Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spirituality in the movies

I'm getting excited about a new thing I'm going to try during this church year. The Worship Committee and I agreed that we would experiment with "theming" the church year and the theme we decided on was the Sources of Unitarian Universalism. You know the Sources---they're on the same page as the Principles in the hymnal---but we rarely delve into them very deeply. We mostly take them for granted.

As I thought about this theme during the summer, I started to get more and more excited. This is an opportunity to see the history of UUism in a new way: through the writings, ideas, orations, controversies, etc. that have been part of our religious and spiritual development.

Then, serendipitously, I got to thinking about what adult religious education course I might teach this year, with my expanded hours, and it occurred to me that to offer some kind of enrichment conversation around each source would be enjoyable both for me and for participants. Out of this pairing of theming and adult RE came the idea of a series of conversations about the sources, using popular culture in the form of movies or primary sources such as ancient writings or other such illustrative mechanisms.

I am a wacko about acronyms and this was a perfect opportunity to create a new one. Of course, I don't know how my flock will react to the one I've figured out, but I'm open to changing it! What I came up with was "Wine and Cheese Conversations on Sources" or "WACCOS". I think those who will participate may be just wacky enough to like it, but we'll see!

On Sept. 23, I'll be preaching on Source #1, which is stated as "The Living Tradition we share draws from many sources (including): direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life." I don't have the sermon figured out yet, and I'll post it when I've preached it, but I did decide what to suggest as preparation for the WACCOS session.

Years ago I watched the movie "Smoke" with Harvey Keitel and William Hurt, Stockard Channing, Forrest Whittaker, and others, and was blown away by the interactions between characters and the depth of character shown by the figures in the movie. The DVD is advertised as a comedy, and it has funny moments, but mostly it is a commentary on the ability of human beings to care for each other.

So in my newsletter blurb about both the sermon and the conversation (I hadn't yet come up with the acronym so didn't advertise it), I suggested, in preparation for the conversation, that participants watch the movie "Smoke". I was pleased to learn recently that a woman in the congregation who also loves this movie has organized a "movie night" showing for anyone who hadn't yet seen it.

Then, on the ministers' chat this morning, an idea was put forth that really interests me. A colleague who blogs intermittently at The Lively Tradition mentioned that for summer services recently, which are all layled, he challenged his worship leaders to use movies as thema for those less formal services, asking congregants to watch the movie prior to the service and the worship leader to speak about the themes of the movie.

Next summer, we will likely offer services all summer, which means adding four July services. That's IF we are actually in our new building by then, of course! This might be an attractive way to do that, so I'll keep it in the back of my mind and suggest it if and when the time comes. Those of you in layled congregations might piggyback on this idea yourselves.

Anyhow, the year is starting off on a very high note! And I'm so glad not to have to travel so much. What a pleasure to be able to stay home and minister!


Lizard Eater said...

Oooh, I'm putting "Smoke" in my queue right now.

A must-do: Groundhog Day

Another good one: The Apostle

ms. kitty said...

Love the Apostle and own it.

Will sign up for Groundhog Day immediately. Thanks!

Shelby Meyerhoff said...

One of my favorite movies is About a Boy. The movie is, at its heart, about community, both the risks and the joys. It's also very funny.

hafidha sofia said...

I haven't seen that in many years, but I remember it was pretty good.

Joel Monka said...

I have a movie for you- "Baptists at our Barbecue". It's billed as a comedy/romance, and it's coffee-through-your-nose funny, and sweet, and spiritual. Here's some info:

ms. kitty said...

I loved Baptists at the Barbecue, Joel! And Shelby, I'm going to sign up for About a Boy also.

ms. kitty said...

Just checked my Netflix account and realized I've seen "About a Boy". A great movie!

Earthbound Spirit said...

For direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder, my favorite movie would be Phenomenon. I know, it stars John Travolta. I know, it's a tear-jerker. But it also says (demonstrates?) some profound things about humanity, possibilities, taking chances, community and love - as well as mystery and wonder. One of my all-time favorites.

ms. kitty said...

Sheesh, I'm getting a good list of stuff to watch! Thanks, all.

Joel said...

What I came up with was "Wine and Cheese Conversations on Sources" or "WACCOS".

If you melt the cheese and serve the wine heated, you could call it "WACOS."

Ellis said...

I have two questions. I'm sure you know what's best for your congregation, but with the WACCOS, how does that work for people who aren't old enough to drink or who are in recovery? I can't imagine serving wine at a conversation at our church, although we do serve it at our annual fundraiser.

About the movie plan, what would you do about the visitors who weren't there the week before, and who don't get the newsletter? How would they know to watch the movie? I'd feel pretty left out if I came to a new church and hadn't seen the movie they were preaching on, if everyone else had watched it in advance. Like not having your homework done.

ms. kitty said...

Extremely good questions, Ellis, thanks for raising them.

There will definitely be non-alcoholic beverages and since the acronym isn't really firmed up, we can change it if others feel awkward about it. I think that's a really important issue you're raising.

I'm not preaching on the movie in the Sources series, just using this one as a resource for the conversation. But I can see what you're saying if a movie is used as the basis for a sermon.

uuMomma said...

When I have led services, I have often used movies as my jumping-off point. Last summer I used "A League of Their Own" which is really rich with metaphors for putting yourself out there, taking risks, and learning to love in new ways--and learning to live in community. I'm drawing a blank on other movies that I've used, but if I think of them, I'll let you know!

Patrick said...

i've been looking for the Apostle, Blockbuster didn't have it!