what is portrayed in the film Come Sunday, and will continue to expand and evolve as long as I live in the Earth realm—and possibly afterward and infinitely.” – Carlton Pearson

If you haven’t heard the story about Carlton Pearson on This American Life, I encourage you to take a listen. Starting at All Souls Unitarian Church, almost 2 years ago, listening to Heretics was how I spent my second morning on the job. My view, overlooking the small garden in the front of the church, faded as I listened to the story of a man, living at the height of his evangelical church Higher Dimensions, chooses to realize his truth and live it, despite it costing him everything.

After hearing Heretics, Director Joshua Marston wanted to bring Pearson’s story to the big screen. This week, Come Sunday premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as a Netflix Original.

The bond between a spiritual father and son.

Come Sunday is just as much about Oral Roberts and his relationship with his spiritual son, Carlton Pearson, as it is about Pearson’s spiritual awakening to what would become the Gospel of Inclusion. Pearson says anyone associated with Oral Roberts will deeply appreciate Martin Sheen’s portrayal of him. Pearson is portrayed by 12 Years a Slave actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

“It’s intimidating, and sometimes embarrassing, this story being told while I’m still living. But, this story happened here in Tulsa. My prime and my religious crime was here in Tulsa,” Pearson said. “It’s surreal.”

Pearson, his wife and children, and members of his congregation who stayed with him through the fall of Higher Dimensions, are all part of the transformation. To say the least, this transformation and truth, wasn’t lived without pain and sacrifice. “This film shows all of the emotion and the defeat, which I did not show while it was happening. Acknowledging that pain in the moment would have given it too much power,” Pearson said. “I realize I’m still mourning.”

The night of our last service at Higher Dimensions is one Pearson will always remember. His young son Julian, climbed into his father’s lap, “Papa, you did good.” There, his wife Gina, and daughter Majesté, all sat together with him. “The four of us, as a family, we cried and we wiped each other’s tears. And so, we began our journey that brought us here, where we are today.”

Film Screenings Coming Soon

In partnership with Circle Cinema, All Souls is working to host screenings of the film. I, personally, cannot wait.

I was deeply intrigued about Carlton after hearing the Heretics story. But now, after working with him, getting to know Julian and Majesté, and having the conversation with him leading up to this post, I can’t wait to get a visual portrayal of this time in his life. I want to know more about his relationship with Oral. I want to understand the history behind the people who stuck with him, the people who are now my colleagues and friends. With reviews of the film just coming out after the Sundance premiere, my anticipation will grow until I get my chance to see it for myself.

Carlton Pearson preaches regularly in the All Souls Contemporary service, Sunday’s at 11:30 a.m., and occasionally in the Traditional service, Sunday’s at 10:00 a.m. Watch his past sermons on the All Souls YouTube channel.

Read more from Carlton Pearson in our 4-part series, Four Perspectives Becoming One.

Carlton Pearson’s Experimenting to Find our Symphony

Cassandra Austin’s Coming Home from War

Jane Newman’s Reflections on a Journey

Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar’s Opening Doors for a new Home

Read more about Pearson and All Souls in the UU World article, The Gospel of Inclusion: A black Pentecostal bishop embraces Universalism, befriends a Unitarian minister, and shakes up the largest congregation in the UUA.

Cover Photo by Douglas Henderson


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