Hundreds of church officials settled into the plush burgundy theater-style seats. Conversations faded into silence. As the overhead lights dimmed, all eyes were fixed upon the huge movie screen, assembled for the occasion. Suddenly, the hushed room was pierced by the shriek of a howling wind projected through the surrounding speakers. Then an image of Moses appeared to the booming rhythms of symphonic sounds, until the prophet dissolved and the scene gave way to clouds rolling over a mountain range.
The setting of the presentation may have well resembled a movie theater, but in fact, it was the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
And the 27-minute, professionally produced film that the General Conference Executive Committee premiered in the auditorium Tuesday, called “The Creation: The Earth is a Witness,” will be one of the denomination’s key evangelism efforts for 2014.
“This incredible project is going to be a blessing to every single church around the world that is able to show it,” President Ted N. C. Wilson told the gathering of 350 pastors and other Annual Council delegates who watched the movie, which shows a day-by-day account of the Earth’s beginnings, filmed and edited with the cinematic quality of a major motion picture.
Wilson added: “This, I believe, is going to be a magnificent tool to bring thousands of people to the foot of the cross.”
In addition to reaching non-believers, the four-years-in-the-making movie by Adventist filmmaker Henry Stober can also send a message to a few vocal critics inside the church who have questioned the Seventh-day Adventist fundamental belief in a literal, six-day creation.
The film was initially a project Stober was preparing for his local congregation in Nürnberg, Germany. He studied photography for a year in Canada, and then traveled to five continents because he wanted to present God’s love and unique creative power.
More than 70,000 people have viewed the film in nine countries.
“I never realized it was going to be worldwide,” Stober, 46, said after the General Conference premiere.
The movie was introduced by Williams Costa Jr., director of the denomination’s Communication department, which has championed the project.
Quoting from Genesis 1:1, Costa said, “We need to proclaim to the world this prophetic truth,” and later added, “I don’t know why many people of faith have difficulty believing that the world was created in six days.”
“Creation,” opens with music to a scene shot in Iceland, in which Moses shows his scroll to his son, Gershom, while teaching him about the creation. A narrator, meanwhile, reads from Hebrews 11, explaining the meaning of faith.
The next scenes focus on each creation day using powerful images of nature that play out while the male narrator reads from Genesis 1:1-2:3.
In day one, the movie shows darkness and a bubbling body of water, and displays lights in bright yellow and orange filtering into the clouds, which turn to an orange and brown tone, to show the creation of light. In day two, to the sound of water drops, the camera soars through and above white clouds, and captures lighting to illustrate the creation of sky.
The dramatic footage continues into day three, at Brazil’s enormous Iguazu Falls, and also includes close-ups of vivid green vegetation and colorful flowers sprouting into full blossom using time-lapse videography.
The fourth day portrays footage of stars, constellations and planets, showing the magnitude of the solar system. On day five, to the narrator announcing, “Let the water teem with living creatures,” the film captures underwater sea life, including a shark and brightly colored fish, and later sea lions and exotic birds. On the sixth day, the film shows an impressive collection of wild animals and insects and finally, an image of hands molding dirt to form a human body.
At the end of the film, Moses and his son are kneeling before an altar, while the narrator reads the command to keep the Sabbath day holy. Then the screen fills with shots of waterfalls, clouds and sunlight emerging over snow-capped mountains, followed by the logo, “Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
The movie is the highlight of a multi-faceted approach to teach creationism around the world. Other components of the educational initiative include the book, “Beyond Imagination,” Bible studies, tracts, a Sabbath School curriculum, Hope Channel programming, and dozens of articles in the Adventist Review, among other efforts.
Church officials believe the movie, available on DVD, will captivate viewers and compel them to learn more about the denomination’s strong ties to other Bible-based beliefs.
Vice President Ben Schoun made a direct appeal to the delegates, most of whom are officers of the 13 divisions and presidents of unions from every region of the globe.
“We encourage you, we invite you, we challenge you, to be a part of this. Make the creation project a meaningful one in your territory,” Schoun said.