Not surprisingly, two weekend screenings of the local documentary “Church of Felons” were well-received by Amery audiences this weekend, and worthwhile for at least two attendees who were able to get help from its producers.
Jordan Mederich of Osceola created the documentary, which was first shown to audiences in Osceola this fall.
Through the film, locals hear the stories of four Polk County felons and the tragic, life-altering events that have shaped their lives forever. All four happen to belong to the same church ‘at the center of it all,’ hence the title of the film.
What makes the documentary especially impactful is an unavoidable local connection, and the very realness of Polk County’s portrayal. Although it could almost any rural county in America, the landmarks are familiar. We’ve driven the highways, and maybe even heard their stories before. But this is the story after the story. It’s about a dark place that all four of these individuals have been, where they are today, and the common path of ‘hope’ in between.
They’re people like any one of us.
One is a husband and father who killed a young man in a tragic drunk-driving accident on Highways F and 65. Another sacrificed limbs and almost his life in a substance-fueled snowmobile crash on the Gandy Dancer Trail. One barely recalls setting fire to a local religious landmark. And another wrestles with the haunting scars of his own addictions and the guilt of losing a loved one to his carelessness.
Unlike the crime stories told in the paper every week, “Church of Felons” tells the same stories in a very human way, and delivers the rest of the story most of us never get to hear. The court proceedings. The probation. The emotions. The impacts on those around them. The recovery. And a path forward that Mederich is a strong believer in: faith and community.
Now in its third round of local screenings, Mederich called Amery’s screenings the best they’ve had yet. The film was sponsored in part by Amery Community Education, Amery Congregational Church, East Immanuel Lutheran Church, and Amery and Clear Lake Police Departments, with proceeds helping to send anyone in need to a nationwide faith-based recovery program called Teen Challenge.
Of the nearly 800 people that saw Amery’s showings, roughly half stayed after the programs to hear from four of the people featured in the film.
Mederich says as of Monday they had enrolled two people from the Amery screenings into the program. He’s speechless at the generosity and outpouring of support.
“Dozens of people have come forward sharing their stories and we’re gaining so much encouragement that never existed before,” he says. “Four other counties want to host large screening events in their communities. Businesses are offering immediate job placement for any felon we can bring their way. Addiction counselors are offering their services to anyone who needs it.”
Mederich was excited to share news of upcoming showings throughout Wisconsin, including as far away as Green Bay. For more information on future screenings near you, or to learn how you can get involved, visit churchoffelons.com.