First United Methodist Church
of Bradenton 
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations
      ...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
'The Florida Project': movie about our 'hidden homeless'

November 29, 2017
By Lilla Ross | FLUMC

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series about the recent film, “ The Florida Project,” and the story behind its development. Much of the film’s storyline is based on the work being done by Rev. Mary Downey, executive director of the  Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, which serves homeless families.
The film will be screened at the  Polk Theatre in Lakeland on Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. If you would like to purchase tickets,  click here. Also, please note that this film has an "R" rating.

Film director Sean Baker wanted to tell a story about the hidden homeless, but he needed access to their world along U.S. 192 in the shadow of Disney World. The Rev. Mary Downey, executive director of the Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, opened the door for him.
Downey, a United Methodist deacon, started the center—also known as Hope 192—in 2013. It is the primary outreach agency that serves the homeless in Osceola County, a tourist mecca with a severe housing crisis.
People come to the agency all the time offering to help, Downey said, but usually, nothing comes of it. Baker and writer Chris Bergoch were different. They kept coming back.
“They seemed like really good people,” Downey said. “Their intention was to tell a story honestly, without sensationalism. That was super important to me. They didn’t want to paint the families in a negative way.”
The fruit of the partnership is “The Florida Project,” which follows the summer adventures of 6-year-old Moonee, who lives with her mother, Halley, at the Magic Castle motel. The motel is managed by Bobby, portrayed by Willem Dafoe, whose performance is being mentioned for an Oscar. Several homeless families were cast as extras.
The film, which premiered at the  Cannes Film Festival, has already won several awards in Europe and more are expected.
Bergoch’s mother, who lives in Orlando, told them about the homeless families who live in the string of pastel motels along U.S. 192 that were meant to offer inexpensive lodging for Orlando tourists.
Edgy stories are their specialty. Baker and Bergoch had collaborated on two critically acclaimed films: “Starlet,” about an unlikely friendship between two women—one young, the other old—and “Tangerine,” the story of a prostitute who falls in love with her pimp.
They began researching the homeless issue and came up with an initial story. But after spending time in Osceola County, Baker said, “we realized our initial script was ignorant.” The situation was far more complex.
“Early on, Mary was instrumental in helping us understand the politics and the situation better,” Baker said. “She was somebody who saw the potential in this film to bring about some change, to shine light on the issue.”
Baker and Bergoch bounced ideas off Downey and talked to the homeless, the motel managers and city officials. They reworked the script, striving to make it as accurate as possible.
“I want this film to be accepted by Floridians, to be looked at by people in social services who will see it as something they recognize as real and truthful,” Baker said. “I want to bring about change through awareness. That was very important.”
While entertaining his audience, Baker said he also wants to educate and motivate them to get involved in the issue.
“I base all my films in realism,” Baker said. “I use a documentary style that makes the audience think. We shoot it with hand-held cameras, and most of the cast were first-timers…all that lends itself to the realism.”
The film was shot on location, including surreptitiously filming the last scene inside Disney. Baker used Hope 192 as the location for the social service agency in several scenes. One of them reduced Downey to tears.
Homelessness is especially difficult on children, Downey said. When someone with a child comes to Hope 192 for help, Downey said they give the child a new toy that they can play with while the adults talk. “It makes it a safe place for the child,” she said. “They’ll associate going there with getting a new toy.”
In the scene, when Halley and Moonee go to the social service agency, Moonee is given a Barbie doll.
“Moonee is playing with the Barbie doll, and Halley is complaining about her life,” Downey said. “I couldn’t stop crying. They had taken something that is so much a part of our culture as an agency, something so dear to my heart, and to see that on the screen was so powerful and humbling. It reaffirmed my calling of what we do at Hope 192.”
Although the characters and storyline are fictional, Downey said the message of the film and the ordeals faced by the families are emotionally true.
The homeless families used as extras got to see the film in an early screening.
“Their reaction was very positive. They felt it was accurate,” Baker said. “Their opinion was very important to me. I answered to them first and foremost. From an ethical point of view, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do them right. We’re in their lives, and they’re in our lives. We’re not leaving them behind. We’re still involved with them.”
Baker and Downey said they hope the film helps eliminate the stigma of homelessness and gives people insight into their lives.
Some people won’t have a lot of compassion for Halley, Downey said. “It is easy to judge her. She makes a lot of bad decisions.”
“Watch with your eyes open and with compassion, so you can see Halley as a child of God who is struggling and trying to do the best for her child, and Moonee, who is looking for the good and lovely in every day,” Downey said.
“It’s a message of hope. Look for the good and happy in every day,” she said. “I think that’s what the film is truly about.”
“The Florida Project” opened in theatres nationwide Nov. 22. The Florida Conference is sponsoring a screening of the film at the Polk Theatre in Lakeland on Dec. 8. To purchase tickets,  click here.
--Lilla Ross is a freelance writer based in Jacksonville.
Editor’s Note: Part two of this series, scheduled Dec. 5, will take a closer look at the Community Hope Center and the work of Rev. Mary Downey.

THIS Sunday, December 3 @ 10:30 AM

George Frederick Handel’s cherished  Messiah  is fast becoming one of First Church’s holiday traditions. As part of the 10:30 worship service, this concert of the Christmas portion of Messiah will be performed by choir, soloists and orchestra. Be sure to share this beautiful Christmas gift with a friend.

  Join us on Sunday
If you cannot make it, you can watch the service LIVE online at 10:30 am.
Week of December 3 - 9:

It's that time again...
If you would like to place Poinsettias in the church for the Christmas Season, pick up an order form, fill out, include your money and return to office via offering plate, mail or in person, by Monday December 11th.
A special offering will be taken THIS SUNDAY for Honor The Badge . Police officers take children from impoverished areas Christmas shopping at Toys R’ Us. This in turn helps the relationship between police and Bradenton residents.
You can drop your special offering in the provided baskets as you exit the Sanctuary. Merry Christmas!
United Methodist Women are having their annual Silver Tea THIS Sunday,
December 3, at 3 PM.  
There will be Christmas music, tea and goodies. An offering will be collected for Honor The Badge . Bradenton Police Officers will use the money to buy $25 gift certificates and take children from impoverished areas Christmas shopping at Toys R’ Us. This in turn helps the relationship between police and Bradenton residents.

All women of the church are invited, and men are welcome too!
Choose an Advent Study:
Expectant. Dangerous. Jealous. Faithful. These are the themes used in the Old Testament to describe the layers of God’s character, but then Jesus—God under wraps—took on human flesh and came to live among us to reveal to us what God is really like. 

Our Wednesday NOON Advent Study , “Under Wraps, The Gift We Never Expected” at “The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Shop”, next to “Come To The Well”, led by Rev. Gary Eldred and Pastor Clark, will be on Wednesdays at NOON, November 29 th through December 20 th
This Advent, God’s great surprise changes everything. When heaven comes down to earth, greatness gets redefined.
Our Wednesday Evening Advent Study, “Down To Earth” by Mike Slaughter will be held on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm, November 29 th through December 20 th , in the Parlor. Led by Pastor Clark.  
Join us this week for baked salmon or
chicken tenders and all the extras.

Dinner is served at 5:30. 

Cost is $7 per person, $18 per family. 
4 PM. You can mark your RSVP in pew pad or call the church office.

Then stay for Pastor’s Advent Study at
6:30 in the Parlor.
Christmas Gifts for Manatee Children
Pediatric psychiatric Nurses from Centerstone, who care for "at risk" Manatee county children hospitalized over the holidays, are asking for small gifts for children from ages 4 to 17 to be donated to help cheer up the kids. The children come from difficult backgrounds and have been determined to be either in danger to themselves or others. Please bring your donations to the church office for delivery to the psychiatric care facility.  Deadline is December 20th. 
Suggested toys: Legos, stuffed animals, coloring books/crayons/pencils, matchbox cars, board games, art supplies, electronics, toiletries for teenagers.
We also prepare Stockings for them & could use personal items as stocking stuffers such as deodorant, lotion, socks and candy. 
The Gathering Christmas Breakfast
Our Gathering ministry for the homeless is going strong every Sunday morning with our doors opening at 6:00 AM. We want to thank all of you in our church family that have generously donated to this mission.  
We are celebrating Christmas a little early on Christmas Eve morning, December 24th with a special breakfast and we would like to give small gifts to our friends on the streets. Needed gift items are new socks, underwear, toiletries, hooded sweatshirts and blankets. 
If you would like to donate, please bring your gifts, unwrapped, to our church office and we will safely store them away until Christmas Eve. 
Once again, from all of us at the Gathering, thank you for your prayers and donations.

Partner with UMCOR in responding to the needs of communities and individuals affected by the recent storms by giving to UMCOR’s Domestic Disaster Response Advance #901670 and International Disaster Response Advance #982450.
One hundred percent of all gifts goes directly to disaster relief. Simply write your check to FUMCB and note the Advance number in the memo line or click on one of the links here.
Young At Heart
  Tuesday, December 12 will be the next luncheon for mature adults in Fellowship Hall. We meet at 12:00 Noon for a delicious, hot, catered meal. 
The cost is $8 and since it is catered, reservations are needed. Call Bev Clapper 756 9091, the church office 747 4406 or mark the pew pad. 
Following lunch we will have a musical program presented by Rick Barram, Manager at Fletcher Music. 
Coming to the luncheons we get to know our fellow church goers in a way that being together on Sunday does not allow. If you want to know those you see on Sundays better come to lunch with us. We'd love to meet you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 7:00 PM

The King's Brass performs with brass, keyboards, and percussion. At one recent concert, we had to turn away a lot of people, so come by 6 PM. They will use all corners of our concert space for their brilliant Christmas Concert. Your hearts will be filled with joy as this beautiful and exciting music fills the room and fills your spirit. 
Note the special TUESDAY evening performance.
Do you have a memory about our church? Of course you do.

First United Methodist is going to be 125 years old. We're celebrating in March. Much to do to get ready to make it a memorable and joyful occasion.

We are going to create a Memory Book. Since they are "memories" this has to come from people who have been or are associated with our church. It's going to be a "quilt" of memories.There are no wrong positive memories as they are yours. What is needed from you is a particular outstanding "something" to you that is about two paragraph in length. We can not do the whole "covering," but I think each of us have some memories that will awaken the "Ah, I remember" moments that will bring a smile and a bit of joy and will something many can treasure.

There will have to be a lot of putting together once you wonderful people start writing.

Send them to: by January 15, 2018.

Thank you so much for being a caring and participating person.


Evelyn Keller

P.S. Did you have your picture taken yet for the new pictorial directory? It’s not too late! We will be scheduling January appointments soon. 
So put January 18 & 19th on your calendar so you don’t miss your last chance.

Join the celebration! 

January 28, 2018 , there will be a dessert social and Gospel Sing with  The Reflectsons , at Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Ave E in Bradenton.  Visit The Reflectson’s website at

March 4, 2018 will be a big day with Worship, lunch under the big top and more. More information coming soon.

  First United Methodist Church of Bradenton 
603 11th St. West
Bradenton, FL 34205