Shifting gears...

So today has mostly about shifting gears.  As many of you know, I've been in the throes of grief and sharing pastoral care in a profound way over the past few weeks.  Today, I mostly slept late and then sipped tea. Later I finished up the church e-newsletter and decided to have some more tea. I'll take a nap, too, let the puppy race around the scrub a bit and then attend a working meeting at the local pub.  In a word, not much serious work.

And that is probably what the doctor ordered. Today, when I have given it any thought, I have been thinking about a film/discussion series we're planning to run throughout Lent and Eastertide.  We haven't yet come up with a title but it could be something like: Seeing Something of the Sacred in Cinema, or, When God Goes to the Movies.  (Ok, I like alliteration but we're still working on it!) 

The two resources that I have found the most helpful over the years are: In a New Light: Spirituality and the Media Arts by Ron Austin, and, Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture by William Romanowski.  Austin has been a writer/producer in Hollywood for over 40 years while Romanowski is an academic specializing in theology and popular culture at Calvin College. What I like about both texts is that they give serious albeit popular readers some resources by which to evaluate films rather than the simple "thumbs up or down" that is all too common place.
One resource, for example, is helping people distinguish between a spiritual and an aesthetic experience. They are close and certainly overlap and "the very feelings of tranquility and delight that art gives can lull us into thinking that we are right with God... (however) while art can create a longing for God," Romanowski writes, "it cannot give us a life lived under God... which is about our relationships and our work, about what we do with our lives alongside and through the experience of art." He goes on to observe that: "... a religious experience... is one that deepens our awareness of God's presence int he world and the ways that human beings bear God's image."

Austin is equally insightful, but offers other resources.  He speaks of art helping us to:  1) be in the present moment; 2) affirm the mystery of the other; 3) show us ways to transform conflict; 4) wrestles with the reality of evil; 5) and urges believers to move towards a unified albeit paradoxical understanding of God's presence in our lives.

I've done three film series here over the past seven years.  The first was a Lenten series using "Chocolat" as a way to playfully embrace God's upside down realm rather than the guilt usually associated with Lent.  We then used another resource by Hillary Brand, The Power of Small Choices, that lined "The Shawshank Redemption" with "Babette's Feast." Later that year I offered a quick survey of the pursuit of beauty and truth in movies including "Koyanasquatsi," "Across the Universe" and "Pay It Forward." We haven't played with films for a while so this will be fun - and it will cut deeper, too.

Already two film suggestions include Kieslowski's The Decalogue and the National Council of Churches short film from the 1965 World Series,"The Parable."  We will start on Wednesday, March 19th and run through Wednesday, May 28th.  More as it unfolds.

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