Prayer Partners: Christians in Hollywood–Part 3

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Over the years, Doug Millham of Pasadena has often hung around movie and TV sets, where he has met all sorts of people working in the entertainment industry. He said he has come to view them as “gypsies.”

“I call them gypsies because they’re always going from job to job, whether it dancing or performing. It’s very difficult,” the retired Presbyterian minister told HollywoodNews. “Those who choose it need a lot of support. You know, it’s glamorous, but for ninety-nine percent, the industry uses you and discards you when the next younger, prettier person comes along….I can see why drug abuse, marital problems and family issues bubble up all the time.”

For more than two decades, Millham has asked numerous people working in entertainment if he could say a private prayer with them.

“I’ve prayed with Muslims, I’ve prayed with Jewish people and I’ve asked nonbelievers if I can pray with them…,” he recalled. “And I’ve never been rejected.”

Millham, 67, is a volunteer “prayer partner” who regularly keeps in touch with a network of actors, directors, producers, writers and others who ask him to pray for them. They may be facing a crisis in their personal life, be an actor gearing up for an important casting call, or a producer or screenwriter seeking God’s guidance in their next creative pursuits.

“The industry is incredibly competitive and it can be very demoralizing to people whether you are a person or faith or not,” Millham said. “You’re going to be in competition with enormously talented people most of the time and you’ll get an awful lot of rejection and criticism. I think the attraction (of prayer) to people of faith, whether they’re Jewish, Muslim or Christian, is that we believe there is a higher power, an eternal source of comfort and calm (that provides) direction in our lives. And I think prayer is a calming factor for people who work in a profession with constant anxiety.”

Married and the father of two grown sons, Millham is a former pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. He is now semi-retired, spending much of his time running a Pasadena-based nonprofit called Discover the World, which raises money for orphans in Africa—specifically providing care for children who have been orphaned as a result of losing parents to AIDS.

“We have about 600 orphans we’ve placed in school,” he said. “I travel back and forth to Africa on a regular basis.”

When not working for the nonprofit, Millham volunteers with the Hollywood Prayer Network, a nonprofit prayer ministry that seeks to impact Hollywood’s culture through prayer.

Karen Covell, HPN’s founding director, said the ministry was launched 13 years ago out of Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

Covell, an author and speaker who produces TV specials, documentaries and children’s programming, said her network now has 71 chapters in 14 countries, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain and Canada. The 71st chapter was just opened by a filmmaker in Japan, she noted.

Its mission statement is “to invite Christian individuals, small groups and churches to pray for Hollywood: the world’s most influential mission field. To have every Christian working in the entertainment industry prayed for by Christians outside of our industry, and to pray for the salvation of non=Christians working in the entertainment industry.”

“We want to be a presence to raise the bar of love, of ethics, of morality, and of hope,” Covell told HollywoodNews.

Covell and her husband, composer James Covell, have two sons—Christopher, 23, who graduated last year from Chapman University’s film school and now works in the industry, and Cameron, 19, who just finished his freshman year at USC’s film school and has been acting and making films since he was 9 years old.

Although there have been calls by Christians for boycotting Hollywood whenever they view TV shows or films as attacking their Christian beliefs, Covell thinks there are more effective ways to influence the industry.

“Here’s the thing,” she said. “We have never seen anyone become a Christian because of a boycott….If Christians are upset with a movie or TV show, the only way to make a difference is to pray for the hearts of the people to make a change. We can ask God to soften people’s hearts and, if God answers that prayer and says, ‘This is something I want to do,’ that person will change. His heart will change.”

To date, the HPN has matched up more than 1,700 entertainment professionals in “one-on-one” prayer partnerships with “pray-ers” or “intercessors” from outside the industry.

Millham noted that among the people he prays with are a well-known television actress, a producer/director/cinematographer of documentary films, and a producer who makes “blockbusters.”

“I’m in touch with them all the time as a friend,” he said. “I’m committed to them as long as they are in this profession. They keep me informed of the decisions they make. It’s a very informal, non-structured relationship.”
Millham stressed that his deals with them as a friend and not as a competitor.
“I have no connections or interest in the entertainment business,” he explained.
“Sometimes they ask my opinions about this project or that project, but generally it has a lot to do with their families, their personal life, the decisions they are making….I can be a friend and good counsel to them as they go through their professional life,” he said.

Since they work in a business where criticism is the norm, Millham said, “I don’t pass judgment on any of the work that they do.” His own taste in entertainment might surprise some.

“My wife loves ‘Downton Abbey,’” he said. “I happen to be a huge fan of ‘Game of Thrones.’ The treachery. The subversion of goodness. And I can’t wait to see how it comes out.”


About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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