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TV Show Offers Divine Touch
VisionTV has joined the networks to produce one of the most popular genres of lifestyle shows—the 48-hour makeover—but with a twist. The show helps to renovate churches.

A new lifestyle television series that helps fix up churches in need of some care is doing more than just making cosmetic improvements on buildings. According to the show's executive producer, the series is proving restorative to participating congregations and production crew alike.

TV Show Offers Divine Touch
Photo courtesy Catherine Burdon
Copyright One Divine Vision Inc 2005

Divine Resoration is a 26-week series that gives churches across Canada and the United States 48-hour makeovers. Produced by Vision TV International, the series began airing on Vision TV in May. Series executive producer and director of programming for Vision TV Joan Jenkinson says the show represents the multifaith, multicultural broadcaster's first foray into lifestyle programming.

"We were trying to stay within our mandate and provide family-friendly programming based on faith and spirituality, but we wanted to have a more up-to-date offering," she explains when asked why the broadcaster chose to produce the series. "We recognized that [makeover shows constitute] a genre that is quite popular."

Each episode the show's producers give $10,000 cash toward a renovation project on a different house of worship. In addition, local suppliers often donate material, equipment and more. Volunteers from the church and community provide the labour. Jenkinson says with a 20-member crew, production values are high and budgets comparable to what the broadcaster might spend on high-end documentaries.

Makeover projects include anything from fixing up an old pulpit to making over a youth-ministry facility. A team of program researchers sought out churches that were strongly community-based to participate.

In addition to various U.S. locations, the crew taped episodes in Nova Scotia, and wrapped up the series shooting at four Toronto locations earlier this month.

Jenkinson says their most ambitious renovation was completed at All Nations Full Gospel Church in Toronto, a non-denominational church with a congregation of 2,200 people. Volunteers converted an old storage room and games room there to a kitchen and dining room. "We basically started from scratch with nothing," says the executive producer, "and did all the cupboards and appliances, electrical, lighting, plumbing; we did everything in 48 hours.

TV Show Offers Divine Touch
Photo courtesy Catherine Burdon
Copyright One Divine Vision Inc 2005

When asked about the effect of their visits on the congregations, Jenkinson is enthusiastic. "Almost every single congregation says they feel that we're an answer to prayer. We're often called their angels," she laughs.

One church at which they taped was experiencing a congregational rift when the crew arrived. Together cast, volunteers and crew created a prayer garden. "One of the pastors said that having been involved in this process of bringing people together to work had healed that rift."

But more than just the congregations are affected. "Almost every episode has some instance where the entire crew's been touched," Jenkinson says, describing an instance when the complete crew was moved to the point of tears.

Jenkinson, who has a degree in theology, says she's worked in the television industry for almost 20 years, but this production, she believes, is different. "This doesn't really feel like we're doing television. It feels like you have a ministry out there and the people who we work with are so passionate about their churches and passionate about their community and the work that's being done.

"And when they see you as God's intervention for their church, it's really great. It is a very special experience. It's really been quite restorative."

Patricia Paddey is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

Originally published in ChristianWeek, May 27, 2005.




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