To create a docu-series of educational and devotional videos that immerse a viewer into a vivid encounter with the biblical lands. Jesus’ life and ministry is presented in context, inspiring a sequence of “ah-ha” moments rich with fresh insights grounding the Christ event in time and place. Relevant aspects of recent archeology and new textural discoveries are woven into aspects of the social-political landscape of 1st century “Palestina” creating a matrix of select and delightful insights. In contrast to other video series’ about the “Holy Land” which typically feature a talking-head in a mono-dimensional lecture-style, the design of this series presents sparce focused commentary that supports the viewer’s engagement with a site presented in visuals and soundscape. The gospel of Jesus is made alive by the ‘gospel’ of the land.
Jerome, bible scholar and saint, writing in the 4rd century CE from Bethlehem, is believed to have been the first who spoke of the land as the Fifth Gospel.
Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you. (Circa 390 AD)
The storyboard for this series supports three “seasons” to be released over three years. The first “season” consists of seven locations associated with Jesus’ ministry. Each location is “visited” through the lens of two video vignettes between 5 and 10 minutes in length.
Vignette 1: Presents brief contextual details about the location (gospel significance, recent archeology, climate, topography and 1st century notes) to fashion a rich backdrop for the telling of a gospel story, on-site. (10 mins)
Vignette 2: Offers a devotional encounter where a long-run video leads the viewer into the setting with soundscape and visuals, creating a ‘place’ to “sit” and reflect. A text may appear briefly and instrumental music added softly at midpoint. (5 mins)
Each “season” will also be accompanied by an online companion resource-guide to aid further study, stimulate group discussion and will list references to material presented in each video.
The Need Being Addressed:
Much teaching in the Church has been hinged, unavoidably, to a limited knowledge of the context of the primary Jesus story. In the absence of familiarity with the land itself - that might otherwise give rise to layers of inspiring insight – loyalty to literalistic or dogmatic interpretations has tended to produce renderings of the gospel that can be prosaic. As such, congregations can experience their faith as something that ought not to make sense or simply be so far removed from common experience that the aura of ‘religion’ can reliably gloss over the oddities.
What I found from living and teaching in the biblical lands, is that attention to the primary Jesus event, in context, can be profoundly transformational for people of faith in re-valuing the Christian story for one’s life. Wonderful fresh insights into Jesus’ mission, ministry and teaching can be gained from immersive exposure to the land itself; the topography of the land, the distances ‘they’ walked, climatic variations, agrarian practices, the discoveries of recent archaeology and the political / social influences of 1st century Roman “Palestina.”
Who will the project benefit?
- Those exploring a spiritual path for life – the Jesus curious
- Those for whom their ‘childhood faith’ may seem inadequate / who want more
- Those looking for an educational and devotional resource for group discourse
- Those who may have always wanted to visit the biblical lands and cannot
- Those who are preparing to be pilgrims to the land called holy
- Clergy and laity seeking to add to their contextual understanding of the gospels
- There is potential for a wide audience via online dissemination.
Where will people find this series?
A digital marketing team will lead the process of disseminating the series through various existing “portals” and social media platforms. The series will be made available widely to reach a maximum of potential viewers. Relationships with agencies who will promote the series will be established prior to production. A marketing plan continues in development.
The overall plan is to generate three “seasons” of the video series over three years. Each “season” will present six to seven locations. Much like a TV series, with the hope of further “seasons” the aim is to produce the best possible start, see it disseminated to a wide potential viewership at no cost and measure the take up. Metrics will be analyzed. If there is success, then a momentum of interest may generate new sources of funding and the project will proceed into “season 2.”
Who is involved? Who are the project stakeholders and partners?
Producer / Writer / Host : Canon Dr. Richard LeSueur:
Drawing on more than 30 years of first-hand experience in the biblical lands, in research, exploration, teaching and facilitating programs of pilgrimage for clergy and laity from across the Anglican Communion, Richard initiated this project during the covid pandemic.
In the 1990’s Richard served on the teaching staff of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, and more recently as acting Dean. Altogether, He has led more than fifty programs of immersion into the land, the scriptures and encounters with the living stones of the present Church.
“Instead of trying to write a book on ‘The Holy Land,’ that would quickly vanish into a warehouse of such volumes, my inclination has been to produce an online educational series balancing site information with devotional qualities and biblical reflection. My sense is that the global pandemic has accelerated a shift toward online learning and a preference for visual experience.”
A selection of site-notes have been rewritten into a series of screenplays to be filmed in Israel-Palestine in the Spring of 2023. The initial series focuses on seven locations. The storyboard supports two other series (and even a supplementary series). There is potential for a three-year project.
Cinematographer / Post-Production: Michael Klekamp
Documentary Film Producer. Cinematographer and post-production editing. Previous clients have included CBC, National Geographic, Canon USA, Facebook.
Editors, content contributors and artistic consultants:
- Canon (Lay) Ian Alexander: former Chief of Staff, CBC Television; strategic communications consultant; member, Council of General Synod, Anglican Church of Canada.
- Lisa Barry, Senior Producer, Anglican Video
- Stephen Need (The Very Rev. former Dean, St. George’s College, Jerusalem) Peer-review for script accuracy and contribution.
- Brian Pearson (The Rev.) author, editor
- Jayne Postuk, creative contributor (music and devotional material)
- Rhonde LeSueur, Co-producer, editor and location director
Partner / Stakeholder:
General Synod, Department of Global Relations, Dr. Andrea Mann
Principal host: Richard LeSueur, plus cameo appearances to include local experts, a Rabbi, Palestinian Christians, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a Muslim archaeologist, a Syrian Christian woman who will read the texts of scripture, etc. to create a diversity of racialized voices and local contribution.
What this series is not:
- It is not a presentation of the political agony of the contemporary not-so-holy land, though reference to some of that reality will be unavoidable.
- It is not a presentation of the current ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and their contextual challenges, though contact with the “living stones” of the present church will occur.
- It is not a lecture series that might compete with the extensive teaching material one might encounter for example in the “Great Courses” with twelve episodes each fifty minutes long.
- It is not a lecture series with a talking-head standing on the Mount of Olives with a floppy bible in hand, as are so many such video series. The notion is to create an immersive experience whereby the viewer is ‘hosted’ into the land and into engagement with Jesus’ life on-site, devotionally, and educationally.
The academic challenge in writing the screenplays has been in the selectivity necessary. A series of this scale, with brief vignettes, is like driving on an autobahn through the rich countryside of contemporary biblical scholarship. In the writing task one is constantly aware of off-ramps leading to important considerations that cannot be included in this video “itinerary.”
The study-guide, however, will include references, notes and more in-depth commentary to aid personal reflection and group discussion.
Storyboard / Locations (First Season):
- Entering the Land: Caesarea Maritima, The Pilgrim’s Port
- Orientation to the Land from Mount Nebo, Jordan
- Jordan River: The man from Nazareth
- Judean Desert: A landscape of transformation
- The Silent Years: The Jezreel, Nazareth, Sepphoris
- Sea of Galilee: Overview
- Capernaum: A village by the lake.
In a Nutshell:
- Narrating the land and its story.
- A presentation of the Gospel – a testimony to Jesus Christ, no less.
"It is very rare to come across an idea that is fresh and innovative in a time of content abundance. I am struck by this project, The Fifth Gospel. I strongly endorse this project. I look forward to seeing this potentially brilliant series come to life in your hands."
Senior Producer, Anglican Video Anglican Church of Canada